Michael Polanyi once pointed out that when freedom of thought is extended to embrace freedom to reject the basis for freedom of thought, it undermines itself. I have never understood how so-called "liberals" have so often failed to see something so basic about their own "liberalism," that what begins as advocacy for "tolerance" ends in brutal intolerance.
J. L. Talmon, a scholar from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, saw this clearly in his study, The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy, a study of, among other things, J.-J. Rousseau's Social Contract.
Flannery O'Connor once spoke on the issue of liberal compassion: "Do you know where [their] tenderness leads? It ends in forced labor camps and in the fumes of the gas chambers," she declared.
But all of this is too theoretical. The simple point is this: there is nothing more authoritarian and intolerant that a certain kind of "liberalism." True, the Christian right can be intolerant too; but there is a difference. The Christian right opposes many vices that are now generally defended as acceptable by the public mainstream. It does not reject the very basis for toleration, however, which lies in clearly distinguishing between vices and virtues.
Tolerance only has meaning, and can only be implemented with any even-handedness, within a context of a larger framework of traditional values based on moral insight, understanding of human nature, and natural law.
[Hat tip to Fr. Z.]