Religious Toleration

Perez Zagorin

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199238804
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728365 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Religious Toleration

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  • History of Western Philosophy
  • Social and Political Philosophy


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The fullest development of the concept of religious toleration in the West occurred in Christian Europe between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. The emergence and establishment of religious pluralism in modern societies, and most notably in the Western world, has been very largely the result of the evolution and gradual victory of the principle of religious toleration on a variety of grounds. Among the world's great monotheistic religions, Christianity has been the most intolerant. Early Christianity was intolerant of Judaism, from which it had to separate itself, and of ancient paganism, whose suppression it demanded. The New Testament recognized heresy as a danger to religious truth and the Christian communities. Heresy entailed the existence of its opposite, orthodoxy, which meant right thinking and true belief. Following World War II, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 named freedom of religion, conscience, and thought as basic human rights.

Keywords: Christianity; religious toleration; religious pluralism; Judaism; paganism; heresy; orthodoxy; freedom of religion; human rights

Article.  6124 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy ; Social and Political Philosophy

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