21 April 2008

Religious toleration

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaThe cross of the war memorial and a menorah for Hanukkah coexist in Oxford. Religious toleration is the condition of accepting or permitting others' religious beliefs and practices which disagree with one's own.

In a country with a state religion, toleration means that the government permits religious practices of other sects besides the state religion, and does not persecute believers in other faiths. Historically, toleration has been a contentious issue within many religions as well as between one religion and another. At issue is not merely whether other faiths should be permitted, but also whether a ruler who is a believer may practice or permit tolerance. In the Middle Ages, toleration of Judaism was a contentious issue throughout Christendom. Today, there are concerns about toleration of Christianity in Islamic states (see also dhimmi).

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

[edit] The element of objection

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

Contemporary authors such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel C. Dennett have all written about the potential social hazards of allowing religious beliefs to go unchallenged. In The End of Faith, Sam Harris notes that we are unwilling, as a society, to tolerate unjustified beliefs in, for example, architecture. He asserts that we should be similarly unwilling to tolerate unjustified beliefs about morality, spirituality, politics, and the origin of humanity. In his preface to The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins says, "If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down."[1]

[edit] Civil and ecclesiastical tolerance

Generally, when people speak of religious tolerance, the mean civil tolerance - "the policy of the state towards religious dissent".[2] In contrast to this, ecclesiastical tolerance is concerned with the degree of diversity tolerated within a particular church.[3]

[edit] Timeline

* 539 BC, Cyrus the Great issues a declaration of religious freedom; the first known recorded history of religious tolerance.[4]
* 364-332 BC, Ashoka the Great declares religious freedom in the Edicts of Ashoka
* 311 AD, The Roman Emperor Galerius issues a general edict of toleration in his own name and in those of Licinius and Constantine.[5]
* 313, The Edict of Milan issued by the Emperors Constantine I and Licinius proclaiming religious toleration in the Roman Empire.[6]
* 622, Muhammad declares religious freedom in the Constitution of Medina
* 1190, Genghis Khan composes his code of law, the Yassa, in which there is religious freedom for all who were under his rule.[citation needed]
* 1554, Castellio writes the pamphlet "De haereticis, an sint persequendi" (Whether heretics should be persecuted), the first modern appeal for toleration.[7]
* 1571 January 11 - Maximilian II declares religious toleration towards the nobles of Lower Austria, their families and workers;[8]
* 1573 January 28 - Warsaw Confederation granting religious toleration.[9]
* 1598 April 13 - King Henry IV of France issued the Edict of Nantes, allowing religious toleration of the Huguenots.[10]
* 1609 July 6 - Rudolph II grants religious toleration in Bohemia.[11]
* 1657 April 20 - New Amsterdam granted religious toleration to Jews;[citation needed]
* 1689, English Act of Toleration passed, granting toleration to Protestant dissenters.
* 1829 April 13 - British Parliament granted Catholic Emancipation in the spirit of religious toleration;
* 1900 Robert G. Ingersoll publishes his plea for religious liberty.[12]
* 1948 December 10 The United Nations General Assembly issues the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 18 declares that everyone has the right to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, and to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.[12]
* 1965 December 7 The Roman Catholic Church Vatican II Council issues the decree Dignitatis Humanae (Religious Freedom) that states that all people must have the right to religious freedom.[13]
* 1986 October 7 The first World Day of Prayer for Peace is held in Assisi when representatives of one hundred and twenty different religions came together for prayer to their God or gods. [14]
* 1988 April 29 - in the spirit of Glasnost, Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev promised increased religious toleration.[15]

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