Toleration is the allowing, permitting, or acceptance of an action, idea, object, or person which one dislikes or disagrees with. Random House Dictionary defines tolerance as "a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one's own". Toleration may signify "no more than forbearance and the permission given by the adherents of a dominant religion for other religions to exist, even though the latter are looked on with disapproval as inferior, mistaken, or harmful."
Historically, most incidents and writings pertaining to toleration involve the status of minority and dissenting viewpoints in relation to a dominant state religion. In the 20th century and after, analysis of the doctrine of toleration has been expanded to include political and ethnic groups, LGBT individuals and other minorities, and human rights embodies the principle of legally enforced toleration.
Originally from the Latin tolerans (present participle of tolerare; "to bear, endure, tolerate"), the word tolerance was first used in Middle French in the 14th century and in Early Modern English in the early 15th century. The word toleration was first used in English in the 1510s to mean "permission granted by authority, licence" from the French tolération (originally from the Latin past participle stem of tolerare, tolerationem), moving towards the meaning of "forbearance, sufferance" in the 1580s. The notion of religious toleration stems from 1609.
Religious toleration has been described as a "remarkable feature" of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia. As reported in the Old Testament, king Cyrus the Great was believed to have released the Jews from captivity in 539–530 BCE, and permitted their return to their homeland. Cyrus the Great assisted in the restoration of the sacred places of various cities.
The Hellenistic city of Alexandria, founded 331 BCE, contained a large Jewish community which lived in peace with equivalently sized Greek and Egyptian populations. According to Michael Walzer, the city provided "a useful example of what we might think of as the imperial version of multiculturalism."
The Roman Empire encouraged conquered peoples to continue worshipping their own gods. "An important part of Roman propaganda was its invitation to the gods of conquered territories to enjoy the benefits of worship within the imperium." Christians were singled out for persecution because of their own rejection of Roman pantheism and refusal to honor the emperor as a god. In 311 CE, Roman Emperor Galerius issued a general edict of toleration of Christianity, in his own name and in those of Licinius and Constantine I (who converted to Christianity the following year).
In the Old Testament, the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy make similar statements about the treatment of strangers. For example, Exodus 22:21 says: "Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt".These texts are frequently used in sermons to plead for compassion and tolerance of those who are different from us and less powerful. Julia Kristeva elucidated a philosophy of political and religious toleration based on all of our mutual identities as strangers.
The New Testament Parable of the Tares, which speaks of the difficulty of distinguishing wheat from weeds before harvest time, has also been invoked in support of religious toleration. In his "Letter to Bishop Roger of Chalons", Bishop Wazo of Liege (c. 985–1048) relied on the parable to argue that "the church should let dissent grow with orthodoxy until the Lord comes to separate and judge them".
Roger Williams, a Baptist theologian and founder of Rhode Island, used this parable to support government toleration of all of the "weeds" (heretics) in the world, because civil persecution often inadvertently hurts the "wheat" (believers) too. Instead, Williams believed it was God's duty to judge in the end, not man's. This parable lent further support to Williams' Biblical philosophy of a wall of separation between church and state as described in his 1644 book, The Bloody Tenent of Persecution.
In the Middle Ages, there were instances of toleration of particular groups. The Latin concept tolerantia was a "highly-developed political and judicial concept in mediaeval scholastic theology and canon law." Tolerantia was used to "denote the self-restraint of a civil power in the face of" outsiders, like infidels, Muslims or Jews, but also in the face of social groups like prostitutes and lepers. Heretics such as the Cathari, Waldensians, Jan Hus, and his followers, the Hussites, were persecuted. Later theologians belonging or reacting to the Protestant Reformation began discussion of the circumstances under which dissenting religious thought should be permitted. Toleration "as a government-sanctioned practice" in Christian countries, "the sense on which most discussion of the phenomenon relies—is not attested before the sixteenth century".
In Poland in 1264, the Statute of Kalisz was issued, guaranteeing freedom of religion for the Jews in the country.
