John Locke And Religious Toleration

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Caitlin L. Stephens Dr. Bryan Morgan Philosophy 1301 16 October 2011 John Locke and Religious Toleration As Locke once said: “Let us now consider what a church is. A church, then, I take to be a voluntary society of men, joining themselves together of their own accord in order to the public worshipping of God in such manner as they judge acceptable to Him, and effectual to the salvation of their souls “(Locke). The issue of religious toleration was of widespread interest in Europe in the 17th century. The Reformation had split Europe into competing religious camps, and this provoked civil wars and massive religious persecutions. The Dutch Republic, where Locke spent time, had been founded as a secular state which would allow religious differences. This was a reaction to Catholic persecution of Protestants. Once the Calvinist Church gained power, however, they began persecuting other sects. In France, religious conflict had been temporarily quieted by the edict of Nantes. But in 1685, the year in which Locke wrote the First Letter concerning religious toleration, Louis XIV had revoked the Edict of Nantes, and the Huguenots were being persecuted and forced to emigrate on mass. People in England were keenly aware of the events taking place in France. In England itself, religious conflict dominated the 17th century, contributing in important respects to the coming of the English civil war, and the abolishing of the Anglican Church during the Protectorate. After the Restoration of Charles II, Anglicans in parliament passed laws which repressed both Catholics and Protestant sects such as Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers and Unitarians who did not agree with the doctrines or practices of the state Church. Of these various dissenting sects, some were closer to the Anglicans, others more remote. One reason among others why King Charles may have found
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