John Locke and the new intolerance

The discovery of a new Locke manuscript reminds us why tolerance must be defended.

Frank Furedi


The 17th-century philosopher, John Locke, is often described as the father of modern liberalism. Now a recently discovered manuscript titled ‘Reasons for tolerateing Papists equally with others’ (1667-8) suggests that he was actually more liberal and tolerant than generally believed.

The text had long lied unnoticed in archives until it was uncovered by Locke scholar JC Walmsley. Contrary to the previously held consensus — that Locke never countenanced tolerating Catholics — this hitherto unknown document indicated that he was actually open to the idea, and explored the arguments for it.

In the contemporary era, it is difficult to grasp the full significance of advocating the toleration of people holding different religious beliefs. Today, religious freedom and tolerance of competing beliefs are seen as foundational values of Western societies. However, in historical terms, tolerance is a very recent cultural and moral ideal. Until the 17th century, the toleration of different religions, opinions and beliefs was even interpreted as a form of moral cowardice, if not a symptom of heresy. As late as 1691, the French theologian Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet insisted that Catholicism was the least tolerant of all religions. He declared that: ‘I have the right to persecute you because I am right and you are wrong.’

It was in the 17th century that attitudes towards tolerating competing ideas and religions began to change. This was an era in which Europe was overwhelmed by bitter religious conflicts, which frequently resulted in bloody civil wars. In such circumstances, calls for tolerance were influenced by the pragmatic calculation that without a measure of religious toleration, endemic violence and bloodshed could not be avoided. This was the moment when a significant minority of Europeans recognised that tolerance was a prerequisite for their society’s survival.

Pragmatic moves towards toleration coexisted with the growing influence of secularism and rationality. These sentiments fostered a scepticism towards religious dogmatism and intolerance. It was in this historical moment that liberalism began to emerge as a credible intellectual force. Philosophers such Pierre Bayle and Baruch Spinoza personified this new tolerant trend. John Locke went a step further, and advanced a coherent philosophical argument for adopting tolerance as a guide to public life. His A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) can be interpreted as one of the founding documents of what would become modern liberalism.

The principle aim of Locke was to protect religious belief from state coercion. His advocacy of toleration was a call for restraining political authorities from interfering with the workings of individual conscience and lifestyles. Locke claimed that religious beliefs, which are held in people’s heads or hearts, are not appropriate objects of state control. He took the view that the coercive indoctrination of belief by the state does not lead to genuine conviction, and that the very pursuit of such a policy calls into question the rationality of political authority. His call for the toleration of a diversity of religious views was also influenced by a belief that truth cannot be imposed from without, that it requires an internal quest for answers.

Though Locke took an important step towards advocating the tolerance of different religious beliefs, he was reluctant to extend this principle to Catholics. In the context of bitter religious rivalry in Protestant England, Catholics were often portrayed as agents of a rival foreign power. But Locke’s non-toleration of Catholics was justified on the grounds of political expediency rather than as a matter of religious necessity. Catholics were not to be discriminated against on religious grounds, but on political grounds. Locke regarded them as a threat to government: Catholics could not be protected because they allegedly owed allegiance to a foreign power.

Now, with the discovery of ‘Reasons for tolerateing Papists equally with others’, we know that even amid the religious conflict of the 17th century, Locke actually considered extending toleration to Catholics. It seems that Locke was even more ahead of his time than is generally supposed.

It is thanks to a relatively small number of open-minded and genuinely liberal thinkers like Locke that the values of tolerance and freedom of expression have gained influence over the human imagination. Over the centuries, religious tolerance has expanded to allow the free expression of opinions, beliefs and behaviour associated with the exercise of individual conscience. Indeed, tolerance is intimately connected to the freedom of belief and conscience. The ideal of tolerance demands that we accept the right of people to live according to their beliefs and opinions, even when they are antithetical to our own.

The discovery of ‘Reasons for tolerateing Papists equally with others’ should inspire us to take tolerance seriously. Tolerance faces constant challenge in Western societies today. Speech codes and linguistic policing by governmental and non-governmental institutions threaten freedom of speech. Even freedom of belief and freedom of conscience are contested by attempts to pathologise, if not criminalise, people’s inner thoughts. In universities in the United States, newly arrived undergraduates are sent to workshops that instruct them to be ‘aware’ of various issues, which is a roundabout way of lecturing them about what to think.