In 1348, Pope Clement VI (1291–1352) issued a bull pleading with Catholics not to murder Jews, whom they blamed for the Black Death. He noted that Jews died of the plague like anyone else, and that the disease also flourished in areas where there were no Jews. Christians who blamed and killed Jews had been "seduced by that liar, the Devil". He took Jews under his personal protection at Avignon, but his calls for other clergy to do so failed to be heeded.
Johann Reuchlin (1455–1522) was a German humanist and a scholar of Greek and Hebrew who opposed efforts by Johannes Pfefferkorn, backed by the Dominicans of Cologne, to confiscate all religious texts from the Jews as a first step towards their forcible conversion to the Catholic religion.
Despite occasional spontaneous episodes of pogroms and killings, as during the Black Death, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was a relatively tolerant home for the Jews in the medieval period. In 1264, the Statute of Kalisz guaranteed safety, personal liberties, freedom of religion, trade, and travel to Jews. By the mid-16th century, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was home to 80% of the world's Jewish population. Jewish worship was officially recognized, with a Chief Rabbi originally appointed by the monarch. Jewish property ownership was also protected for much of the period, and Jews entered into business partnerships with members of the nobility.
Paulus Vladimiri (c. 1370–1435) was a Polish scholar and rector who at the Council of Constance in 1414, presented a thesis, Tractatus de potestate papae et imperatoris respectu infidelium (Treatise on the Power of the Pope and the Emperor Respecting Infidels). In it he argued that pagan and Christian nations could coexist in peace and criticized the Teutonic Order for its wars of conquest of native non-Christian peoples in Prussia and Lithuania. Vladimiri strongly supported the idea of conciliarism and pioneered the notion of peaceful coexistence among nations—a forerunner of modern theories of human rights. Throughout his political, diplomatic and university career, he expressed the view that a world guided by the principles of peace and mutual respect among nations was possible and that pagan nations had a right to peace and to possession of their own lands.
Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (1466–1536), was a Dutch Renaissance humanist and Catholic whose works laid a foundation for religious toleration. For example, in De libero arbitrio, opposing certain views of Martin Luther, Erasmus noted that religious disputants should be temperate in their language, "because in this way the truth, which is often lost amidst too much wrangling may be more surely perceived." Gary Remer writes, "Like Cicero, Erasmus concludes that truth is furthered by a more harmonious relationship between interlocutors." Although Erasmus did not oppose the punishment of heretics, in individual cases he generally argued for moderation and against the death penalty. He wrote, "It is better to cure a sick man than to kill him."
Saint Thomas More (1478–1535), Catholic Lord Chancellor of King Henry VIII and author, described a world of almost complete religious toleration in Utopia (1516), in which the Utopians "can hold various religious beliefs without persecution from the authorities." However, More's work is subject to various interpretations, and it is not clear that he felt that earthly society should be conducted the same way as in Utopia. Thus, in his three years as Lord Chancellor, More actively approved of the persecution of those who sought to undermine the Catholic faith in England.
At the Diet of Worms (1521), Martin Luther refused to recant his beliefs citing freedom of conscience as his justification. According to Historian Hermann August Winkler, the individual's freedom of conscience became the hallmark of Protestantism. Luther was convinced that faith in Jesus Christ was the free gift of the Holy Spirit and could therefore not be forced on a person. Heresies could not be met with force, but with preaching the gospel revealed in the Bible. Luther: "Heretics should not be overcome with fire, but with written sermons." In Luther's view, the worldly authorities were entitled to expel heretics. Only if they undermine the public order, should they be executed. Later proponents of tolerance such as Sebastian Franck and Sebastian Castellio cited Luther's position. He had overcome, at least for the Protestant territories and countries, the violent medieval criminal procedures of dealing with heretics. But Luther remained rooted in the Middle Ages insofar as he considered the Anabaptists' refusal to take oaths, do military service, and the rejection of private property by some Anabaptist groups to be a political threat to the public order which would inevitably lead to anarchy and chaos. So Anabaptists were persecuted not only in Catholic but also in Lutheran and Reformed territories. However, a number of Protestant theologians such as John Calvin, Martin Bucer, Wolfgang Capito, and Johannes Brenz as well as Landgrave Philip of Hesse opposed the execution of Anabaptists. Ulrich Zwingli demanded the expulsion of persons who did not accept the Reformed beliefs, in some cases the execution of Anabaptist leaders. The young Michael Servetus also defended tolerance since 1531, in his letters to Johannes Oecolampadius, but during those years some Protestant theologians such as Bucer and Capito publicly expressed they thought he should be persecuted. The trial against Servetus, an Antitrinitarian, in Geneva was not a case of church discipline but a criminal procedure based on the legal code of the Holy Roman Empire. Denying the Trinity doctrine was long considered to be the same as atheism in all churches. The Anabaptists made a considerable contribution to the development of tolerance in the early-modern era by incessantly demanding freedom of conscience and standing up for it with their patient suffering.
