Religious toleration is a preaching of people allowing others to think or practice religions and beliefs different from their own. In a country with a state religion, toleration means that the government allows other religions, often minority, to exist alongside the official one. One may also come across the word “religism” meaning "the expression of fear towards, hatred towards, or discrimination against, persons of a specific religion affiliation, usually a minority faith" substituting for religious tolerance.

In terms of morality, one can equate religious tolerance with respect, an aspect that is often overlooked. Religious tolerance assumes that a person does not discriminate against another person's religious beliefs, even if they think that the person's beliefs as wrong. Religious tolerance differs from religious acceptance.

Undoubtedly one’s religion is largely the product of one’s place of origin and of early teaching in the family and environment. Most people inherit their religion like their eye color. Thus, what they learn as a child is very difficult to change when they grow up. As John Hick puts it “If God is omnibenevolent and just ... he would not put a newborn to a disadvantage. This seems to mean only one thing: All religions give a person the same chance for salvation."

Why then should anybody become an enemy just because he or she professes a different religion? What is the root cause of intolerance?

Religious intolerance scarcely existed before the rise of monotheism. Ancient polytheistic religions worshipped numerous gods but never involved doctrinally precise professions of faith. Orthodoxy or heresy was non-existent. The gods were mutually tolerant of one another, and the worshippers were eclectic, moving from one shrine or cult to the next without the slightest feeling of inconsistency.

In Tarsus, where St. Paul grew up, as in all the towns of the ancient world outside of Judea, the gods were not jealous. They insisted that they must be offered punctiliously all honors due to them, but they did not worry about what honors were paid to other gods or men. Much later, Attila the Hun allowed members of his horde to follow whichever gods they wished, so long as they didn’t interfere in each other’s freedom of worship. Attila as model for religious tolerance?

In today's world, the religions of wisdom (primarily the Eastern religions) appear to be far more tolerant than their Western counterparts, the religions of revelation. The Jews, Christians, and Muslims, who look to the Bible and the Qur’an for guidance, find hundreds of passages that can be called upon to bolster their claims that violence and hatred against enemies are not only justified but reflect the will of God. Ultimately, it is left to the individual practitioners of a religion – what aspects of the religion should be embraced.

We are religiously tolerant when we give others the freedom to do things and believe things, even though we feel that they are wrong! To some people, this is not easy. Some feel that their religion is the only true faith, and that to oppress followers of another religion is to promote God's will in society. We support their right to believe this. But we oppose them if they want to take action to oppress others. That path leads in the direction of rape, murder and crucifixions by the Islamic State, the killing fields of Bosnia- Herzegovina, the massacres in East Timor, the gas chambers of Nazi Germany and numerous other horrors.

At its core, religious toleration as a human rights issue. A person is tolerant when she/he respects the right of others to hold different religious beliefs. A person might believe that her/his own faith is the only valid religion – the one fully approved of and created by a particular God. She/he might consider all other religions as profoundly evil. Yet, she/he can be religious tolerant towards others if she/he recognize that all individuals and religious groups have the basic human right of religious liberty – to freely follow their faith's beliefs and practices.



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