Tolerance is far too precious an ideal to abandon in the face of those who want to dictate what we can say and how we should think. We are in danger of forgetting what tolerance, an intimate companion of liberty and freedom, actually means. Without tolerance, we cannot be free; we cannot live with one another in relative peace; we cannot follow and act on our conscience; we cannot exercise our moral autonomy, nor pursue our own road towards seeking the truth. That is why we must uphold the spirit of toleration, pioneered by the liberal thinkers of the 17th century.

Frank Furedi’s How Fear Works: the Culture of Fear in the 21st Century is published by Bloomsbury Press.

Picture by: Getty Images.

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Winston Stanley

7th September 2019 at 5:25 pm

Britain is increasingly irreligious. Over half of all adults and 75% of the under 25s profess no religion. Only 1% of under 25s identify as Anglican. Tolerance is increasing as ppl become more staunchly irreligious.

The best thing that we could do to promote tolerance is to disestablish the State Religion, Anglicanism, and to get the state schools off the churches. The establishment of Anglicanism is historically associated with religious intolerance, as are church dominated schools. Secularism makes for tolerance and our society should reflect that in its institutions and schools.

> UK secularism on rise as more than half say they have no religion

The growth of secularism in the UK is unabated with fresh data showing stark generational differences and a new confidence among the non-religious to declare themselves atheist.

Only 1% of people aged 18-24 identify as Church of England, according to the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey for 2018. Even among over-75s, the most religious age group, only one in three people describe themselves as C of E.

Across all age groups, the younger people are the less likely they are to call themselves Anglican.
The steady decline in religious belief among the British public is “one of the most important trends in postwar history”, says the BSA report.

Fifty-two percent of the public say they do not belong to any religion, compared with 31% in 1983 when the BSA survey began tracking religious belief. The number of people identifying as Christian has fallen from 66% to 38% over the same period.

“Britain is becoming more secular not because adults are losing their religion but because older people with an attachment to the C of E and other Christian denominations are gradually being replaced in the population by younger unaffiliated people,” says the report…

The proportion of people who say they are “very or extremely non-religious” has more than doubled, from 14% to 33% in the past two decades.

Nevertheless, most people are tolerant of others’ religious beliefs. A large majority of both non-believers and people of faith have positive or neutral views of individuals who belong to a religion.

Only 3% of people say they would definitely not accept a mixed-faith marriage within their family, with 82% saying they would definitely or probably accept someone from a different religion marrying a relative.

michael mccarthy

8th September 2019 at 11:06 am

“Tolerance is increasing as ppl become more staunchly irreligious”.
I can’t agree with that. Tolerance is not increasing. With the increasing intrusion of political correctness and identity politics, people have to be more and more careful about what they say and profess for risk of losing their jobs or not even getting a job. This trend is on the increase and it is not due to Christian religious belief.
When I was in the 6th form of an RC school (back in the days of yore) we had public speaking during a Friday afternoon period. Each week a motion was chosen by the headmaster (who conducted the class) to be debated the following week. One boy was chosen arbitrarily to defend the motion and one boy to oppose it. e.g. typical question ‘Should the Americans withdraw from Vietnam?’
The way you could be trying to win the debate by arguing for something that you might be personally opposed to was very useful in encouraging tolerance. This type of dialectical exercise encouraged the use of lateral thinking and seeing the other’s point of view.
We also had one class each week (for one term) of Logic and, pre-O level, we studied Latin, both of which are believed to benefit analytical thinking and the retention of facts rather than sound bites.
Part of the reason why tolerance was encouraged was I believe because our teachers and parents were closer to, and in many cases had direct experience of, the horrors (WWII) that intolerance of opposing ideas can bring down on societies.
Finally, becoming staunchly irreligious is a waste of time if the new orthodoxy persecutes people as well. As we know from recent history, irreligion is not the answer. All the great ideologies of the 20th century were atheistic, but intolerance and murder reached unprecedented levels.
So please give the poor Christians a break and start seriously trying to find where intolerance is coming from.

Winston Stanley

8th September 2019 at 4:53 pm

No doubt there is some truth to that but I was talking religious intolerance, which is decreasing. And I was talking about Britain and present trends a la religious tolerance. True, there is intolerance of the non-PC but there was intolerance before, often in the other direction. Britain under the influence of Christianity was massively intolerant.

