Letter Concerning Toleration Essay

1158 words - 5 pages

John Locke was born in 1632. He grew to become one of the most influential philosophers and was seen as the father of the Enlightenment. Locked studied at the Christ Church of Oxford in 1658 (AR). At Oxford he studied medicine which impacted his beliefs a great deal. His most famous works include First Treatise of Government, Second Treatise of Government, and Letter Concerning Toleration (AR). In his treatises he proclaimed that absolute monarchy was not the proper way to govern. These beliefs about a monarchy started in him at a very young age. His Letter Concerning Toleration claims that governments do not have the right to interfere with citizen’s creeds unless they are a threat to the greater good. Locke’s ideas became foundational for Europe and America. In his Letter Concerning Toleration Locke shows that the magistrate needs to be a judge of earthly struggles and not to focus on religious procedures which is necessary because these are struggles that happen in every culture.
John Locke addresses several hard-hitting topics in his text A Letter Concerning Toleration. One of these issues is whether or not a magistrate’s jurisdiction should cover salvation. Locke’s stance on this matter was very definite. John Locke believed that no one is responsible for another’s soul. “The care of souls cannot belong to the civil magistrate, because his power consists only in outward force,” (Locke 4). The soul does not dwell under physical laws or powers, so the magistrate cannot have authority over it. “For no man can, if he would, conform his faith to the dictates of another,” (Locke 4). Furthermore, every person has control over their soul and enjoys the ability to have that control. Nothing can take away that control. Locke pushes home this point by saying that if the rulers of the world were put in charge of religious ideas and if only one were right and all other wrong then people could blame their eternal happiness or lack thereof on the place of their birth. The place one is born does not determine eternal happiness. Nevertheless, it can best be summed up by saying, “All the power of civil government relates only to men’s civil interests, is confined to the care of the things of this world, and hath nothing to do with the world to come,” (Locke 5).
Perchance a church is idolatrous what, if any, jurisdiction does the magistrate have over this situation. Locke answers this question with his own question. “What power can be given to the magistrate for the suppression of an idolatrous Church, which may not in time and place be made use of to the ruin of an orthodox one?” (Locke 20). While idolatry may not be judged correct for a church to condone, it is not illegal. Churches are allowed to their own beliefs and practices as long as the greater good is not threatened or endangered by their beliefs. If the magistrate could act in this situation then he would have unwarranted authority over the church. If the church...

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