Another idea linked to the importance of the individual is tolerance: a willingness to respect values, customs and beliefs with which one disagrees. This is one of the natural rights that liberals believe everyone should have, which should not be taken away against the will of the individual. Originally this referred primarily to tolerance of different religious beliefs, but today it has been extended to a wide range of views and practices. For example, liberals tend to take a relaxed view of sexual matters, supporting measures to put same-sex relationships on the same legal footing as heterosexual relationships, because these are private lifestyle choices.

Tolerance is a key liberal principle that suggests that society must tolerate a range of views and lifestyles as long as they are not restrictive of personal freedom. Toleration is justified by liberals as it is rational, linked to individual freedom and choice, and benefits society as well as the individual. In the nineteenth century, J. S. Mill developed this theory as a way to protect religious freedom and to create a free marketplace of ideas that would allow humans to progress morally and intellectually. Today liberals support the idea of diversity in society and believe that there are many ways to live the ‘good life’. Tolerance also means defending freedom of speech, even if you do not like the views that are being portrayed. This is a highly topical area today, with many arguing that there are limits to what should be tolerated and that the right to offend those of different faiths, for example, is not acceptable.