Take gay rights, now ppl do not feel tolerated to mouth off in society against gays but on the other hand, homosexuality was a death sentence in Britain from the 16th to the 18th century, and it remained illegal until the late 1960s. It was illegal to “promote” it in schools or colleges into the 1990s.

Before Vatican II, RC and Protestants would not even talk to each other in some English towns, let alone pray together. Canon law proscribed intermarriage.

“Blasphemy” was illegal until 2008.

Only Anglicans were allowed to hold local or national office or even attend universities from the 17th to the 19th century. The list goes on.

Religious “prerogatives” did massive damage to Britain over many centuries. It is to be welcomed that that is decreasing as religious belief declines. We are a less divided and a freer society for it.

Sure there is PC today but let us be glad at least for the decline of religious intolerance that has accompanied the decline in religious adherence.

Claire D

9th September 2019 at 12:00 am

I agree with you Michael.
Winston, you say ” we are less divided and a freer society “, sorry but that is laughable under the present circumstances. Never mind the debacle that is Brexit, inequality is getting worse and worse. There’s not much likelihood of a working class white boy getting into university today to study a serious, worthwhile subject, which was not the case in the second half of the 20th century. Women and men dare not voice their concerns about men calling themselves ‘ women ‘ in case they lose their job or careers. Go and visit Merthyr Tydfil and tell the people there how much more free they are today than 50 years ago, or our choked prisons and young offender institutions many of which are badly run, riddled with drugs, violence and despair.
Modern 21st century opinions applied to the past are not appropriate. To look back at history and pat ourselves on the back for being so much better than they were is a mistake, to put it mildly. ‘ We stand on the shoulders of giants ‘, if it was’nt for all our ancestors, good and bad, we would not have the sophisticated society we have today. Homosexuals maybe feeling happier and safer today, and I’m pleased that they are, but our Jewish community is not, neither are our children.
The battle to make things better and fairer at the same time as preventing mistakes has gone on throughout history, with a lot of help from Christianity in fact. We are no better essentially than our ancestors, there are just different problems now.

Claire D

9th September 2019 at 10:32 am

I have a comment languishing in moderation at the moment, if or when it is put up it may sound fiercer than it was meant to be, late night etc.

Claire D

9th September 2019 at 4:50 pm

Just a few examples :
Alfred the Great, dedicated Christian, built the first schools, established the first stable system of laws in England based on the 10 Commandments and other biblical treatises.
William Wilberforce, Evangelical and leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade.
Elizabeth Fry, Christian philanthropist, prison and social reformer.
Florence Nightingale.
J.R.R Tolkien.

Winston Stanley

9th September 2019 at 11:12 pm

English law is based on the complex and well developed Roman law inherited from pagan times. The Bible and 10 commandments have got absolutely nothing to do with it, apart from the temporary interpolation of some ludicrously intolerant Christian stuff which we have largely removed over the last couple of centuries.

Claire D

10th September 2019 at 8:16 am

that is incorrect. English Common Law is based fundamentally on what is ‘ customary ‘ ie, that which has been tested in court and proved time and time again. Alfred the Great wrote the first common law book in the early part of the 9th century, these laws were used, developed and expanded from then on. After the Norman Conquest in 1066 William the Conquerer imposed Canon Law (Roman Law) officially and this was used by the Church alongside what had become common law which continued to develop as I have described over the centuries. Post-Modernist versions of History are not to be trusted, Post-Modernists would like to airbrush Christianity from history but as they cannot the next best thing is to mock, deride and reduce it to a transitory bad influence, this will not hold water when faced with the facts.
The evidence shows that our laws developed over the centuries out of the ecclesiastical (Church) courts, the Royal courts and local courts, ie the influence of Classical Humanism and Christianity were equally important.

Claire D

10th September 2019 at 11:47 am

Apologies, the ” (Roman Law) ” after Canon Law in my summary above should not be there. Roman Law only began to make a significant contribution to English Law from the late Middle Ages onwards.
Edit and delete options on comments would be useful.

Winston Stanley

10th September 2019 at 4:46 pm

Common law is a Roman concept introduced by the Normans. The fundamental doctrines of common law are based on Roman principles. (Canon law is ecclesiastical, not civic law.)

> English law is the original Common Law. It was born of Roman law. The date of birth was 14 October 1066, the day of the Norman conquest of England by William I (the Conqueror). The Normans in Normandy before the conquest operated on their local version (code, not common law) of Roman law and decided to reconfigure that for ruling England.

