Locke and the politics and theology of toleration

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Stanton, T (2006)

Locke's theory of toleration has been understood to rest on the claim that persecution was insufficient to instil either (i) true or (ii) sincere belief in people. Although Locke did indeed make both these claims, neither was fundamental to his theory. Locke was principally concerned to deny that persecution was necessary to instil true or sincere belief; its insufficiency to those ends he, and his contemporaries, took for granted. His denial of the necessity of persecution presupposed that human beings were, in principle, naturally adequate to the discovery of God's wants for them. The same presupposition, which derives from natural theology, underwrote the views in politics and revealed theology that complete his theory and supplied its moral content. Contemporary theories of toleration purposing to proceed on Lockean assumptions are morally and philosophically impoverished by their failure to see the requirements laid on an adequate theory of toleration by genuinely Lockean terms.
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