Liberal writer John Locke
Letter on tolerance are a series of writings of the philosopher and doctor John Locke who saw the light between 1689 and 1690, they largely present the fundamental ideological bases for their political theory formulated by the same dates in two treaties on the civil government. This writing arises amid the fear that Catholicism took over England, and responds to religious conflicts, supposedly, religious tolerance in response as a response. This letter was aimed at a next friend of Locke, Philipp Van Limborch (Dutch Remocent Theologian), who made her see the light without Locke’s knowledge. Its original publication was in Latin, although it was once translated into other languages.
For Locke the Church and the State are different things, the end of the first would be the salvation of souls and the end of the second would be social peace and the protection of individual rights. This means that none of the parties, neither church nor state, can demand more than what is necessary to fulfill its purpose, the State cannot force its citizens to profess a concrete confession and the Church must tolerate everything that goes beyondThe salvation of souls. Tolerance would be a criterion of truth and reliability to judge the Church and religions, the more tolerance towards other confessions the more true this Church will be, leaving aside the orthodoxy of a past tradition. This tolerance has limits, that is, a person who attacks and questions the authority of a confession can be excommunicated, but the Church cannot intervene on the individual rights of that individual and does not have authority over the members of other confessions and notThey can demand to adhere to their believe.
The State must be as tolerant that can with everything that does not alter social peace, although Locke gives primacy to the State on the Church if social peace is altered, the State can and must demand a church to be recruited to the private sphere. The duty of the State is to protect individual rights and not convince its citizens from "correct" religious thoughts. Although to guarantee social peace, the State can impose and demand that its citizens be tolerant of citizens of other beliefs and not intolerant, tolerance is indispensable to achieve social peace. But Locke seems that his tolerance has very marked limits with atheists and Catholics. For the author, atheism would have unacceptable and unacceptable practical consequences for the State, denying the existence of God is a moral and non -theoretical error, who denies the existence of God intends to be beyond any obligation. Atheist is an unreliable subject because it does not accept moral obligations and society, based on the social pact, could be down. The State is obliged, according to Locke, to combat this doctrine that would generate anarchy. Catholics would not be a group of trust because they submit to the power of the Pope, a foreign power, which could order their faithful disobeying the laws of the State. Although it must also be added that the English author considers Catholicism as an intolerant creed.
We must not forget that Locke’s thinking is part of certain historical and geographical circumstances, seventeenth -century England. And although I think that the author should be recognized as the creator of the first steps of the development of the concept of tolerance, Locke does not seem to want a total separation of Church and State and after all his approaches, he gives religion a political utility forSuppress Catholics and atheists.