The Normans increased the weight of using precedents (something that already existed in Roman law) to handle exceptional situations not adequately covered by statutory (written) law. The Normans decided that codification of laws would have brought more problems than solutions in the long run. They also decided to alter the legal nomenclature in Roman jurisprudence to avoid confusion.

Most of the significant fundamental doctrines of Common Law were developed between 1066 and the reign of Richard I (1198–99) — and all those doctrines were based to a greater or lesser extent on Roman legal principles.

The only way to study English law

Before the 1840s, English law (i.e. Common Law) wasn’t even taught in England. It was only ‘practised.’ The English lawyers learnt the ropes during their apprenticeships.

For 650–700 years, all English universities taught only Roman law despite the country operating in Common Law. That gave rise to the split legal profession of solicitors (non-trial lawyers) and barristers (trial advocates). That was also the basis for the English practice of law apprenticeships — “Articles” for solicitors and “pupillage” for barristers during which the apprentice learnt how to do Common Law… (Quora)

Winston Stanley

10th September 2019 at 5:06 pm

English law before the Normans was based on North Sea pagan Germanic law inherited from the Anglo-Saxon ancestors who crossed the waters between the 5th and 7th centuries. Obviously pre-AS British law was thoroughly pagan too. AS law got Roman pagan influences through the Church.

> The oldest Anglo-Saxon law codes, especially from Kent and Wessex, reveal a close affinity to the laws of the North Sea peoples—those of the Saxons, Frisians, and Scandinavians. For example, one finds a division of social ranks reminiscent of the threefold gradation of nearby peoples (cf. OE eorl “nobleman”, ċeorl “freeman”, þēow “bondman”, Norse jarl, karl, þræll, Frisian etheling, friling, lēt), and not of the twofold Frankish one (baro “freeman”, lætus “bondman”), nor of the slight differentiation of the Upper Germans and Lombards. In subsequent history there is a good deal of resemblance between the capitularies’ legislation of Charlemagne and his successors on one hand, the acts of Alfred, Edward the Elder, Æthelstan and Edgar on the other, a resemblance called forth less by direct borrowing of Frankish institutions than by the similarity of political problems and condition. Frankish law becomes a powerful modifying element in English legal history after the Conquest, when it was introduced wholesale in royal and in feudal courts…

The direct influence of Roman law was not great during the Saxon period: there is neither the transmission of important legal doctrines, chiefly through the medium of Visigothic codes, nor the continuous stream of Roman tradition in local usage. But indirectly Roman law did exert a by no means insignificant influence through the medium of the Church, which, for all its apparent insular character, was still permeated with Roman ideas and forms of culture. The Old English “books” are derived in a roundabout way from Roman models, and the tribal law of real property was deeply modified by the introduction of individualistic notions as to ownership, donations, wills, rights of women, etc. Yet in this respect also the Norman Conquest increased the store of Roman conceptions by breaking the national isolation of the English Church and opening the way for closer intercourse with France and Italy. (Wiki)

Winston Stanley

10th September 2019 at 5:13 pm

Claire, the NT is not a legal document and it is devoid of legal principles. The closest is the exhortation to kill gays (Romans 1). The OT contains an ancient tribal religious law that is defunct in NT, it was anyway concerned with eccentricities like the eating of shell fish and pork, designed to distinguish Je ws from others and completely useless out of a Bronze Age Middle Eastern context. The idea that English/ Norman law is based on the 10 commandments is pretty nursery stuff up there with Noah’s Ark. Not trying to be rude but that about sums it up.

Claire D

11th September 2019 at 9:28 am

Winston, (I’m smiling), you bombard with information and knowledge. I think you might admit that Alfred the G’s law book, ‘The Domboc ‘ c.880 AD, based on the Bible and the 10 commandments was an important step forward in legal history. It influenced legal practice first in Wessex and then gradually across England until William the C imposed Canon law in 1070-1076. The very fact that Canon Law was under the jurisdiction of the Church is influence. I concede, your knowledge about Roman Law is greater than mine but it does not alter the fact of the influence of Christianity on our legal system which continued more or less up until the present day. I recommend Great Christian Jurists in English History, (Cambridge University Press).

A particularly interesting and apposite example, Sir John Fortescue (c.1347-1476), Chief Justice under Henry VI, wrote a treatise, ‘ Monarchia ‘ on whether the king should rule by his own laws or with the assent of the people ie, Dominum Regale v’s Dominum Politicum et Regale. This was based on St. Thomas Aquinas’ examination of the 7th chapter of the Book of Kings in The Bible.
Needless to say Dominum Politicum et Regale won the day ie, that the king should only rule with the assent of the people.

