Religious toleration

Religious toleration

Religious toleration is the condition of accepting or permitting others' religious beliefs and practices which disagree with one's own.

In a country with a state religion, "toleration" means that the government permits religious practices of other sects besides the state religion, and does not persecute believers in other faiths. It is a partial status, and might still be accompanied by forms of religious discrimination. Religious toleration as a Government policy merely means the absence of religious persecution; unlike religious liberty it does not mean that religions are equal before the law. Toleration is a privilege granted by Government (which it may do by law or charter), not a right against it; governments have often tolerated some religions and not others.

Religious toleration "as a government-sanctioned practice — the sense on which most discussion of the phenomenon relies —is not attested before the sixteenth century", which makes it rather difficult to apply the concept to topics like Persecution of religion in ancient Rome. [H.A.Drake, "Lambs into Lions: explaining early Christian intolerance", Past and Present 153 (1996), p.8, [ Oxford Journals] ]

Historically, toleration has been a contentious issue within many religions as well as between one religion and another. At issue is not merely whether other faiths should be permitted, but also whether a ruler who is a believer may be tolerant, or permit his subordinates to be. In the Middle Ages, toleration of Judaism was a contentious issue throughout Christendom. Today, there are concerns about toleration of Christianity in Islamic states (see also dhimmi).

Proselytism can be a contentious issue; it can be regarded as an offence against the validity of others' religions, or as an expression of one's own faith.

The element of objection

For individuals, religious toleration generally means an attitude of acceptance towards other people's religions. It does not mean that one views other religions as equally true; merely that others have the right to hold and practice their beliefs. This element of objection is important. People, who take these matters seriously, often experience distress when they are confronted with religious beliefs that they regard as idolatrous, superstitious, heretical or schismatic.

Contexts of religious tolerance

At least five contexts of religious tolerance can be distinguished. Religious tolerance as a state sanctioned practice can more precisely termed "civil tolerance". Civil tolerance is concerned with "the policy of the state towards religious dissent". [Coffey 2000: 11] In contrast to this, ecclesiastical tolerance is concerned with the degree of diversity tolerated within a particular church. [Coffey 2000: 12] Without this distinction, the Christian debate on persecution and toleration in England could not be adequately understood.

Furthermore, there is also a "social" and a "polemical" context of religious tolerance. The grand theme of "divine tolerance" is the emphasis on "the patience and longsuffering of God" as it is frequently portrayed in the Christian Bible; This image of God has been invoked by early Christian advocates of toleration.

The polemical context

Contemporary authors such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel C. Dennett have all challenged the tolerance of religion. In "The End of Faith", Sam Harris asserts that we should be unwilling to tolerate unjustified beliefs about morality, spirituality, politics, and the origin of humanity. In his preface to "The God Delusion", Richard Dawkins says, "If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down."Dawkins, Richard. [ Preface] "The God Delusion".] Such secularism is often perceived as in itself intolerant by people of faith.


*539 BC, Cyrus the Great issued a proclamation on the occasion of his conquest of Babylon, the Cyrus cylinder, arguably one of the first acts of religious toleration. [ [ British Museum, The Cyrus Cylinder, retrieved 1 June 2007] ]
*364-332 BC, Ashoka the Great declares religious freedom in the Edicts of Ashoka
*311 AD, The Roman Emperor Galerius issues a general edict of toleration in his own name and in those of Licinius and Constantine. ["Valerius Maximianus Galerius", Karl Hoeber, Catholic Encyclopedia 1909 Ed, retrieved 1 June 2007. [] ]
*313, The Edict of Milan issued by the Emperors Constantine I and Licinius proclaiming religious toleration in the Roman Empire. ["Constantine I", Encyclopedia Britannica 1911 Ed. retrieved 1 June 2007. [] ]
*622, Muhammad declares religious freedom in the Constitution of Medina
*1190, Genghis Khan composes his code of law, the Yassa, in which there is religious freedom for all who were under his rule.Fact|date=June 2007
*1264, The Statute of Kalisz guaranteed safety, personal liberties, freedom of religion, trade, and travel to Jews in Poland.
*1554, Castellio writes the pamphlet "De haereticis, an sint persequendi" (Whether heretics should be persecuted), the first modern appeal for toleration. ["Johann Brenz" Encyclopedia Britannica 1911 Ed. retrieved 1 June 2007. [] ]
*1571, January 11 - Maximilian II declares religious toleration towards the nobles of Lower Austria, their families and workers; ["Toleration—Exercitium Religionis Privatum", Walter Grossman, Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Jan - Mar., 1979), pp. 129-134, retrieved 1 June 2007. [] ]
*1573, January 28 - Warsaw Confederation granting religious toleration. ["The Confederation of Warsaw of 28 January 1573, UNESCO, retrieved 1 June 2007. [] ]
*1598, April 13 - King Henry IV of France issued the Edict of Nantes, allowing religious toleration of the Huguenots. ["Edict of Nantes", Encyclopedia Britannica 15th Edition, retrieved 1 June 2007. [] ]
*1609, July 6 - Rudolph II grants religious toleration in Bohemia. ["Rudolph II", Encyclopedia Britannica 15 Edition, retrieved 1 June 2007. [] ]
*1657, April 20 - New Amsterdam granted religious toleration to Jews; [Hasia R. Diner, "The Jews of the United States, 1654 to 2000", 2004, University of California Press, ISBN 0520248481, pp. 13-15]
*1689, English Act of Toleration passed, granting toleration to Protestant dissenters.
*1829, April 13 - British Parliament granted Catholic Emancipation in the spirit of religious toleration;
*1900 Robert G. Ingersoll publishes his plea for religious liberty. []
*1948, December 10 The United Nations General Assembly issues the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 18 declares that everyone has the right to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, and to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. ["The Universal Declaration of Human Rights", United Nations 1948, retrieved 1 June 2007. [] ]
*1965, December 7 The Roman Catholic Church Vatican II Council issues the decree Dignitatis Humanae (Religious Freedom) that states that all people must have the right to religious freedom. ["Dignitatis Humanae", Decree on Religious Freedom, 1965, retrieved 1 June 2007. [] ]
*1986, October 7 The first World Day of Prayer for Peace is held in Assisi when representatives of one hundred and twenty different religions came together for prayer to their God or gods. ["ADDRESS OF JOHN PAUL IITO THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCHES AND ECCLESIAL COMMUNITIES AND OF THE WORLD RELIGIONS" 1986, retrieved 1 June 2007. [] ]
*1988, April 29 - in the spirit of Glasnost, Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev promised increased religious toleration. ["Russia", Encyclopedia Britannica 15th edition, retrieved 1 June 2007. [] ]

