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Book Cover for: The Christian Origins of Tolerance, Jed W. Atkins

The Christian Origins of Tolerance

Jed W. Atkins

Tolerance is usually regarded as a quintessential liberal value. This position is supported by a standard liberal history that views religious toleration as emerging from the post-Reformation wars of religion as the solution to the problem of religious violence. Requiring the separation of church from state, tolerance was secured by giving the state the sole authority to punish religious violence and to protect the individual freedoms of conscience and religion. Commitment to tolerance is independent of judgements about justice and the common good. This standard liberal history exerts a powerful hold on the modern imagination: it undergirds several important recent accounts of liberal tolerance and virtually every major study of tolerance in the ancient world. Nevertheless, this familiar narrative distorts our understanding of tolerance's premodern origins and impoverishes present-day debates when many members of Christianity and Islam, the two largest global religions, have reservations about liberal tolerance.

Setting aside the standard liberal history, The Christian Origins of Tolerance recovers tolerance's beginnings in a forgotten tradition forged by North African Christian thinkers of the first five centuries CE in critical conversation with one another, St. Paul, the rival tradition of Stoicism, and the political and legal thought of the wider Roman world. This North African Christian tradition conceives of tolerance as patience within plurality. This tradition does not require the separation of religion and the secular state as a prerequisite for tolerance and embeds individual rights and the freedoms of conscience and religion within a wider theoretical framework that derives accounts of political judgement and patience from theological reflection on God's roles as a patient father and just judge. By recovering this forgotten tradition, we can better understand and assess the choices made by leading theorists of liberal tolerance, and as a result, think better about how to achieve peaceful coexistence within and beyond liberal democracies in a world in which many Christians and Muslims are sceptical of liberalism.

Book Details

  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publish Date: Oct 1st, 2024
  • Pages: 336
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 0.00in - 0.00in - 0.00in - 0.00lb
  • EAN: 9780198909569
  • Categories: History & Theory - GeneralAncient - GeneralHistory

About the Author

Jed W. Atkins, E. Blake Byrne Associate Professor of Classical Studies and Associate Professor of Philosophy and Political Science, Duke University

Jed W. Atkins is the E. Blake Byrne Associate Professor of Classical Studies and Associate Professor of Philosophy and Political Science at Duke University. He directs The Transformative Ideas Program and The Civil Discourse Project. He has published widely in the areas of Greek, Roman, and early Christian moral and political philosophy and the history of political philosophy. He is the author of Cicero on Politics and the Limits of Reason (CUP, 2013) and Roman Political Thought (CUP, 2018).