On the eve of All Saint’s Day 1517, a monk nailed on the University of Wittenburg chapel’s door a list of complaints he had against the Roman Catholic Church. In those days, when people wanted to discuss an issue, they would post it on the church door to invite conversation. Martin Luther got more than he bargained for. Instead of an academic discussion, he sparked a religious revolution, the Protestant Reformation.
Because the Roman Catholic Church had intertwined itself with the European governments, questioning the church also threatened state rulers. Thus, kings and princes persecuted those who followed Luther’s and other reformers’ teachings. Also, some European rulers adopted Protestant beliefs and required their subjects to follow them as well. Nonconformists were considered enemies of the state.
War broke out between and within Catholic and Protestant nations. These wars, however, had nothing to do with biblical Christianity. The battles were about wielding political power. Biblically, the Church was never to be a theocracy.
Caught between the Catholics and the Reformers, the Anabaptists were persecuted and executed by both factions. The Anabaptists, the forerunners of the Mennonites, the Amish, and other denominations, refuse to perform infant baptism. They also reject compulsory church attendance and believe in the separation of church and state, meaning that the government and the church should not rule together.
To escape this political turmoil and religious persecution, thousands of people emigrated to the American colonies. Each colony had its own view on the relationship between church and state. Many, such as Virginia, maintained the European-style church-and-state connection. Others like Pennsylvania on the other hand, provided freedom of religion, and many Anabaptists settled there. All colonial governments financially supported the Christian church.
Constitutional Right: Freedom of Religion
(The above video has one glaring error. The Pilgrims were Separatists not Puritans.)
Against this historical backdrop, the Founding Fathers of the United States chose to codify the freedom of religion. This clause in the First Amendment prevents the federal government from establishing a national church and from being intolerant towards any religious group. The states, though, were permitted to continue to fund their state churches, and did so for many years after the founding of the republic.
Americans had learned to tolerate various Christian sects, unlike the Europeans of the time. Because of the First Amendment, all citizens could live in peace because they knew their government would protect their right to practice their faith as they saw fit. No one could force another to follow a belief system they disagreed with. That is true religious tolerance.
In recent decades, however, religious liberty has been under attack. America, once the safe haven for various religious groups and the champion of religious liberty, is now being overrun by the Religion of Tolerance, which seeks cultural dominance through political power.
Definition of Religion
First, I want to explain the term religion. In nearly all cases when the Founding Father’s spoke of religion, they meant the Christian faith. Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary, the first American English dictionary, verifies this view. The first three definitions refer to the Christian religion, and only the last relates to world religions.
Modern dictionaries offer broader definitions for religion:
- Merriam-Webster: “2. a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices; 4.a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.”
- Dictionary.com: “1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs; 6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.”
Both dictionaries end their definitions by describing religion as a belief system that may not be historically considered a religion. A religion can simply be a set of beliefs a person holds to with great devotion. In other words, a worldview can be regarded as a religion. See my previous post about worldview.
Tolerance as an Intolerant Secular Religion
The cultural virtue of tolerance has become a worldview, a de facto religion, for many leftists in the United States. The idea of Tolerance is a set of beliefs that adherents hold with great devotion.
However, unlike the Founding Fathers and succeeding generations who have practiced religious tolerance, these followers of Tolerance are intolerant of competing belief systems. As religious fanatics, they fight dominate American culture with their worldview (the Kavanaugh hearings serve as a great example of this). They promote it in schools and universities and insist all government policies conform to their viewpoint.
- Followers of Tolerance view the state as the all-powerful force and expect it to solve all of society’s problems. For example, they call for laws that turn the LGBTQ population into a privileged class. Moreover, they demand that everyone honor this lifestyle, even if doing so violates the conscience or religious faith of others. Those who hold a biblical worldview on sexually must be silenced in the name of tolerance.
- Followers of Tolerance believe the rights of the individual supersede the rights of society as a whole. For instance, access to abortion must be protected at all costs. They claim any restrictions violate women’s rights. But what of the rights of the pre-born? Many recognize that society has a duty to protect its weakest members. Yet, those who believe that all life is precious must be silenced in the name of tolerance.
- Followers of Tolerance believe individuals create their own truth and meaning, and no one can claim absolute truth. Considering religion a personal matter, they insist that people should practice it only at home and in places of worship. They fail to realize that practicing the Christian faith is a lifestyle, not a personal behavior. Biblical beliefs shape everything a Christ-follower does, including when he acts as a citizen. The followers of Tolerance do the same as they demand that their belief system mold every aspect of American culture. Yet, when others say that they, too, can practice their faith in the public square, they must be silenced in the name of tolerance.
Compelled Beliefs Establish Religion
This act of compelling Americans to adhere to a particular set of beliefs, the Religion of Tolerance, establishes a secular religion. This violates the First Amendment’s religious liberty clause, where it states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” More importantly, the Religion of Tolerance seeks to prohibit the free exercise of other faiths.
As the Reformation divided Europe, a war of worldviews has split the American people. I’ll admit that each side has, at times, called the other intolerant. Still, which side demands celebration and honor from all others? Which insists that its worldview must be exclusively taught in the schools, nurtured in the universities, and required when speaking in the public square? The politically correct (PC) followers of Tolerance.
Instead of upholding the constitutional freedom of religion, which permits each person to follow his own chosen faith or no faith at all, the worldview of Tolerance demands we kneel before their ideas and give them glory. Thus, they demonstrate their intolerance of all other belief systems—in the name of tolerance.
Open Marketplace of Ideas
I’m not calling for a theocracy or Christian dominance. I want all beliefs to be given a fair hearing in the marketplace of ideas without the threat of the PC police. So often conservatives are verbally or physically attacked, doxxed, fired, or sued into submission by those who disagree with them. This is wrong—and unAmerican.
Let’s allow all sides of an issue to be discussed: pro-life vs. pro-abortion; intelligent design vs. evolutionism; capitalism vs. socialism; environmentalism vs. stewardship; and nationalism vs. globalism. Let’s teach our older students to study multiple sides of an issue and how to weigh the pros and cons of each. Let’s stop demonizing each other and instead listen and learn from one another.
More importantly, let us reason together and recognize the truth about various matters. It’s time to put childish emotionalism aside.
Let’s restore America as a safe haven for various religious and nonreligious views. To do so, we must all work to preserve our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. This can only happen if we protect our first freedom, religious liberty, and its cousin, freedom of speech. When the freedom of religion is protected, nations prosper. When religious liberty is oppressed, nations suffer.