Sebastian Castellio (1515–1563) was a French Protestant theologian who in 1554 published under a pseudonym the pamphlet Whether heretics should be persecuted (De haereticis, an sint persequendi) criticizing John Calvin's execution of Michael Servetus: "When Servetus fought with reasons and writings, he should have been repulsed by reasons and writings." Castellio concluded: "We can live together peacefully only when we control our intolerance. Even though there will always be differences of opinion from time to time, we can at any rate come to general understandings, can love one another, and can enter the bonds of peace, pending the day when we shall attain unity of faith." Castellio is remembered for the often quoted statement, "To kill a man is not to protect a doctrine, but it is to kill a man.
Jean Bodin (1530–1596) was a French Catholic jurist and political philosopher. His Latin work Colloquium heptaplomeres de rerum sublimium arcanis abditis ("The Colloqium of the Seven") portrays a conversation about the nature of truth between seven cultivated men from diverse religious or philosophical backgrounds: a natural philosopher, a Calvinist, a Muslim, a Roman Catholic, a Lutheran, a Jew, and a skeptic. All agree to live in mutual respect and tolerance.
Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592), French Catholic essayist and statesman, moderated between the Catholic and Protestant sides in the Wars of Religion. Montaigne's theory of skepticism led to the conclusion that we cannot precipitously decide the error of others' views. Montaigne wrote in his famous "Essais": "It is putting a very high value on one's conjectures, to have a man roasted alive because of them...To kill people, there must be sharp and brilliant clarity."
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth had a long tradition of religious freedom. The right to worship freely was a basic right given to all inhabitants of the Commonwealth throughout the 15th and early 16th centuries, however, complete freedom of religion was officially recognized in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1573 in the Warsaw Confederation. 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 Edict of Nantes, issued on April 13, 1598, by Henry IV of France, granted Protestants—notably Calvinist Huguenots—substantial rights in a nation where Catholicism was the state religion. The main concern was civil unity; 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.
The Edict of Nantes was revoked in 1685 by King Louis XIV with the Edict of Fontainebleau, leading to renewed persecution of Protestants in France. Although strict enforcement of the revocation was relaxed during the reign of Louis XV, it was not until 102 years later, in 1787, 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.
Beginning in the Enlightenment commencing in the 1600s, 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"., and ecclesiastical tolerance, concerned with the degree of diversity tolerated within a particular church.
John Milton (1608–1674), 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). "Milton argued for disestablishment as the only effective way of achieving broad toleration. Rather than force a man's conscience, government should recognize the persuasive force of the gospel."
In 1636, 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." Lucian Johnston writes, "Williams' intention was to grant an infinitely greater religious liberty than then existed anywhere in the world outside of the Colony of Maryland." In 1663, Charles II granted the colony a charter guaranteeing complete religious toleration.
Also in 1636, 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. 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 1649 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, 1649 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 (1632–1677) was a Dutch Jewish philosopher. He published the Theological-Political Treatise anonymously in 1670, 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."
English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704) published A Letter Concerning Toleration in 1689. 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 (1647–1706) 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." He did not regard toleration as a danger to the state, but to the contrary: "If the Multiplicity of Religions prejudices the State, it proceeds from their not bearing with one another but on the contrary endeavoring each to crush and destroy the other by methods of Persecution. 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 1689, allowed freedom of worship to Nonconformists who had pledged to the oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy and rejected transubstantiation. The Nonconformists were Protestants who dissented from the Church of England such as Baptists and Congregationalists. 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.