ee also

*Freedom of religion
*Status of religious freedom by country
*State religion
*Religious pluralism
*National church
*Secular state
*State atheism
*Religious intolerance
*Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
*Conversational intolerance
*Separation of church and state

Further reading

* cite book
title= Law and Religion
year= 2007
publisher= Ashgate
id=ISBN 978-0-7546-2494-3

* cite book
last = Beneke
first = Chris
title = Beyond Toleration: The Religious Origins of American Pluralism
month = September | year = 2006
publisher = Oxford University Press, USA
id = ISBN 0-19-530555-8

* cite book
last = Coffey
first = John
title = Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England, 1558-1689
year = 2000
publisher = Longman Publishing Group
location =
id = ISBN 0-582-30465-2

*cite book
last = Curry
first = Thomas J.
title = Church and State in America to the Passage of the First Amendment
date = 1989-12-19
publisher = Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (December 19, 1989)
id = ISBN 0-19-505181-5

*cite book
editor = Grell, Ole Peter, and Roy Porter
title = Toleration in Enlightenment Europe
publisher = Cambridge University Press
location = Cambridge
year = 2000
id = ISBN 978-0521651967

* cite book
last = Hamilton
first = Marci A.
others = Edward R. Becker (Foreword
title = God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law
date = 2005-06-17
publisher = Cambridge University Press
id = ISBN 0-521-85304-4

*cite book
last = Hanson
first = Charles P.
title = Necessary Virtue: The Pragmatic Origins of Religious Liberty in New England
year = 1998
publisher = University Press of Virginia
id = ISBN 0813917948

*cite book
last = Kaplan
first = Benjamin J.
title = Divided by Faith: Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe
year = 2007
publisher = Belknap Press
id = ISBN 0674024303

*cite book
editor = Laursen, John Christian and Nederman, Cary
title = Beyond the Persecuting Society: Religious Toleration Before the Enlightenment
year = 1997
month = December
publisher = University of Pennsylvania Press (December 1997)
id = ISBN 0-8122-3331-X

*cite book
last = Murphy
first = Andrew R.
title = Conscience and Community: Revisiting Toleration and Religious Dissent in Early Modern England and America
year = 2001
month = July
publisher = Pennsylvania State University Press
id = ISBN 0-271-02105-5

*cite book
last = Walsham
first = Alexandra
title = Charitable Hatred: Tolerance and Intolerance in England, 1500-1700
year = 2006
month = September
publisher = Manchester University Press
id = ISBN 0719052394

*cite book
last = Zagorin
first = Perez
title = How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West
year = 2003
publisher = Princeton University Press
id = ISBN 0-691-12142-7


External links

* [ Background to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights]
* [ Text of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights]
* [ Jehovah's witnesses: European Court of Human rights, Freedom of Religion, Speech, and Association in Europe]
* cite web
title = Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
work = Various information on sensible religious topics
publisher = Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
url =

*dmoz|Society/Religion_and_Spirituality/Religious_Tolerance/|Religious Tolerance
* [ History of Religious Tolerance]
* [ The Foundation against Intolerance of Religious Minorities]

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