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A Letter Concerning Toleration

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  2,594 ratings  ·  155 reviews
John Locke's subtle and influential defense of religious toleration as argued in his seminal Letter Concerning Toleration (1685) appears in this edition as introduced by one of our most distinguished political theorists and historians of political thought.
Paperback, 72 pages
Published July 1st 1983 by Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. (first published 1667)
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May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Having read the text of the New Testament a fair number of times, I can see nothing that yields the conclusion that the purpose of Christianity is building theocratic nation states. A straightforward reading indicates Christianity occupies a subservient position to civil government while allowing for the possibility of civil disobedience in matters of conscience. When questioned, Jesus seemed to differentiate between the spiritual realm and the political realm. The historical pivot point where C ...more
Roy Lotz
John Locke warms my heart.

As a thinker, Locke is formidable. Nonetheless, he is on a level somewhat below other modern philosophers, like Descartes, Hume, and Kant. This is because of his incorrigible habit of stopping his arguments just short of the point at which they would contradict common sense. This is a bad quality in a philosopher, but an endearing quality in a man (as you can tell from his great popularity in his lifetime). And, perhaps from sheer luck, even the logical errors that L
Oct 29, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk
Locke makes a very strong case for the separation of church and state and personal life. However, his logic breaks down several times and - Locke being a philosopher - that is a major flaw.

Firstly, he states that whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, Pagan, Buddhist you have an equal right to practice your religion wherever you are and that no government can 'determine' your religion for you. Good. Oh, atheists don't count, Locke just feels that they can't possibly be correct and consequently shouldn
Sotiris Makrygiannis
written 200 years ago about the separation of church and gov? anyway, he is not against religion, in fact he promotes a multi-religion society. Well, I guess was until later that was discovered that religion antagonism sells more and is better for economy.....
Jun 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
The more I read the classics, the better I understand why they are classics. These books were written by men and women who dared thinking outside the box, and their conclusions stood strong after hundreds, sometimes thousands of years. This short book is one such classic. It must be read. Though it’s been written in 1689, it is incredibly current. John Locke argues most passionately for tolerance to the reformation movement within the Christian Church. In doing so he said things like:
“ It appea
Bryan Heck
Feb 25, 2013 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this, although it wasn't as much an eye opener for me because much of the stuff we all widely accept now. His arguments though, still to this day hold a lot of ground, but some don't. His view on Atheists, is one view where I would say his Logic definitely breaks down, whether due to a possible fear of consequences for supporting freedom for atheists or just a complete unfair bias against them, it definitely left an awkward hole in his "toleration" logic.
Jan 04, 2020 added it
Locke appears to be the first philosopher who attempted to logic the public into toleration of other religions; specifically, Jews and Christians. The best part about this piece is how subtlety he eases his reader into realizing that he is right, and that his view is indeed correct and one that even a very religious person can (and ought to) get behind.

He essentially points out (what any person who has applied skepticism to the Bible has thought) that it doesn't say anywhere in the Bible that it
An excellent study in limiting religious overreach in government without making martyrs by outright oppressing them through the law. While reactionary critics in this harsh phase of the West's existence may sometimes grow suspicious of our general leniency and toleration for rival intellectual ideas and beliefs, it is important to remind ourselves that all threats are ultimately neutralized by the bulwark of secular law. It is also worth reminding the reactionaries that these politics of secular ...more
Jk Jensen
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
A Letter Concerning Toleration is dense and difficult, but incredibly applicable to today’s world. Putting aside Locke’s severe disdain for atheists (he didn’t think they deserved to be tolerated), the core teachings here are salient in a divided world. The government must tolerate increasingly more as the world is further exposed to a wider diversity of ideology. According to Locke, toleration means that the government’s role is primarily to defend the rights of its citizens - however contraria ...more
Josep Marti
Apr 24, 2019 rated it liked it
To summarise this book in the author's words: "every man should enjoy the same rights as are granted to others". Different religions should be tolerated inasmuch they respect the Magistrate and its sphere of influence, essentially relegating religion to the private side of an individual. The style is rather dry, and the arguments have been made better subsequently, but it is an important work that one should be aware of.
Sarah Myers
Aug 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, philosophy
Important work, of course, but now--300 or so years since it was published--it's hard to ignore the holes and inconsistencies. As things stand now between politics and religion in a culture of "toleration," there'd be questions one would want to ask Locke.
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant work. Locke laid down the arguments for the separation of church and government, religious diversity/pluralism (that it is not the diversity of opinions that produce war but the inability and unwillingness to tolerate different views) and examined the role of government in this work. Locke is a Christian but that does not deter him from seeing that the amalgamation between religion and politics would bring abuse of power, corruption and hypocrisy as well as defeat the real purpose of g ...more
Aug 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Even if the book dates from 1689, it's surprisingly applicable today. Locke arguments in favour of the separation of church and state. One of my favourite passages is when he explains that followers of an expansive religion as they were once the christians would accept the uses and laws of a society until the moment when they can impose their own religious view to that society and force the other citizens to be converted, exiled or something worse. Probably this is past water for Christianism, b ...more
Mar 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I gave this 5 stars because I think that it is one of those staples that everyone should read. Now I realize that I'm a historian at heart, and not everyone is as interested in Englightenment-era literature as I am. However, I think that it really puts our modern world into perspective. Our world today is so different, and yet so strikingly similar to the one that Locke describes. I think it serves as a valuable lesson in human nature.