François-Marie Arouet, the French writer, historian and philosopher known as Voltaire (1694–1778) published his Treatise on Toleration in 1763. 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. What? 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?" On the other hand, Voltaire in his writings on religion was spiteful and intolerant of the practice of the Christian religion, and Orthodox rabbi Joseph Telushkin has claimed that the most significant of Enlightenment hostility against Judaism was found in Voltaire.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), 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". The latter work contains the famous parable of the three rings, in which three sons represent the three Abrahamic religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. 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 (1789), adopted by the National Constituent Assembly during the French Revolution, states in Article 10: "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." ("Nul ne doit être inquiété pour ses opinions, mêmes religieuses, pourvu que leur manifestation ne trouble pas l'ordre public établi par la loi.")
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified along with the rest of the Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791, included the following words:"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." In 1802, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptists Association in which he said: "...I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."
The process of legislating religious toleration went forward, while philosophers continued to discuss the underlying rationale.
The Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829 adopted by the Parliament in 1829 repealed the last of the criminal laws (TEST ACTS) aimed at Catholic citizens of Great Britain.
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 1882 essay "What is a Nation?", French historian and philosopher Ernest Renan proposed a definition of nationhood based on "a spiritual principle" involving shared memories, rather than a common religious, racial or linguistic heritage. Thus members of any religious group could participate fully in the life of the nation. "You can be French, English, German, yet Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, or practicing no religion".
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
Even though not formally legally binding, the Declaration has been adopted in or influenced many national constitutions since 1948. 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.
Other major world religions also have texts or practices supporting the idea of religious toleration.
The Rigveda says Ekam Sath Viprah Bahudha Vadanti which translates to "The truth is One, but sages call it by different Names". Consistent with this tradition, India chose to be a secular country even though it was divided partitioning on religious lines. 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?" (University of California Press, 2000), author Nathan Katz observes that India is the only country where the Jews were not persecuted. 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. Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the powerful Prime Minister of India (1966–77; 1980–84), was married to Feroz Gandhi, a Parsi (no relation to Mahatma Gandhi). 
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:
Verily! 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.
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, and both had to pay additional taxes. Yitzhak Sarfati, born in Germany, became the Chief Rabbi of Edirne and wrote a letter inviting European Jews to settle in the Ottoman Empire, in which he asked: "Is it not better for you to live under Muslims than under Christians?'". Sultan Beyazid II (1481–1512), issued a formal invitation to the Jews expelled from Catholic Spain and Portugal, leading to a wave of Jewish immigration.
According to Michael Walzer:
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. They were subject to the same restrictions vis-à-vis Muslims—with regard to dress, proselytizing, and intermarriage, for example—and were allowed the same legal control over their own members.
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." James Freeman Clarke said in Ten Great Religions (1871): "The Buddhists have founded no Inquisition; they have combined the zeal which converted kingdoms with a toleration almost inexplicable to our Western experience."
The Edicts of Ashoka issued by King Ashoka the Great (269–231 BCE), a Buddhist, declared ethnic and religious tolerance. His Edict in the 12th main stone writing of Girnar on the third century B.C. which state that "Kings accepted religious tolerance and that Emperor Ashoka maintained that no one would consider his / her is to be superior to other and rather would follow a path of unity by accuring the essence of other religions".
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. And yet, for many observers, the world is witnessing rising levels of ethnic, cultural and religious intolerance, often using the same communication technologies for ideological and political mobilization to promote exclusivist worldviews. This mobilization often leads to further criminal and political violence and to armed conflict. This also leads to new modes of intolerance such as cyberbullying.
Contemporary commentators have highlighted situations in which toleration conflicts with widely held moral standards, national law, the principles of national identity, or other strongly held goals. Michael Walzer notes that the British in India tolerated the Hindu practice of suttee (ritual burning of a widow) until 1829. On the other hand, the United States declined to tolerate the Mormon practice of polygamy. The French head scarf controversy represents a conflict between religious practice and the French secular ideal. Toleration of the Romani people in European countries is a continuing issue.
