Been a while since, I last used my public diary, well here we go again … The story of the heretics and the non-conformists is one we have a lot to learn from, In the 17th century the heretics “Catholics” and the non-conformists “protestants” risked their lives through horrific torture and death. This had all begun during the period of reformation.
The period of reformation formed the divide in what Christianity is today, a German monk Martin Luther couldn’t understand if God’s intention was for the poor to spend all their money buying their way out of punishment, so that they would go to heaven if they died, and why it was easier for the rich to avoid a long time in purgatory than it was for the poor. Luther thought it was way too much about money and too little about God.
He read the Bible which then was only written in Latin and Greek after which he wrote up 95 theses and nailed them to the doors of the church. Back in the day, church doors acted as notice boards since people often congregated there to pray.
Luther was allowed to come defend his theses in front of the church leaders, they hoped he would withdraw the theses and not cause an up rise and alternative thought amongst the congregation which had vested so much power in to the church. Well Luther declined to withdraw the theses and denounce them since the church wouldn’t disapprove him with word from the Bible.
Much angered by the acts, the church outlawed Luther and he was being hunted as a criminal, he ran and hid in a nearby castle owned by a friend while there he translated the whole New Testament into German and for the first time the people were able to read the Bible for themselves and didn’t have to depend on the priest and church’s interpretation of the Book. It was only fair that since the Bible was God speaking to his people, then the people too would have a chance to read what God was telling them.
With this translation Luther had started something he wouldn’t control, his 95 theses coupled with the different understanding from what people read from the Bible was used as basis for power struggles amongst the different power blocks from 16th – 17th century i.e. Princes, Popes, Kings etc. His thoughts ended splitting the church into different sects.
In light of all these problems John Locke a religious man and well arguably the father of Liberalism, taught us how to use tolerance in our everyday life as an important virtual towards fostering relations. We can pick lessons from arguments surrounding the reformation.
He Pointed out that those who forced others to recant their beliefs by threatening them could hardly be said to be acting out of Christianity charity. If the persecutors wanted to save souls, they had to focus on sinners and not people arguing over the interpretation of scriptures.
Using force to change beliefs is irrational because no threat can persuade someone to believe something that they think is false. One might say they believe in that something to save themselves from torture, ridicule or being banned, but you won’t change their actual beliefs that way.
We can’t just choose what we believe as a matter of convenience you know? So, if the point of your threat is to achieve a genuine conversion it just won’t work. That was his case for religious toleration, but Locke wasn’t as tolerant as you must expect he didn’t tolerate Catholics or theists either.
In all this, as we go about our daily lives and struggles we need to keep in mind that tolerance can foster relationships and greater understanding of society. A lesson on tolerance is one that is much needed in this country on all fronts, much as it is hard one to fully practice, We can take the lesson and practice when we most deem fit.