Religious Tolerance

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The two passages dealt with religious tolerance, each from a different perspective. The first passage, John Locke's "A Letter Concerning Toleration" from 1689, was written from the viewpoint of a man under a king's rule in England. The second passage, "The Blind Men and the Elephant," is a Buddhist parable.

Locke's reasoning for religious tolerance is all over the place. He first explains that no man has any right to enforce his beliefs on another man, stating that faith comes from within one's self, and it is not considered faith if it be thrust upon another. He also states that the civil government shall be separate from the church. The government has no authority in the confines of the church, and the church cannot enforce its teachings in the commonwealth. Nor can a member of any status of the religious community try to enforce the beliefs of the church unto any persons of the civil society. The civil government is considered a society of men assembled "only for the procuring, preserving, and advancing their own civil interests." This leaves the power to choose a religion or set of beliefs solely up to the individual.

This power to freely choose which religion to follow can cause problems in deciding what is acceptable in this realm of religious belief and practice. It seems to be human nature to want to conform, or at least to have others conform to your own beliefs. Conformity, however, is an indirect way of forcing one to change one's self—a passive enforcement, if you will. Who has the right to decide what is acceptable to believe in and what is not? Nobody has this right, for this right comes from within. Man makes his own decision as to which beliefs are right. This right makes it problematic in the societal sense because every man has a different idea of what is acceptable. Thus causing turmoil when the topic of religion is brought about. Therefore, the church is a way of creating stability by having a basic set of beliefs for...
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