Gerard Barry

8th September 2019 at 12:51 pm

You really don’t like religion – or at least Christianity – do you? You constantly cite these statistics about British irreligiosity as if they are something positive. You and many others may view them as such but, personally, I see it as a sign of decadence in society when people turn their back on a religion that has been around for 2,000 years. It’s indicative of a certain arrogance among people nowadays. It’s as if to say: “My religious parents and grandparents were uneducated simpletons but I know better because I’m enlightened and modern.” Then there’s the big pink elephant by the name of Islam in the room. While native Europeans may be becoming less religious, the number of Muslims keeps increasing across Western Europe. This would be okay were it not for the fact that many of the Muslim newcomers are extremely devout, following the “rules” of their faith to the letter. I’m not sure I want to live in a Europe where Islam is the biggest religion. Do you?

Winston Stanley

9th September 2019 at 3:45 pm

People can have whatever religion they want or none. I do not favour Christianity over Islam. If ppl in Britain choose not to be Christian then that is up to them. Only 1/3 here identify as Christian now, far fewer among the younger generations. Ever fewer do. You may need to get over that. And pls do not try to stir up anti-Muslim feeling in some lame attempt to revive your own religion.

Jack Enright

7th September 2019 at 12:13 am

Jessica Christon (quoting Karl Popper): ” . . . if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”
Exactly! It’s bewildering how many of those DEMANDING tolerance for themselves and their way of life, whilst displaying blatant contempt and hatred to anyone who disagrees with them, cannot see that self-evident truth.
Amelia Cantor being a classic example!

Jack Enright

7th September 2019 at 12:08 am

If anyone wants me to show tolerance to their sex, race, creed or political views, they will have to show EQUAL tolerance to mine. If they want me to respect them, they must respect me.
It’s a two way street – or it won’t happen at all.

Jonathan Yonge

6th September 2019 at 10:01 am

‘The text had long lied unnoticed….’

Well if it lied, we should not pay any attention to it surely.

Winston Stanley

6th September 2019 at 9:43 pm

It is not uncommon for philosophers to look at a matter from both sides. This sounds like a tendentious essay to look at it from a certain conclusion, to clarify what the arguments are for that point of view. Aquinas did that in the Summa and then gave his responses. It looks like Locke chose to public what he chose to publish.

It is not clear why Locke did not call for the intolerant state religion, Anglicanism, to be banned on the same grounds as RCC, that it is intolerant, it wants to control the state, it is not “naturally moral” toward “unbelievers and heretics”.

Likely Locke made his arguments against intolerant RCC, said what he could at that time, and trusted the reader to extrapolate from the principles to the particular question of Anglicanism and state religion. Or maybe he was a British state, anti-RCC propagandist, and he assumed that the British state “loyal” reader would not extrapolate. Who knows?

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5th September 2019 at 6:13 pm


James Chilton

5th September 2019 at 3:06 pm

Toleration is not a virtue. Unless we know what we’re expected to tolerate, we can’t pass judgment.

James Knight

5th September 2019 at 5:31 pm

Toleration is not the same as respect. We might tolerate free speech of nazis, it doesn’t means we have any respect for them.

It is liberalism bastardised into relativism – all views equally valid – that is the problem. PC tolerance preaches that, but it turns out to be little more than intolerance. Hence the phrase “zero tolerance on intolerance”.

Winston Stanley

5th September 2019 at 5:34 pm

I agree that there is an awful lot to unpack, likely a can of worms. Dogmatic virtue posturing is fine but there are serious issues to be gone through with a comb.

Claire D

6th September 2019 at 6:06 am

I’m not sure, I think a degree of tolerance is probably virtuous. It is when people are expected to tolerate extreme behaviour eg, schoolchildren being taught they can choose their gender, children being given hormone blockers by the state, lewd behaviour on the high street while police smile and dance; that level of tolerance is no longer virtuous it is on the verge of insanity.

Claire D

6th September 2019 at 6:11 am

That’s in reply to James Chilton.

Claire D

6th September 2019 at 6:35 am

Perhaps ‘ virtuous ‘ is not the right word by itself. A certain level of tolerance is practical, sensible, maybe even wise, in a society such as ours. As James Knight says though, that level of tolerance may be pushed in a particular direction, beyond common sense, on behalf of moral relativism and then imposed in an authoritarian way.


