Toleration in Political Conflict

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The Commonwealth kept religious-freedom laws during an era when religious persecution was an everyday occurrence in the rest of Europe. The Warsaw Confederation was a private compact signed by representatives of all the major religions in Polish and Lithuanian society, in which they pledged each other mutual support and tolerance. The confederation was incorporated into the Henrican articles , which constituted a virtual Polish—Lithuanian constitution. The main concern was civil unity; [40] The Edict separated civil law from religious rights, treated non-Catholics as more than mere schismatics and heretics for the first time, and opened a path for secularism and tolerance.

In offering general freedom of conscience to individuals, the edict offered many specific concessions to the Protestants, such as amnesty and the reinstatement of their civil rights, including the right to work in any field or for the State, and to bring grievances directly to the king. The edict marked the end of the religious wars in France that tore apart the population during the second half of the 16th century. Although strict enforcement of the revocation was relaxed during the reign of Louis XV , it was not until years later, in , when Louis XVI signed the Edict of Versailles —known as the Edict of Tolerance —that civil status and rights to form congregations by Protestants were restored.

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Beginning in the Enlightenment commencing in the s, politicians and commentators began formulating theories of religious toleration and basing legal codes on the concept. A distinction began to develop between civil tolerance , concerned with "the policy of the state towards religious dissent". John Milton — , English Protestant poet and essayist, called in the Areopagitica for "the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties" applied, however, only to the conflicting Protestant denominations, and not to atheists, Jews, Muslims or even Catholics.

Rather than force a man's conscience, government should recognize the persuasive force of the gospel. In , Rudolph II decreed religious toleration in Bohemia. In , Roger Williams and companions at the foundation of Rhode Island entered into a compact binding themselves "to be obedient to the majority only in civil things". Williams spoke of "democracie or popular government. Also in , Congregationalist Thomas Hooker and a group of companions founded Connecticut.

They combined the democratic form of government that had been developed by the Separatist Congregationalists in Plymouth Colony Pilgrim Fathers with unlimited freedom of conscience.

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Like Martin Luther, Hooker argued that as faith in Jesus Christ was the free gift of the Holy Spirit it could not be forced on a person. In Maryland passed the Maryland Toleration Act , also known as the Act Concerning Religion, a law mandating religious tolerance for Trinitarian Christians only excluding Nontrinitarian faiths.

Passed on September 21, by the assembly of the Maryland colony, it was the first law requiring religious tolerance in the British North American colonies. The Calvert family sought enactment of the law to protect Catholic settlers and some of the other denominations that did not conform to the dominant Anglicanism of England and her colonies. Baruch Spinoza — was a Dutch Jewish philosopher.

Peter Berkowitz reviews ‘Virtue, Reason and Toleration’ by Glen Newey · LRB 7 September

He published the Theological-Political Treatise anonymously in , arguing according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that "the freedom to philosophize can not only be granted without injury to piety and the peace of the Commonwealth, but that the peace of the Commonwealth and Piety are endangered by the suppression of this freedom", and defending, "as a political ideal, the tolerant, secular, and democratic polity".

After interpreting certain Biblical texts , Spinoza opted for tolerance and freedom of thought in his conclusion that "every person is in duty bound to adapt these religious dogmas to his own understanding and to interpret them for himself in whatever way makes him feel that he can the more readily accept them with full confidence and conviction. Locke's work appeared amidst a fear that Catholicism might be taking over England, and responds to the problem of religion and government by proposing religious toleration as the answer.

Unlike Thomas Hobbes , who saw uniformity of religion as the key to a well-functioning civil society, Locke argued that more religious groups actually prevent civil unrest. In his opinion, civil unrest results from confrontations caused by any magistrate's attempt to prevent different religions from being practiced, rather than tolerating their proliferation. However, Locke denies religious tolerance for Catholics, for political reasons, and also for atheists because "Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist".

A passage Locke later added to An Essay Concerning Human Understanding questioned whether atheism was necessarily inimical to political obedience. Pierre Bayle — was a French Protestant scholar and philosopher who went into exile in Holland. In his " Dictionnaire Historique et Critique " and "Commentaire Philosophique" he advanced arguments for religious toleration though, like some others of his time, he was not anxious to extend the same protection to Catholics he would to differing Protestant sects. Among his arguments were that every church believes it is the right one so "a heretical church would be in a position to persecute the true church".

Bayle wrote that "the erroneous conscience procures for error the same rights and privileges that the orthodox conscience procures for truth. Bayle was repelled by the use of scripture to justify coercion and violence: "One must transcribe almost the whole New Testament to collect all the Proofs it affords us of that Gentleness and Long-suffering, which constitute the distinguishing and essential Character of the Gospel.

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  8. In a word, all the Mischief arises not from Toleration, but from the want of it. The Act of Toleration , adopted by the British Parliament in , allowed freedom of worship to Nonconformists who had pledged to the oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy and rejected transubstantiation. They were allowed their own places of worship and their own teachers, if they accepted certain oaths of allegiance. The Act did not apply to Catholics and non-trinitarians and continued the existing social and political disabilities for Dissenters, including their exclusion from political office and also from universities.

