Locke’s expansive philosophy on toleration for multiple religions is useful and ethical, especially given the religious upheaval facing Europe during Locke’s time. The battle between Calvinism and Catholicism was threatening the peace of many countries. Locke definitely needed to address the actual religious climate of his time; however, his philosophy is applicable today, for tolerance is a necessary attribute of global society.
Locke’s theory includes the idea that man chooses his own salvation, his own destiny. There cannot be undue influence, from the government or the church, that will persuade man’s inner mind. Even if successful at influencing man’s behavior, the influence my not alter the inner opinion of man. This religious choice is a concern for the individual, and not for the government: “In the second place, the care of souls cannot belong to the civil magistrate, because his power consists only in outward force; but true and saving religion consists in the inward persuasion of the mind, without which nothing can be acceptable to God.” (Locke, 1689). Therefore, it is literally not a civic jurisdiction to enforce religious compliance.
However, although religious compliance is not a civic duty to enforce, religious deviance should not be tolerated. What this means is that there are realms of illegal, immoral activity that could be performed under religious auspices; this is unacceptable. For instance, human sacrifice would never be an acceptable religious practice that Locke would tolerate. The reason is that this ritual violates man’s natural rights, and has criminal elements that affect another being: “One’s religious concerns with salvation, however, are not within the domain of civil interests, and so lie outside of the legitimate concern of the magistrate or the civil government. In effect, Locke adds an additional right to the natural rights of life, liberty, health and property — the right of freedom to choose one’s own road to salvation.” (Tuckness, 2016). Locke does not add, however, the freedom to violate another man’s rights. This is the manner that we know the true church, by toleration for all religious activity that does not impede natural rights. Therefore, the ritual of saying prayer should not be moderated by civic regulations because this does not tread on another individual’s rights and has no criminal elements.
I believe there are instances when society should not tolerate other communities’ extreme religious beliefs. These instances include when inalienable natural rights are alienated from the individual. When the religious practices impede on other individuals there are legal ramifications. Additionally, if the religious practice is in defiance of law, it should not be tolerated.
Therefore, the principles to guide when society should not tolerate religious beliefs and practices are similar to categorical imperatives, or religious ten commandments: violations such as thou shall not kill, thou shall not steal…These considerations and principles should be used in order to determine when differing religious practices and behaviors are intolerable.
I believe that it is acceptable for individual religious beliefs to affect administrative law, but only to the extent that extreme deviance, criminal, unethical behavior would be mediated. I do not think that administrative law should be based on making others believe certain religious beliefs, but rather, that there is a code of acceptable behaviors, possibly rooted I religious beliefs, to which laws are made. Locke’s philosophy is valuable for practical ethics; it is evident that many religions must coexist. However, Locke’s philosophy for theoretical definitions is problematic because it suggests relativistic qualities to religion. Locke’s tolerance, from a metaphysical perspective, is one that claims that there is no manner of judging right from wrong, or from being able to know things for certain.