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Saturday 16 December 2023

Tolerate Satanism?


We have to tolerate Satanism? No. That is nonsense, and it is strange to hear some people asserting that this should be the case.

Those who assert that classical liberalism asserted from the start that things like Satanism should be tolerated are ignorant of the historical facts and the roots of classical liberalism.

A good example can be found Locke's Letter Concerning Toleration. One of the founding documents of classical liberalism. In that letter, Locke argued that if society were to allow for the toleration of non-Protestant forms of Christianity or pagan religions, that our laws would fall into confusion and contradiction and all liberty would begin to disappear.

Why is this the case? Because many religions allow for practices which are not only considered sins by Christians but criminal by civilised peoples (for example Sati which was once practiced in India, or animal sacrifice in other religions). The existence of such practices would require more power from the state to legislate against certain religious practices which would in turn diminish everyone's liberty. Fascinating that he saw the inevitable rise of a more powerful state and the diminishing of liberty as direct results of a multicultural society. And he was right as we now live in a society where more and more laws are passed year on year to try and quell the conflicts that arise in a society with no common creed, or vision.

Here is an extended quote from Locke on the subject of the limits of toleration,

“But to come to particulars. I say, first, no opinions contrary to human society, or to those moral rules which are necessary to the preservation of civil society, are to be tolerated by the magistrate. But of these, indeed, examples in any Church are rare. For no sect can easily arrive to such a degree of madness as that it should think fit to teach, for doctrines of religion, such things as manifestly undermine the foundations of society and are, therefore, condemned by the judgement of all mankind; because their own interest, peace, reputation, everything would be thereby endangered.

Another more secret evil, but more dangerous to the commonwealth, is when men arrogate to themselves, and to those of their own sect, some peculiar prerogative covered over with a specious show of deceitful words, but in effect opposite to the civil right of the community. For example: we cannot find any sect that teaches, expressly and openly, that men are not obliged to keep their promise; that princes may be dethroned by those that differ from them in religion; or that the dominion of all things belongs only to themselves. For these things, proposed thus nakedly and plainly, would soon draw on them the eye and hand of the magistrate and awaken all the care of the commonwealth to a watchfulness against the spreading of so dangerous an evil. But, nevertheless, we find those that say the same things in other words. What else do they mean who teach that faith is not to be kept with heretics? Their meaning, forsooth, is that the privilege of breaking faith belongs unto themselves; for they declare all that are not of their communion to be heretics, or at least may declare them so whensoever they think fit. What can be the meaning of their asserting that kings excommunicated forfeit their crowns and kingdoms? It is evident that they thereby arrogate unto themselves the power of deposing kings, because they challenge the power of excommunication, as the peculiar right of their hierarchy. That dominion is founded in grace is also an assertion by which those that maintain it do plainly lay claim to the possession of all things. For they are not so wanting to themselves as not to believe, or at least as not to profess themselves to be the truly pious and faithful. These, therefore, and the like, who attribute unto the faithful, religious, and orthodox, that is, in plain terms, unto themselves, any peculiar privilege or power above other mortals, in civil concernments; or who upon pretence of religion do challenge any manner of authority over such as are not associated with them in their ecclesiastical communion, I say these have no right to be tolerated by the magistrate; as neither those that will not own and teach the duty of tolerating all men in matters of mere religion. For what do all these and the like doctrines signify, but that they may and are ready upon any occasion to seize the Government and possess themselves of the estates and fortunes of their fellow subjects; and that they only ask leave to be tolerated by the magistrate so long until they find themselves strong enough to effect it?

Again: That Church can have no right to be tolerated by the magistrate which is constituted upon such a bottom that all those who enter into it do thereby ipso facto deliver themselves up to the protection and service of another prince. For by this means the magistrate would give way to the settling of a foreign jurisdiction in his own country and suffer his own people to be listed, as it were, for soldiers against his own Government. Nor does the frivolous and fallacious distinction between the Court and the Church afford any remedy to this inconvenience; especially when both the one and the other are equally subject to the absolute authority of the same person, who has not only power to persuade the members of his Church to whatsoever he lists, either as purely religious, or in order thereunto, but can also enjoin it them on pain of eternal fire. It is ridiculous for any one to profess himself to be a Mahometan only in his religion, but in everything else a faithful subject to a Christian magistrate, whilst at the same time he acknowledges himself bound to yield blind obedience to the Mufti of Constantinople, who himself is entirely obedient to the Ottoman Emperor and frames the feigned oracles of that religion according to his pleasure. But this Mahometan living amongst Christians would yet more apparently renounce their government if he acknowledged the same person to be head of his Church who is the supreme magistrate in the state.

Lastly, those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all; besides also, those that by their atheism undermine and destroy all religion, can have no pretence of religion whereupon to challenge the privilege of a toleration.”[1]

So classical liberalism, as originally envisioned, does not require the toleration of evil. That's a complete subversion of how the original classical liberals viewed toleration. Toleration always had to have limits to work. Otherwise, it would just create a series of nonsense contradictions and society would increasingly fracture. Toleration was always meant to be limited, never meant to be absolute. 

When Locke refers to "Mahometan" religion in this letter, he is actually talking about Catholicism, though it was illegal for him to be so open about this while he was writing his case, so he had to speak of it cryptically. Locke saw how important it was for Protestants and Catholics to have their own spheres of influence and authority, because he saw how they would clash, and he saw how loyalty to a foreign sovereign, in this case the Pope, could cause issues in a Protestant nation, where the highest earthly authority was meant to be the king. 

I am not a classical liberal myself, mainly because the term has developed to describe a philosophy for society that has no genuine boundaries and therefore cannot foster a flourishing society. But early on in the formation of what was to become western liberalism, the great thinkers understood the necessity of boundaries for a society to flourish. Boundaries are necessary for anything to flourish. Boundaries are the distinguishing mark of the difference between a garden and a jungle. 

Of course, we today live in a truly transgressive society. There are no longer any boundaries, as far as our elites would say. There are no national boundaries, no religious boundaries, no gender boundaries and even borders have become meaningless in the last few decades throughout the West. So, it makes sense that those who claim the classical liberal, or libertarian, mantels today arc up at the suggestion that we should have firmer boundaries. They have come to believe that we should live in a society without boundaries, because the human will is supreme in working out what is good for it. But the Christian worldview correctly notes the wicked nature of mankind, and that our will is corrupted and misled easily by evil, and therefore the proper Christian worldview recognizes the necessity of good laws to curb evil in society, and this includes in religious matters. If you read the early arguments for liberalism you will see that the importance of those boundaries was recognized and the devastating effects of rejecting them were foreseen. After all, men like Locke and others were students of history themselves. A society can only take so much of the shaking of all boundaries before every bond is broken and the whole civilisation suffers as a result. 

List of References

[1] Locke, John. John Locke: 7 Works . Unknown. Kindle Edition.

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