5th September 2019 at 12:09 pm

Catholics were ‘persecuted’ in 16th and 17th century England because Roman Catholic powers such as Spain and France were actively seeking to annihilate Protestantism throughout Europe. Given the St Bartholomew Day’s massacres in France, Spanish Fury in the Netherlands, the Spanish Armada, murder of 20,000+ non-combatants by Tilly’s Catholic army at Magdeburg in 1631, Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, etc, it can be seen that the English state was merely defending its right to maintain Protestant liberties.

Neil McCaughan

5th September 2019 at 2:02 pm

ZP has been doing GCSE history. Oddly enough, so has AC.


5th September 2019 at 6:04 pm

A little higher than GCSE. Have you thought about presenting cogent counter-arguments rather than spouting ad hominem invective?

Amelia Cantor

5th September 2019 at 11:44 am

yawn. The cisgender white male Frank Furedi praises the cisgender white male John Locke for promoting “tolerance”.

Without tolerance, we cannot be free; we cannot live with one another in relative peace; we cannot follow and act on our conscience; we cannot exercise our moral autonomy, nor pursue our own road towards seeking the truth. That is why we must uphold the spirit of toleration, pioneered by the liberal thinkers of the 17th century.

Yeah, 17th century, when Britain was hideously white. But you might have noticed that it’s the 21st century and 21st-century Britain is not hideously white any more. BAME communities have no interest in John Locke’s ideas and Britain is not heading for a Lockean future.

That is why we must uphold the spirit of toleration, pioneered by the liberal thinkers of the 17th century.

Spiked do like the word “must”, don’t they? There’s no “must” about it, Furedi. Tolerance is toxic when it comes to “tolerating” hate. That’s why BAME communities and the parties who will ride their votes to victory have no time for “free speech”. That’s why the only BAME voices on Spiked are those of unrepresentative coconuts who are totally out of step with the woke BAME majority.

nick hunt

7th September 2019 at 12:21 pm

Do you ever describe other societies as ‘hideously black’ or ‘hideously Muslim? Some links might show posters you aren’t a hideously anti-white racist

Gerard Barry

5th September 2019 at 10:40 am

Anti-Catholicism is still alive and well across Europe nowadays. I attend mass almost every week yet when my work colleagues ask me on Mondays what I did at the weekend, I never mention that I went to church for fear of being mocked, typecast as “conservative” (what a crime) and the like. Sad but true. The ironic thing is that those who are most anti-Christian are often the same ones who support mass immigration by Muslims. We really are living in strange times.

Amin Readh

6th September 2019 at 12:12 am

Yes! And we are going to eat you alive!

Gerard Barry

6th September 2019 at 9:42 am

Not sure whether the intention of your post is to mock me or not but I make no apologies for my disgust at the fact that, at the same time as native Europeans are turning away from Christianity, the number of Muslims – who tend to be far more religious than Christians – in Europe continues to increase rapidly. My problem isn’t the Muslim people themselves, my problem is the decadence of (Western) European societies who show no respect for their own culture/religion, yet bend over backwards to accommodate Muslim newcomers. It’s illogical.

Winston Stanley

6th September 2019 at 4:52 pm

Surely ppl can have whatever religion they like or none.

Claire D

7th September 2019 at 7:01 am

I agree with you Gerard and sympathise. The difficulty, I believe, is that faith is no longer understood or felt as integral to being, in the West, and with the rise of Identity Politics at the same time faith/religion has been reduced to just another identifier, hence Winston’s suggestion.
However, on the ground, as it were, amongst young people and old I do get a sense that faith is not as diminished as it seems.

Claire D

7th September 2019 at 7:24 am

I’m not sure that makes any sense, but still, it will have to do.

Claire D

7th September 2019 at 10:11 am

Sadly I think there is no escaping the consequences of the sex abuse scandals involved with the Church. That has led to much understandable anger and cynicism. Not surprisingly many people conflate the Church with the Christian faith itself and spurn both, forgetting that it was actually weak human beings who committed the crimes or sought to hide or ignore them.
Then there is also the Left/Liberal/Feminist infiltration of the Humanities which distorts History, Literature and the Arts and denigrates the great works, thought and ideas of the past. While at the same time Identity/Intersectional Politics focuses and puts a value on human and social characteristics (that actually have no value whatsoever) backed up and encouraged by legislation and government policy. Strange times indeed.
I sounded optimistic the other day but I am also a realist, our present circumstances do worry me but I think and hope it will come out alright in the end, the good side of humanity will ultimately prevail.