Historian Alexandra Walsham notes that the modern understanding of the word "toleration" may be very different from its historic meaning. Toleration in modern parlance has been analyzed as a component of a liberal or libertarian view of human rights. Hans Oberdiek writes, "As long as no one is harmed or no one's fundamental rights are violated, the state should keep hands off, tolerating what those controlling the state find disgusting, deplorable or even debased. This for a long time has been the most prevalent defense of toleration by liberals... It is found, for example, in the writings of American philosophers John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Ronald Dworkin, Brian Barry, and a Canadian, Will Kymlicka, among others."
Isaiah Berlin attributes to Herbert Butterfield the notion that "toleration... implies a certain disrespect. I tolerate your absurd beliefs and your foolish acts, though I know them to be absurd and foolish. Mill would, I think, have agreed."
John Gray states that "When we tolerate a practice, a belief or a character trait, we let something be that we judge to be undesirable, false or at least inferior; our toleration expresses the conviction that, despite its badness, the object of toleration should be left alone." However, according to Gray, "new liberalism—the liberalism of Rawls, Dworkin, Ackerman and suchlike" seems to imply that "it is wrong for government to discriminate in favour of, or against, any form of life animated by a definite conception of the good".
John Rawls' "theory of 'political liberalism' conceives of toleration as a pragmatic response to the fact of diversity". Diverse groups learn to tolerate one another by developing "what Rawls calls 'overlapping consensus': individuals and groups with diverse metaphysical views or 'comprehensive schemes' will find reasons to agree about certain principles of justice that will include principles of toleration".
Herbert Marcuse wrote "Repressive Tolerance" in 1965 where he argued that the "pure tolerance" that permits all favors totalitarianism, democracy, and tyranny of the majority, and insisted the "repressive tolerance" against them.
Walzer, Karl Popper and John Rawls have discussed the paradox of tolerating intolerance. Walzer asks "Should we tolerate the intolerant?" He notes that most minority religious groups who are the beneficiaries of tolerance are themselves intolerant, at least in some respects. Rawls argues that an intolerant sect should be tolerated in a tolerant society unless the sect directly threatens the security of other members of the society. He links this principle to the stability of a tolerant society, in which members of an intolerant sect in a tolerant society will, over time, acquire the tolerance of the wider society.
Toleration has been described as undermining itself via moral relativism: "either the claim self-referentially undermines itself or it provides us with no compelling reason to believe it. If we are skeptical about knowledge, then we have no way of knowing that toleration is good."
Ronald Dworkin argues that in exchange for toleration, minorities must bear with the criticisms and insults which are part of the freedom of speech in an otherwise tolerant society. Dworkin has also questioned whether the United States is a "tolerant secular" nation, or is re-characterizing itself as a "tolerant religious" nation, based on the increasing re-introduction of religious themes into conservative politics. Dworkin concludes that "the tolerant secular model is preferable, although he invited people to use the concept of personal responsibility to argue in favor of the tolerant religious model."
In The End of Faith, Sam Harris asserts that society should be unwilling to tolerate unjustified religious beliefs about morality, spirituality, politics, and the origin of humanity, especially beliefs which promote violence.
A Letter Concerning Toleration by John Locke was originally published in 1689. Its initial publication was in Latin, though it was immediately translated into other languages. 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. This "letter" is addressed to an anonymous "Honored Sir": this was actually Locke's close friend Philipp van Limborch, who published it without Locke's knowledge.Atheism during the Age of Enlightenment
Atheism, as defined by the entry in Diderot and d'Alembert's Encyclopédie is "the opinion of those who deny the existence of a God in the world. The simple ignorance of God doesn't constitute atheism. To be charged with the odious title of atheism one must have the notion of God and reject it." In the period of the Enlightenment, avowed and open atheism was made possible by the advance of religious toleration, but was also far from encouraged.