That being said, the writing is quite dense so some may find
Puri Kencana Putri
Nov 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Locke's primary argument is to make the bold border between civil government and religion practices. He touches as well the issue of innate morals, moral bound, and atheism; the indivisibility between moral and religion beliefs, and to some extent the dichotomy between morality and atheism. It is intriguing to examine and to contextualise his idea today. Nonetheless, I'm sure further debate on the issues of morality, humanity, stance between believers and non-believers will grow progressively to ...more
Christopher McCaffery
Feb 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
I suppose he's at least consistent in his opinions.
Jacob O'connor
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Church is filled with intolerant bigots!

Well, sometimes. Sometimes not, but how do we know? Sometimes the church is on the receiving end of that bigotry.

We’ve come to a time when society is looking to renegotiate the lines of toleration between religion and law. Thought I'd brush up with one of the major thinkers on the topic, John Locke. This is what I found:

Locke believes "toleration to be the chief characteristic mark of the true Church"

"It is one thing to persuade, another to command;
Mar 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Full disclaimer, this received 3-stars partly in deference to Locke's significance.

The letter is fairly unrewarding to read. It is not dense, in fact, the opposite is true. At 72 pages long, it is approximately 65 pages too long. Part of this is likely a consequence of archaic language which seems inefficient and redundant. But part of the problem is much of what Locke is arguing for is either commonly accepted wisdom today so it feels like he is belaboring the point or logically constrained by
Barton Stanley
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I did not get much out of this to apply to the world in 2018 and in fact some of it seems just plain wrong, but I am glad I read it because it gave me a historical perspective on religious tolerance.

Locke spends a lot of time on excommunication and other issues that do not seem particularly relevant today. In addition his valid arguments are well-understood now (of course) and there are some arguments that would not be considered valid today. So if you are looking for something new to support re
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: academic
John Locke was one of the most influential thinkers in the early enlightenment. His argumentation is backed by logic and references to real life (at the time), but it's important to note that the letter is not strictly an academic paper - his references to other academics is nonexistent; after all, it was originally intended as a letter, not a publication. Of particular interest to me is John Locke's opinion on the role of the church. He argues that the church should be there to advice people, c ...more
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, theology
The first thing that came to mind when I read this that it was such an orderly and clearly written "letter", more in the style of a instruction for the church or systematic theology on the issue of toleration. It may seem a bit trite, but for its time it must have been a great and fresh addition to the church debate, and it remains very timeless as most of it(even if these things are evident today) still apply and is good to be reminded of. It is interesting to see how the approach of toleration ...more
Oct 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Listened via Librevox

My, how our national discourse has drifted significantly from this essay’s propositions. Good to consider Locke’s context and where we are downstream from his ideas.

Overall, I tend to agree with his premises but there are points that one can see where we are today, not entirely because we have drifted from these noble ideas, but that we have perfected their logical conclusions.

Another question to consider: could any culture put forth such values upon toleration outside of
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, philosophy
Locke is wonderful to read. The writings of great thinkers just are better than the academics who comment on them. Clear, largely logical (when taken in its historical context) and genuinely 'enlightening' Letter has been sadly overshadowed by Locke's other works. However, it contains the most tantalising allusions to modern liberalism and provokes heated debate on the secularising effect of Englightended thinking. Worth reading yourself, though do look into the difference between the Gough and ...more
Felicia Nelson
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed reading this work more than I thought I would. It's hard to write a review just because theres not much to say that hasn't already been said about such a crucial piece of literature. I will say though that I believe that everyone should read this book once in their lifetime. For a "letter" it is quite long and some parts can be a bit repetitive, but the way that Locke explains the concepts of tolerance, separation of Church and State, and the paramount importance of personal liberty is ...more
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
i thought it was good over all but why didnt atheists get toleration like everyone else? they are just as good citizens as christians (and usualy much smarter) so i dont understand why Lock is afraid of them. also excluding catholics makes sense becasue many of them arent very tolerant.
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Easy to read and understand, his solution assume the other's religion has a form of the Golden Rule. Else the other becomes a danger to mankind.
Rebekah Morgan
Oct 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
Pretty repetitive in parts but still something I would nail to the door of any politician who thinks it's just peachy to combine church and state.
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Read it 6 months before this review.
Started of slow. Then I agreed with pretty much everything.
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Reading this for a political philosophy class--important arguments for what most people in the west consider obvious.
Michael Wu
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
An elegant case for limited government and the freedom of conscience
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John Locke was an English philosopher. Locke is considered the first of the British Empiricists, but is equally important to social contract theory. His ideas had enormous influence on the development of epistemology and political philosophy, and he is widely regarded as one of the most influential Enlightenmen

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