Philip Humphrey

5th September 2019 at 8:07 am

Interesting that Locke may now be regarded as a true liberal in many ways. Unlike modern phony pseudo-liberals who think Catholics, evangelicals, social conservatives and anyone who disagrees with them should be silenced, excluded and suppressed

Amelia Cantor

5th September 2019 at 11:51 am

The only people who should be silenced are those peddling hate or those who defend those peddling hate.

cliff resnick

5th September 2019 at 12:03 pm

much like yourself then.

Gerard Barry

5th September 2019 at 12:18 pm

And how is being anti-abortion, for example, a form of peddling hate?

John Hamilton

5th September 2019 at 2:09 pm

You are obviously filled with hate at the people you claim are peddling hate. I don’t suppose irony is a word in your vocabulary.

John Hamilton

5th September 2019 at 2:11 pm

And what an astonishing thing to say, that not only those ‘peddling hate’ should be silenced, but those ‘defending’ those peddling hate – in other words, that we are not even allowed to have a grown-up discussion about the issue!

Puddy Cat

5th September 2019 at 7:50 am

Wasn’t the Catholicism of those earlier times the EU of today. The issuing of Bulls to modify behaviour in other lands, superseding government and majesty?

Stephen J

5th September 2019 at 8:15 am

Indeed, some have said that the EU is the attempt by Catholic Europe to re-establish the Holy Roman Empire, centred not in Constantinople, but the far more exotic Brussels.

Philip Humphrey

5th September 2019 at 9:20 am

There’s nothing Catholic about the contemporary EU. Pro-abortion, anti-life, increasingly restrictive of religious freedom, the EU and much of the European liberal elite can be considered increasingly hostile to Catholicism and Christianity in general.

Winston Stanley

5th September 2019 at 5:31 pm

I can assure that nothing could ever “supersede” the majesty of Her Majesticness. /s

But yes you are correct, it was a politically fraught time.

Winston Stanley

5th September 2019 at 7:15 pm

* ‘Er Majesticness.

Claire D

5th September 2019 at 6:24 am

It’s a good article but it’s like looking through a telescope from the wrong end at what seems a golden age.
With Hate Crime legislation on the statute books, Identity Politics popular even amongst politicians from all parties and the country deeply divided, an appeal for tolerance is like whistling in the wind.
It is interesting that since legislating against a feeling, ‘ hate ‘, hatred and intolerance have increased. The trouble is the politicians have created a particularly difficult and stressful environment for people to live in peacefully, they knew the risks they were taking but thought they could control the situation by putting legislation in place. Naive ? Stupid ? I don’t know.
Perhaps people have to learn the hard way all over again. I hope not.

Winston Stanley

5th September 2019 at 6:53 am

It was not a “golden age”, it was far worse back then than it is now. Only Anglicans, the state religion, were allowed under the Clarendon Code to hold any local or national public office when Locke wrote that letter and thousands of non-conformists were imprisoned. They were also barred from attending the universities. The bar on non-Anglicans continued until 1828.

> In 1673 Parliament repudiated the Declaration of Breda and passed the 1672 and 1678 Test Acts requiring holders of public office to receive the sacrament, to take the oath of supremacy (recognising the sovereign as supreme governor of the Church of England), and to make a declaration against transubstantiation (a belief held by Catholics concerning the sacrament). The part of the Acts discriminating against nonconformists who failed to take the sacrament was not repealed until 1828, and it was only in the following year that Catholics were again permitted to enter Parliament and hold municipal, judicial and public office. (National Archives)

Claire D

5th September 2019 at 10:36 am

of course you are absolutely right which is why I said ” seems like a golden age “, ‘ seems ‘ being the operative word.

Claire D

5th September 2019 at 4:41 pm

The point I was trying to make in my first sentence was that Locke and his thoughts about tolerance are very faraway and seen through a romantic haze, ie, ” seems a golden age “, on the cusp of the enlightenment.

Winston Stanley

5th September 2019 at 5:20 pm

No worries Claire, I took that to be your meaning and I was agreeing with you. Apologies if my response was somewhat cack-handed.

Winston Stanley

5th September 2019 at 5:23 pm

I should have prefaced with “Yep,” the fault was entirely mine.