Accusations of atheism were common, but most of the people suspected by their peers of atheism were not actually atheist. D'Holbach and Denis Diderot seem to be two of the very small number of publicly identified atheists in Europe during this period. Thomas Hobbes was widely viewed as an atheist for his materialist interpretation of scripture—Henry Hammond, a former friend, described him in a letter as a "Christian Atheist." David Hume was accused of atheism for his writings on the "natural history of religion"; Pierre Bayle was accused of atheism for defending the possibility of an ethical atheist society in his Critical Dictionary; and Baruch Spinoza was frequently regarded as an atheist for his "pantheism." However, all three of these figures defended themselves against such accusations.Crypto-protestantism
Crypto-Protestantism is a historical phenomenon that occurred on the territory of the Habsburg Empire and elsewhere in Europe and Latin America. It describes the attempt made after the Protestant Reformation to regain for Catholicism parts of the Empire that had become Protestant. The Protestants in the areas that were re-Catholicised by force strove to retain their own confession inwardly while they outwardly pretended to accept Catholicism. With the Patent of Toleration (1781) Protestantism was again permitted, and from that time on most Protestants could live their faith openly once more.Disabilities (Catholics)
Disabilities were legal restrictions and limitations placed on the Roman Catholics of England since the issuance of the Act of Supremacy in 1534. These disabilities were first sanctioned by the Penal Laws, enacted under the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. They were followed by the Clarendon Code (1661–65) and the Test Act (1673).
In spite of the promulgation of the Toleration Act (1689), that removed many civil disabilities, the Catholics still had to face limitations in respect of property rights, succession rights and education. Catholics also still had no right to assemble and pray. The oath of abjuration required, swearing against the legitimacy of the Jacobite succession, was also counted as a disability, and remained in place until 1829.Doctrine of the Trinity Act 1813
The Doctrine of the Trinity Act 1813 (53 Geo. III c. 160. sometimes called the Trinitarian Act 1812) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It amended the Blasphemy Act 1697 in respect of its Trinitarian provisions. The Blasphemy Act applied only to those educated in or having made profession of the Christian religion.
The Act, passed July 21, was also variously known as the Unitarian Relief Act (Trinity Act), The Unitarian Toleration Bill, and Mr William Smith's Bill, after Whig politician William Smith.The Act granted toleration for Unitarian worship, as previously the Toleration Act 1689 had only granted toleration to those Protestant dissenters who accepted the Trinity.The Blasphemy Act was repealed in 1967, implicitly taking the Doctrine of the Trinity Act with it.Edict of Milan
The Edict of Milan (Latin: Edictum Mediolanense, Greek: Διάταγμα των Μεδιολάνων, Diatagma tōn Mediolanōn) was the February 313 AD agreement to treat Christians benevolently within the Roman Empire. Western Roman Emperor Constantine I and Emperor Licinius, who controlled the Balkans, met in Mediolanum (modern-day Milan) and, among other things, agreed to change policies towards Christians following the Edict of Toleration issued by Emperor Galerius two years earlier in Serdica. The Edict of Milan gave Christianity a legal status, but did not make Christianity the state church of the Roman Empire; this took place under Emperor Theodosius I in 380 AD with the Edict of Thessalonica.
The document is found in Lactantius' De Mortibus Persecutorum and in Eusebius of Caesarea's History of the Church with marked divergences between the two. Whether or not there was a formal 'Edict of Milan' is debated by some.The version found in Lactantius is not in the form of an edict. It is a letter from Licinius to the governors of the provinces in the Eastern Empire he had just conquered by defeating Maximinus later in the same year and issued in Nicomedia.Edict of Toleration (Hawaii)
An Edict of Toleration was decreed by King Kamehameha III of Hawaii on June 17, 1839, which allowed for the establishment of the Hawaii Catholic Church. The religious traditions of ancient Hawaii were preferred by Kings Kamehameha and Kamehameha II, with the Roman Catholic Church being suppressed in the Kingdom of Hawaii. Later, during the regency of Kaahumanu and the child king Kamehameha III, the Congregational church was the preferred Christian denomination. Kamehameha III issued the edict under the threat of force by the French government, as the French were seeking to protect the work of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The 1840 Constitution later enshrined religious liberty. Under the threat, King Kamehameha III paid the $20,000 in compensation for the deportation of the priests and the incarceration and torture of converts.Edict of toleration
