PL 201 Assignment 6 Religious Toleration and the Separation of Church and State

Religious Toleration and the Separation of Church and State




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Religious Toleration and the Separation of Church and State

Religious toleration refers to the situation whereby people are allowed by their government or state to exercise the freedom of worship and belief without any question or any restriction. In other words, the government should also allow religions to exist without any question. John Locke was a social psychologist and a political philosopher who was very outspoken in supporting equal rights that individuals are entitled to in a society which is governed (John, 2011). When talking about toleration and the separation of church and state, it simply means, getting the real understanding of moral truths which usually have very strong political implications. Locke makes a very clear stand that there must be a total absolute separation between the state and the church. The reason as to why there must be separation of church and state must be done is because the state exists not to ensure that it has enforced public morality but to protect the rights of people from being violated and misused by the other people.

In every natural state, all people are entitled to possess independent reasoning and free will which means that all human beings are equal and politically independent. According to Locke, this concept of religious tolerance, has become so influential such that it has been included in the constitution of the United States. An individual should rely on his or her conscience in order to make wise decisions concerning the church and the religion to belong to. Therefore the government has got no authority or power to dictate the religion one should belong to and also has no authority in the realm of individual concept. Locke’s goal is to differentiate exactly how civil government operates and how its business is so different from that of the religion (Philip, 2004).

According to him, the church can only gain converts who are very genuine by persuading them and not applying violence. He concludes that the government should not involve itself in caring about souls. He supports his arguments by use of the following three reasons. That according to him, ’individuals cannot have control over their souls to secular forces as God does not appoint the magistrate’. The second reason was that, ‘force cannot create the change necessary for salvation because while it can coerce obedience it cannot change one’s believe’. The third and the last reason was that, even if coercion could persuade someone of a notion, it would not help for the salvation of souls because the birth would be related with salvation (Henk, 2010).

I therefore find Locke’s expansive vision of toleration useful and ethical because when people have the freedom to choose what they want especially when it comes to religion, they live well and exercise their freedom of worship to the maximum. With toleration, it means that people and for that matter believers are not forced to go to a specific or a particular church or follow strictly a particular religion but have free will to choose doing what their conscience dictates being correct.

There are ever cases where it is acceptable for society to decide not to tolerate religious communities whose believes or practices seem too extreme to be tolerated. There are therefore some principles that are used to determine exactly which religious communities should be treated as intolerable. Those people who have bad behaviors of viewing their religious beliefs as the very best believes and that of the others inferior and attempts to convert others to their faith by confusing them are termed to be intolerable because when investigated in details it is suspected that most evangelical missionaries are doing that for personal gains.

It is not acceptable for individual’s religious beliefs to affect the administration of law because church and state are to different organs which are independent and each stand on its own. Mixing government and religion corrupts both institutions and therefore each institution is entitled to work independently (Forrest, 2011).


John, l (2011): A Letter Concerning Toleration. Merchant’s Books Publishers.

Philip, H (2004): Separation of Church and State. Harvard University Press.

Henk, N (2010): Calvinism and Religious Toleration in the Dutch Golden Age. Cambridge University Press.

Forrest, C (2011): The Separation of Church and State: Writings on a Fundamental Freedom by America’s Founders. Beacon Press Publishers.

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