Claire D

6th September 2019 at 5:46 am

No problem Winston.

Linda Payne

5th September 2019 at 6:06 pm

Yes, it must be hard to tolerate people who can get you the sack for having the ‘wrong’ opinion, hate crime laws should be abolished because they only apply to certain minorities and if these minorities use the offence industry to ruin people’s lives, why the hell should we ‘tolerate’ them?

Michael Lynch

5th September 2019 at 6:45 pm

Precisely, the more a government legislates against hate, the more they provoke it. As someone (can’t remember who it was) on here has previously stated, there is no such thing as a liberal authority.

Andrew Leonard

5th September 2019 at 2:04 am

What are the practical and social benefits of being tolerant towards religions?
Do these religions return the tolerance?
If yes, why would anyone bother being intolerant, in a society with freedom of association?
If no, what are you suggesting, other than what looks like a double standard?

Winston Stanley

5th September 2019 at 7:01 am

That was an important point for Locke, only those religions that are tolerant of those who do not believe in their religion should themselves be tolerated. Otherwise they are just using tolerance to build up their strength until they can legislate intolerance against others. He opposed toleration of RC on those, among other, grounds. Ironically the state religion, Anglicanism, was itself intolerant (see above), so Locke logically should have argued for the Anglican church also to be banned.

jessica christon

6th September 2019 at 12:22 am

My favourite is Karl Popper:

“Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”

This is the end, that I see our version of tolerance is taking us to.

Winston Stanley

5th September 2019 at 1:30 am

An interesting case recently in Ottawa. The Satanic Temple had a late Saturday night session at the Koven heavy metal pub. They performed “unbaptism”, for those who wish to publicly and formally revoke their incorporation into Christianity in infancy without their adult consent, and they had a professedly sacrilegious “black mass” though without a consecrated host. Well, the local RC archbishop and some of the priests and faithful were outraged and 200 of them surrounded the building in protest while saying the rosary and other prayers (lol) and preached at the gathering (secular, non-theistic) Satanists and bikers or whoever. The ST said that was fine, they respect the right to freedom of conscience and expression, that is what they are all about themselves. But do those RC accept that Satanists (and the local teenagers) have the same right to surround RC masses, to sing Satanic hymns, to wave placards and religious figurines (blow up Satans?), and to preach Satanism at the RC gathering for mass – like every week if they want to? Right to protest at religious gatherings applies equally to all, right? Of course the ST would never do anything quite so silly, they are happy to leave that spectacle to some RC. It comes to something when the Satanists are the insightful, sensible and self-aware ones. Likely those RC would be straight on the phone to the police? It would make for an interesting situation in Ottawa. The local exorcist warned that Satan could actually show up if invoked at the biker bar. Like something out of a comedy horror?

Anyway, the language of the RC who complained was interesting. An RC group (FTP) even petitioned the mayor to “cancel” the event at the bar and 20,000 signed. The language used to oppose the toleration of the ST rituals was along the lines of that the ST rituals are “intolerant, offensive, hateful, mocking”. I could imagine others back in the day saying the exact same things about RC, that it is all of those things against the “true” Christianity/ religion. Strange to think that some still make those sort of arguments against toleration even in this day and age, when it comes to ST. Where does that end?

Winston Stanley

5th September 2019 at 1:36 am

I am not making this up, some video of the Christian protests, some with amplified megaphones, outside the ST rituals here:

Michael Lynch

5th September 2019 at 6:49 pm

At least some of us can imagine other scenarios. Lack of imagination seems to be a requirement of all Remain thinking.

Winston Stanley

5th September 2019 at 7:00 pm

No doubt that is not entirely untrue under all aspects.

michael mccarthy

5th September 2019 at 12:21 pm

I imagine if these hip Satanic people attended a ‘black mosque’ event where Muslims ritually and publicly revoked their incorporation into Islam in infancy (which actions incidentally officially carry a death sentence) and there was a reaction by outraged Muslim citizens who surrounded the event to protest, then you would take the side of the Muslim citizens and be talking about Islamophobia. Does your liberalism cover that eventuality also?

Gerard Barry

5th September 2019 at 2:09 pm

Good point. If people mock or criticise Christiantity, they are seen as “cool” but to mock or criticise Islam is seen as “hateful” and “bigoted”.

Winston Stanley

5th September 2019 at 2:46 pm

You can “imagine” all you like.

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