Barack Obama’s latest vapourings to the UN, in his typical tone of self-satisfied condescension, urged a peculiarly vacant form of toleration. To which G.K. Chesterton delivered a devastating rebuttal more than a century before the president spoke. In the Illustrated London News on May 13, 1911, (thanks to Gilbert Magazine for quoting it recently) Chesterton wrote:
We talk much about “respecting” this or that person’s religion; but the way to respect a religion is to treat it as a religion: to ask what are its tenets and what are their consequences. But modern tolerance is dearer than intolerance. The old religious authorities, at least, defined a heresy before they condemned it, and read a book before they burned it. But we are always saying to a Mormon or a Moslem, “never mind about your religion, come to my arms.” To which he naturally replies, “But I do mind about my religion, and I should advise you to mind your eye.”
A lesser man than Obama would be a little embarrassed to be so thoroughly put to rights more than a hundred years before he even opened his mouth.