This month, Cambridge University Press will publish Toleration in Conflict: Past and Present (2013) by Rainer Forst (Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt). The publisher’s description follows.
The concept of toleration plays a central role in pluralistic societies. It designates a stance which permits conflicts over beliefs and practices to persist while at the same time defusing them, because it is based on reasons for coexistence in conflict – that is, in continuing dissension. A critical examination of the concept makes clear, however, that its content and evaluation are profoundly contested matters and thus that the concept itself stands in conflict. For some, toleration was and is an expression of mutual respect in spite of far-reaching differences, for others, a condescending, potentially repressive attitude and practice. Rainer Forst analyses these conflicts by reconstructing the philosophical and political discourse of toleration since antiquity. He demonstrates the diversity of the justifications and practices of toleration from the Stoics and early Christians to the present day and develops a systematic theory which he tests in discussions of contemporary conflicts over toleration.
Speaking of the use of religious convictions in the construction of political arguments, here is a very interesting book in the history of ideas involving the concept of toleration in the era of James II before the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the Act of Toleration of 1689 — Making Toleration: The Repealers and the Glorious Revolution, by Scott Sowerby (Northwestern), available in early 2013 from Harvard University Press. The publisher’s description follows.
In the reign of James II, minority groups from across the religious spectrum, led by the Quaker William Penn, rallied together under the Catholic King James in an effort to bring religious toleration to England. Known as repealers, these reformers aimed to convince Parliament to repeal laws that penalized worshippers who failed to conform to the doctrines of the Church of England. Although the movement was destroyed by the Glorious Revolution, it profoundly influenced the post-revolutionary settlement, helping to develop the ideals of tolerance that would define the European Enlightenment.
Based on a rich array of newly discovered archival sources, Scott Sowerby’s groundbreaking history rescues the repealers from undeserved obscurity, telling the forgotten story of men and women who stood up for their beliefs at a formative moment in British history. By restoring the repealer movement to its rightful prominence, Making Toleration also overturns traditional interpretations of King James II’s reign and the origins of the Glorious Revolution. Though often depicted as a despot who sought to impose his own Catholic faith on a Protestant people, James is revealed as a man ahead of his time, a king who pressed for religious toleration at the expense of his throne. The Glorious Revolution, Sowerby finds, was not primarily a crisis provoked by political repression. It was, in fact, a conservative counter-revolution against the movement for enlightened reform that James himself encouraged and sustained.
Marlies Galenkamp (Erasmus University Rotterdam) has posted Locke and Bayle on Religious Toleration. The abstract follows.
In Western-European societies, two questions are currently at the centre of political debate. What is the scope and what are the limits of religious toleration? What is the proper role of the state with regard to religious issues? By addressing these two topics, Dutch constitutional law scholars commonly start from two presumptions. First of all, the presumption in favour of liberty (leading to a quite absolute interpretation of fundamental rights) and secondly, the doctrine of interpretative restraint by civil authorities with regard to religious matters. These presumptions are generally considered as uncontested axioms. It seems to me that both presumptions may be qualified, however. This will be done by elaborating on the views of two 17th-century scholars on religious toleration, the Englishman John Locke and the Frenchman Pierre Bayle. Interestingly, both formulated their insights during their exile in the Dutch Republic. It will turn out that the dominant interpretation of the presumptions rests on a too superficial reading of Locke and on a disregard of Bayle’s insights, respectively.