One major reason why tolerance is needed in the area of knowledge and beliefs is the nature of our knowledge. Our knowledge, whether scientific or revelational is based on induction.
Induction is based on observation, interpretation and application of data/facts that come to us from deferent sources. This is the basic ‘tool of trade’ of every scientist – observe the facts, collect data, conduct experiments to confirm the data and then and only then make interpretations/conclusions. In other words the interpretations and conclusion that are drawn must be substantiated by the facts/data upon which they are based. And since one cannot have/collect all the data that is there in the world, as we are finite in our knowledge and abilities our conclusions are generally probable conclusions. The greater the data available the greater is the probability for the particular conclusion. ( Of course we can have statements of certainty in the areas of pure maths and definitional statements or tautologies). And since our conclusions are conclusions of probability we accept and believe in them. This is what gives us psychological certainty.
Unfortunately many interpretations (and beliefs) are based on very small data while there are some, which can be substantiated by sufficient and reasonable data. And most of us do not examine to see if what is being claimed or believed in is based on sufficient and reasonable data. We tend to make emotional commitments to what we think is enough to believe/accept. Hence the bigotry and volatility whether it is found in the extremist or the believer. We make hasty generalisations, extensions, reductions, and language tricks etc.
But what is generally forgotten is that induction is the ‘tool of trade’ of not only the scientists of the world but also of the religious scholar. Induction is the way we draw our theological/doctrinal interpretations/conclusions too. Even in the case of those faiths which claim divine revelation, the revelation is based on events, claims and beliefs based on which inductive conclusions are drawn. Divine revelation did not come in the form of general, universal statements for us to know but it comes in the form of actions in human contexts, forms, histories etc, which we study and interpret and believe. This is what makes faith necessary.
It would be good to remember the following:
Ø That most of our beliefs are based on induction. And induction being statements of probability, we must understand why some find it so difficult to believe what to us seems so reasonable. This should give rise to an attitude of understanding towards people of other faiths, ideologies etc. For even their beliefs seem to have certain reasons, only those reasons may not be sufficient enough, which they are not aware of, but are sincerely convinced about them.
This is also the reason why within a faith/religion there are so many differences of opinion on a host of doctrinal issues – each one seems to have certain reasons to hold to certain doctrines/practices. So we need to understand why some tend to hold to certain views so rigidly.
Our attitude of understanding towards those who do no agree with what we believe must lead to an attitude of making room for them as people who have a right to be and believe. God allows them to be – He could exterminate all those who do no agree with Him, but that is not the way He deals with them.
Ø Secondly, there is a gap in knowledge – the gap between probability and certainty. This gap is bridged by faith. Since there is some evidence/information available we base our faith on it, whether it is reasonable or sufficient or not. And this leads to certainty for those who believe. This is true both for the believer and unbeliever. This should lead to an attitude of humility and not cockiness.
It is because of the nature of faith, and knowledge that we need to cultivate the attitude of tolerance towards all those who do not agree with what we believe.