An edict of toleration is a declaration, made by a government or ruler and states, that members of a given religion will not be persecuted for engaging in their religious practices and traditions. The edict implies tacit acceptance of the religion rather than its endorsement by the ruling power.History of Christian thought on persecution and tolerance
This article gives a historical overview of Christian positions on Persecution of Christians, persecutions by Christians, religious persecution and toleration. Christian theologians like Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas legitimized religious persecution to various extents, and during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, Christians considered heresy and dissent punishable offences and they also fought wars to impose Christianity on non-Christian populations (or Christian sects whose beliefs they considered heretical). However, Early modern Europe witnessed the turning point in the history of Christian thought on persecution and tolerance. Christian writers like John Milton and John Locke argued for limited religious toleration, while some Christians eventually came to support the concept of religious freedom which was developed by secular authors like Thomas Jefferson. Nowadays Christians generally accept the belief that heresy and dissent are not punishable by a civil authority. Many Christians "look back on the centuries of persecution with a mixture of revulsion and incomprehension."Maryland Toleration Act
The Maryland Toleration Act, also known as the Act Concerning Religion, was a law mandating religious tolerance for Trinitarian Christians. It was passed on April 21, 1649, by the assembly of the Maryland colony, in St. Mary's City. It was the second law requiring religious tolerance in the British North American colonies and created one of the pioneer statutes passed by the legislative body of an organized colonial government to guarantee any degree of religious liberty. Specifically, the bill, now usually referred to as the Toleration Act, granted freedom of conscience to all Christians. (The colony which became Rhode Island passed a series of laws, the first in 1636, which prohibited religious persecution including against non-Trinitarians; Rhode Island was also the first government to separate church and state.) Historians argue that it helped inspire later legal protections for freedom of religion in the United States. The Calvert family, who founded Maryland partly as a refuge for English Catholics, sought enactment of the law to protect Catholic settlers and those of other religions that did not conform to the dominant Anglicanism of Britain and her colonies.
The Act allowed freedom of worship for all Trinitarian Christians in Maryland, but sentenced to death anyone who denied the divinity of Jesus. It was revoked in 1654 by William Claiborne, a Virginian who had been appointed as a commissioner by Oliver Cromwell; he was an Anglican, a Puritan sympathizer, and strongly hostile to the Catholic Religion. When the Calverts regained control of Maryland, the Act was reinstated, before being repealed permanently in 1692 following the events of the Glorious Revolution, and the Protestant Revolution in Maryland. As the first law on religious tolerance in the British North America, it influenced related laws in other colonies and portions of it were echoed in the writing of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which enshrined religious freedom in American law.Oliver Wolcott Jr.
Oliver Wolcott Jr. (January 11, 1760 – June 1, 1833) was an American politician. He was United States Secretary of the Treasury from 1795 to 1800 and the 24th Governor of Connecticut from 1817 to 1827.Paradox of tolerance
The paradox of tolerance states that if a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant is eventually seized or destroyed by the intolerant.
Karl Popper first described it in 1945—expressing the seemingly paradoxical idea that, "In order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance."Patent of Toleration
The Patent of Toleration (German: Toleranzpatent) was an edict of toleration issued on 13 October 1781 by the Habsburg emperor Joseph II. Part of the Josephinist reforms, the Patent extended religious freedom to non-Catholic Christians living in the crown lands of the Habsburg Monarchy, including Lutherans, Calvinists, and the Eastern Orthodox. Specifically, these members of minority faiths were now legally permitted to hold "private religious exercises" in clandestine churches.For the first time after the Counter-Reformation, the Patent guaranteed the practice of religion by the Evangelical Lutheran and the Reformed Church in Austria. Nevertheless, worship was heavily regulated, wedding ceremonies remained reserved for the Catholic Church, and the Unity of the Brethren was still suppressed. Similar to the articular churches admitted 100 years before, Protestants were only allowed to erect 'houses of prayer' (Bethäuser) which should not in any way resemble church buildings. In many Habsburg areas, especially in the 'hereditary lands' of Upper Austria, Styria and Carinthia, Protestant parishes quickly developed, strongly relying on crypto-protestant traditions.
