Locke and Jefferson on Toleration of Religion

For our edification:

In Thomas Jefferson’s Notes of Religion (Oct. 1776), Thomas Jefferson quotes John Locke on toleration of religious views.

He [Locke] sais ‘neither Pagan nor Mahomedan [Muslim] nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the Commonwealth because of his religion.’ Shall we suffer a Pagan to deal with us and not suffer him to pray to his god? Why have Xns. [Christians] been distinguished above all people who have ever lived, for persecutions? Is it because it is the genius of their religion? No, it’s genius is the reverse. It is the refusing toleration to those of a different opn [opinion] which has produced all the bustles and wars on account of religion. It was the misfortune of mankind that during the darker centuries the Xn. [Christian] priests following their ambition and avarice combining with the magistrate to divide the spoils of the people, could establish the notion that schismatics might be ousted of their possessions & destroyed. This notion we have not yet cleared ourselves from. In this case no wonder the oppressed should rebel, & they will continue to rebel & raise disturbance until their civil rights are fully restored to them & all partial distinctions, exclusions & incapacitations removed. (Online Library of Liberty: The Works, vol. 2 (1771-1779).

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

 

  • StraightGrandmother

    In this case no wonder the oppressed should rebel, & they will continue to rebel & raise disturbance until their civil rights are fully restored to them & all partial distinctions, exclusions & incapacitations removed. (Online Library of Liberty

    This also is what is applied to sexual minorities by the Leadership of the Christian Majority, and why sexual minorities fight back for the same Civil Rights as everybody else.

  • Lynn David

    He almost sounds like a militant new atheist.

  • Patrocles

    In Locke’s and Jefferson’s time, the people persecuted because of their religious views were mostly the people with the more rigid norms (Catholics, Puritans etc.) , not the people with the laxer norms. Ever after Charles II., the predominant religion in Britain was “go to church (not too often) and do what you want”.

    So, Locke’s ideas – which Jefferson parrots here – were rather outdated. If people wanted wo be seen as “enlightened” they had to rant and thunder against the cliché figures of the “ambitious priests” (they would have had difficulties to name one – after the “Glorious Revolution” English bishops sat in the pocket of the king/queen).


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