    In it he attacked religious views, but also said, "It does not require great art, or magnificently trained eloquence, to prove that Christians should tolerate each other. I, however, am going further: I say that we should regard all men as our brothers. The Turk my brother? The Chinaman my brother? The Jew? The Siam? Yes, without doubt; are we not all children of the same father and creatures of the same God?

    Gotthold Ephraim Lessing — , German dramatist and philosopher, trusted in a "Christianity of Reason", in which human reason initiated by criticism and dissent would develop, even without help by divine revelation. His plays about Jewish characters and themes, such as "Die Juden" and " Nathan der Weise ", "have usually been considered impressive pleas for social and religious toleration".

    Each son believes he has the one true ring passed down by their father, but judgment on which is correct is reserved to God. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen , adopted by the National Constituent Assembly during the French Revolution , states in Article "No-one shall be interfered with for his opinions, even religious ones, provided that their practice does not disturb public order as established by the law.

    Benjamin Franklin. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution , ratified along with the rest of the Bill of Rights on December 15, , included the following words:"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof The process of legislating religious toleration went forward, while philosophers continued to discuss the underlying rationale. John Stuart Mill 's arguments in " On Liberty " in support of the freedom of speech were phrased to include a defense of religious toleration:. Let the opinions impugned be the belief of God and in a future state, or any of the commonly received doctrines of morality But I must be permitted to observe that it is not the feeling sure of a doctrine be it what it may which I call an assumption of infallibility.


    It is the undertaking to decide that question for others , without allowing them to hear what can be said on the contrary side. And I denounce and reprobate this pretension not the less if it is put forth on the side of my most solemn convictions. In his essay " What is a Nation? Thus members of any religious group could participate fully in the life of the nation. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance [62].

    Even though not formally legally binding, the Declaration has been adopted in or influenced many national constitutions since It also serves as the foundation for a growing number of international treaties and national laws and international, regional, national and sub-national institutions protecting and promoting human rights including the freedom of religion. Representatives of one hundred and twenty different religions came together for prayer to their God or gods. In , in the spirit of Glasnost , Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev promised increased religious toleration.


    Other major world religions also have texts or practices supporting the idea of religious toleration. Whatever intolerance, Hindu scholars displayed towards other religions was subtle and symbolic and most likely was done to present a superior argument in defence of their own faith. Traditionally, Hindus showed their intolerance by withdrawing and avoiding contact with those whom they held in contempt, instead of using violence and aggression to strike fear in their hearts. Hinduism is perhaps the only religion in the world which showed remarkable tolerance towards other religions in difficult times and under testing conditions.

    Even Buddhism, which spread in India mostly through negative campaigns against Hinduism, cannot claim that credit. Criticizing other religions and showing them in poor light to attract converts to its own fold was never an approved practice in Hinduism. Pluralism and tolerance of diversity are built into Hindu theology India's long history is a testimony to its tolerance of religious diversity.

    Christianity came to India with St. Thomas in the first century CE, long before it became popular in the West. Judaism came to India after the Jewish temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE and the Jews were expelled from their homeland.

    In a recent book titled "Who are the Jews of India? The Indian chapter is one of the happiest of the Jewish Diaspora. Both Christians and Jews have existed in a predominant Hindu India for centuries without being persecuted. Zoroastrians from Persia present day Iran entered India in the 7th century to flee Islamic conquest. They are known as Parsis in India. The Parsis are an affluent community in the city of Mumbai.

    Once treated as foreigners, they remain a minority community, yet still housing the richest business families in India; for example, the Tata family controls a huge industrial empire in various parts of the country. The Qur'an , albeit having given importance to its 'true believers', commands its followers to tolerate 'the people of all faiths and communities' and to let them command their dignity, without breaking the Shariah law. Certain verses of the Qur'an were interpreted to create a specially tolerated status for People of the Book , Jewish and Christian believers in the Old and New Testaments considered to have been a basis for Islamic religion:.

    Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. Under Islamic law , Jews and Christians were considered dhimmis , a legal status inferior to that of a Muslim but superior to that of other non-Muslims.

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    Jewish communities in the Ottoman Empire held a protected status and continued to practice their own religion, as did Christians, though both were subject to additional restrictions, such as restrictions on the areas where they could live or work or in clothing, [70] and both had to pay additional taxes.

    The established religion of the [Ottoman] empire was Islam, but three other religious communities—Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Jewish—were permitted to form autonomous organizations. These three were equal among themselves, without regard to their relative numerical strength. Although Bhikkhu Bodhi states that the Buddha taught "the path to the supreme goal of the holy life is made known only in his own teaching", Buddhists have nevertheless shown significant tolerance for other religions: "Buddhist tolerance springs from the recognition that the dispositions and spiritual needs of human beings are too vastly diverse to be encompassed by any single teaching, and thus that these needs will naturally find expression in a wide variety of religious forms.

    His Edict in the 12th main stone writing of Girnar on the third century B. However, Buddhism has also had controversies regarding toleration. See Dorje Shugden Controversy.


    In addition, the question of possible intolerance among Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, primarily against Muslims, has been raised by Paul Fuller. The development of new digital technologies has resulted in an exponential growth in the volume of information and knowledge available, and made them more readily accessible to greater numbers of people throughout the world.

    As such, information and communication technologies can play an essential role in the sharing of knowledge and expertise in the service of sustainable development and in a spirit of solidarity.