George Washington’s August 1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport has this line: “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.”
In a 2012 piece titled “Moving Beyond Tolerance to Understanding”, Desmond Tutu explains this.
“I think, however, I do not like the idea of tolerance so much. The meaning of tolerance to me seems like saying, “I do not like you, but I have to live with the fact that you exist. I may agree to be tolerant of you, but I don’t have to be your friend—I don’t even have to speak to you at all. I just have to accept that you have the same right to your life choices as I do to mine.””
The remarkable Nobel Laureate goes on to write that the word we would do well to use and bring to life is “understanding”, which is “an active effort to accept others as our co-inhabitants of the planet.”
“For me, understanding means that although I may not like or agree with everything you do or say, I get where you are coming from. I get it and I can respect you as a fellow human being. I am able to listen to you. I may even be able to learn something from you that will open the door to friendship.”
Speaking (“The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda”) to the Universalist Church, Pasadena, on 28th January 1900, Swami Vivekananda adds:
“Our watchword…will be acceptance, and not exclusion. Not only toleration, for so-called toleration is often blasphemy, and I do not believe in it. I believe in acceptance. Why should I tolerate? Toleration means that I think that you are wrong and I am just allowing you to live. Is it not a blasphemy to think that you and I are allowing others to live?”