The Patent was followed by the Edict of Tolerance for Jews in 1782. The edict extended to Jews the freedom to pursue all branches of commerce, but also imposed new requirements. Jews were required to create German-language primary schools or send their children to Christian schools (Jewish schools had previously taught children to read and write Hebrew in addition to mathematics.) The Patent also permitted Jews to attend state secondary schools. A series of laws issued soon after the Edict of Toleration abolished the autonomy of the Jewish communities, which had previously run their own court, charity, internal taxation and school systems; required Jews to acquire family names; made Jews subject to military conscription; and required candidates for the rabbinate to have secular education.
The 1781 Patent was originally called the "Divine Send of Equal Liberties" but was further put down by the monarch's advisor. Constraints on the construction of churches were abolished after the revolutions of 1848. The Protestant Church did not receive an equivalent legal status until Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria issued the Protestantenpatent in 1861.Pierre Bayle
Pierre Bayle (French: [bɛl]; 18 November 1647 – 28 December 1706) was a French philosopher and writer best known for his seminal work the Historical and Critical Dictionary, publication beginning in 1697.
Bayle was a Calvinist Protestant (Huguenot). As a forerunner of the Encyclopedists and an advocate of the principle of the toleration his works subsequently influenced the development of the Enlightenment.Tolerance
Tolerance or toleration is the state of tolerating, or putting up with, conditionally.Tolerance tax
Tolerance tax (Toleranzgebührer) was a tax that was levied against Jews of Hungary, then part of the Austrian Empire, between 1747 and 1797.The tax was based on the German statute that a Jew was obliged to pay a certain tax to be "tolerated".Toleration Act 1688
The Toleration Act 1688 (1 Will & Mary c 18), also referred to as the Act of Toleration, was an Act of the Parliament of England, which received the royal assent on 24 May 1689.The Act allowed freedom of worship to nonconformists who had pledged to the oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy and rejected transubstantiation, i.e., Protestants who dissented from the Church of England such as Baptists, Congregationalists or English Presbyterians, but not to Roman Catholics. Nonconformists were allowed their own places of worship and their own schoolteachers, so long as they accepted certain oaths of allegiance.
The Act intentionally did not apply to Roman Catholics, nontrinitarians, and atheists. It continued the existing social and political disabilities for dissenters, including their exclusion from holding political offices and also from the universities. Dissenters were required to register their meeting houses and were forbidden from meeting in private homes. Any preachers who dissented had to be licensed.
Between 1772 and 1774, Dr Edward Pickard gathered together dissenting ministers, to campaign for the terms of the Toleration Act for dissenting clergy to be modified. Under his leadership, Parliament twice considered bills to modify the law, but both were unsuccessful and it was not until Pickard and many others had ended their efforts that a new attempt was made in 1779. The Act was amended in 1779 by substituting belief in Scripture for belief in the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglican churches, but some penalties on holding property remained. Penalties against Unitarians were finally removed in the Doctrine of the Trinity Act 1813.Toleration Party
The Toleration Party (also known as the Toleration-Republican Party, and later the American Party or American Toleration and Reform Party) was a political party which dominated the political life of Connecticut 1817 to 1827. The 'American' name referred not to nativism or the later American Party, but to the party's national orientation. The party was formed by an alliance of the more conservative Episcopalians with the Democratic-Republicans, as a result of the discrimination of the Episcopal Church by the Congregationalist state government. In the 1817 elections, the Toleration Party swept control of the General Assembly. At the Connecticut Constitutional convention in 1817, 111 of the 201 convention delegates belonged to the Toleration Party. The resulting Constitution of 1818 generally adhered to the Tolerationist platform, especially their two major issues: increasing the electorate and the democratic nature of the government and disestablishing the Congregational Church. By the end of the 1820s the Tolerationists had developed into the Jacksonian branch of the Connecticut Democratic Party.Treaty of Whampoa
The Treaty of Whampoa (simplified Chinese: 黄埔条约; traditional Chinese: 黃埔條約; pinyin: Huángpǔ Tiáoyuē; Cantonese Yale: Wòhngbou Tìuhyeuk) was a commercial treaty between Qing dynasty of China and Kingdom of France, which was signed by Qiying and Théodore de Lagrené on October 24, 1844 aboard the warship L’Archimède. It is considered an unequal treaty by many sources.