Locke argued for religious toleration by arguing it is irrational to change a person’s views through force, just because one has political authority does not mean one is all knowing when it comes to religion, and religion has to be a part of the mandate that the people delegate to the government. Locke argues that civil unrest results from confrontations caused by any magistrate's attempt to prevent different religions from being practiced, rather than tolerating their proliferation. For Locke, the only way a church can gain genuine converts is through persuasion and not through violence. The government provides the minimal level of policing consistent with the freedom necessary for men to flourish and the ends for which government was formed. Klibansky, pp. [4], In Holland, Locke met Philipp van Limborch, a Professor of Divinity, and it was to be a discussion with Limborch that persuaded Locke to temporarily put aside his work on An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and put forth his ideas on toleration. 2, chap. The church, like other voluntary associations, possesses the right to associate consistent with the good of society. Fifth, truth will ultimately prevail. Douglas Kries (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997), 147. Toleration is central to Locke's political philosophy. Lorenzo, David J. [2] Men think that their own beliefs are the orthodox ones and that all those who differ with them are the real heretics. [7] The doctrines that "faith need not be kept with heretics" and that "kings excommunicated forfeit their kingdoms" were commonly held to be Catholic beliefs by Protestants. Religion does not provide grounds for harming men in their life, liberty, or property. . Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997. 07-43, 3, accessed November 1, 2017, https://www.law.gmu.edu/assets/files/publications/working_papers/07-43.pdf. John Locke’s theory of toleration has been criticized as having little relevance for politics today because it rests on controversial theological foundations. Summary. Proast attacked the Letter and defended the view that the government has the right to use force to cause dissenters to reflect on the merits of Anglicanism, the True Religion. Fourth, in practice, coercion is used in service of men’s passion for greed and dominion. Locke's reply to Proast developed into an extended, controversial exchange. [15] Eric Claeys, “The Private Society and the Liberal Public Good in John Locke’s Thought,” George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper no. It is also contrary to the example of Christ and his disciples, and ignores the different purposes of the commonwealth and church. Because atheists undermine all religion, they cannot plead religious belief as a ground for toleration. Peter H Nidditch (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), bk. in Klibansky and Gough, pp. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison. Modern America should carefully evaluate whether the blind toleration and even praise that is now afforded to perverse doctrines and harmful actions is consistent with the continuation of the Republic. The government must leave men alone in their conscience and to the free exercise of religion within the broad bounds of toleration set forth. The featured image of John Locke is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Persecution for religious belief is irrational because it is used for selfish ends, ignores sin, and condemns the souls of men to Hell. They must obey the law and not engage in violence or the seizure of material goods. Few men are able to use their reason to conduct their lives in accordance with their best interests. The political situation in the United States offers an excellent and necessary opportunity to examine what is toleration, why is it necessary, and what are its limits. 2 (2003): 248-58. First, the purpose of civil government differs from the purpose of the church. take care that the Commonwealth receive no prejudice, and that there be no Injury done to any man, either in Life or Estate.”[10] The magistrate possesses the force of the commonwealth. The magistrate has limited duties; Locke indicates that he must “only . Jonas Proast was a critic of John Locke’s arguments for religious toleration. A Letter Concerning Toleration by John Locke was originally published in 1689. In The Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke writes about three factors that help to shape men’s behavior: religious prescription, civil law, and the mores of the people. John Locke (1632-1704) was one of the most influential thinkers of the Enlightenment. Locke presents five arguments for toleration. We should turn to John Locke, who presents an argument for toleration worth pondering in a time when few are giving toleration, let alone free speech, freedom of association, or liberty, serious thought. 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. Third, no man knows the true religion, and all have diverse opinions of what it is. Locke argued that those who believed that "faith need not be kept with heretics" and that "kings excommunicated forfeit their kingdoms" Generally the first one is the true belief argument, saying that true belief can not be brought about by coercion. 2 (April, 2003), 254. 3-4. First it’s about religion : the tolerance is “in conformity with the Gospel of Jesus-Christ”: indeed, Christianity requires to be concerned with our single safety, the others safety are not our problems. [8][9][10] During his visit to France in 1676, Locke recorded that the belief that "faith does not have to be kept with heretics" was an important factor in the intolerance shown to the Protestant Huguenots. Private and voluntary associations have the power to set membership criteria, and to govern themselves by their own rules and discipline members according to them. These people, Locke argued, sought religious toleration "only until they have supplies and forces enough to make the attempt" on liberty. The magistrate does not inerrably know the way to heaven, was not given authority over men’s souls, and cannot use coercion to bring men to faith. In contrast, Locke’s view on atheism suggests that he was far from considering religion as unimportant. The natural law and natural rights shape the limits of government and define its purpose. Locke’s theory of toleration is not blind to the effect that certain doctrines and the practices of private associations that follow them may have upon a liberal regime. George W. Carey and James McClellan (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 2001), 269. [1], In the wake of discovery of the Rye House Plot and Charles II's persecution of the Whigs, Locke fled England to Amsterdam, Holland in September 1683. 51,” in The Federalist, ed. "[27] A confirmation of these positions seems to come from a 2019 discovery of a previously unknown manuscript, dated to 1667-8, titled Reason for tolerateing Papists equally with others, in which Locke makes his earliest arguments for religious toleration. [11][12], "That church can have no right to be tolerated by the magistrate," Locke argued, "which is so constituted that all who enter it ipso facto pass into the allegiance and service of another prince". Locke presents five arguments for toleration. While the government is restricted in this manner, officials may still praise their religion. 11. David J. Lorenzo writes, Under Natural Law in the State of Nature we all enjoy a complete freedom from subjection and exercise all rights. [2][3] Throughout his life, Locke had taken an interest in the debate about religious toleration. _____. xvi-xvii. Locke lists four things government should not tolerate: (1) no doctrines deleterious to society may be engaged in or propagated; (2) claiming peculiar prerogative for private societies; (3) subjection and loyalty to a foreign prince; and (4) denial of the existence of a deity. This is a paper about John Locke's argument for toleration, or, more accurately, it is a paper about the main line of argument which appears in Locke's work A Letter on Toleration. [14] This has been interpreted by historians as a reference to the Catholic Church, with the Pope being the prince to whom Catholics owed allegiance. Many of Locke’s arguments in A Letter Concerning Toleration are designed to show that, even when individuals focus on this fundamental concern for salvation, they will not broaden the authority which they confer upon the magistrate. Zachary Rogers is a program officer for a non-profit in Washington, D.C. This is a paper about John Locke's argument for toleration, or, more accurately, it is a paper about the main line of argument which appears in Locke's work A Letter on Toleration.It is not intended – as so many papers on Locke's political philosophy are these days– as a historical analysis of his position. (Gifts may be made online or by check mailed to the Institute at 9600 Long Point Rd., Suite 300, Houston, TX, 77055.).

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