John Locke is considered to be one of the most influential thinkers of the Enlightenment, and his writings had a marked influence on some of the most important persons and events of that period. Unsurprisingly, therefore, parts of his works are often ‘cherry-picked’ to ‘prove’ some point or other; and I have frequently had his robust defence for toleration thrown at me by Xtians when I have tried to resist their unwelcome encroachments by ‘people of faith’ into my life.
So, let’s examine briefly Locke’s so-called defence of toleration that these soi-disant Xtians frequently bleat on about.
In his “Letter Concerning Toleration”, written in 1689, Locke commenced thus:
“I must needs answer you freely that I esteem that toleration to be the chief characteristic mark of the true Church…if [a Xtian] be destitute of charity, meekness, and good-will in general towards all mankind, even to those that are not Christians, he is certainly yet short of being a true Christian himself.”
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.
So, there you have it. Not only are Xtians exhorted to be intolerant towards atheists, but atheists are specifically excluded from being able to remonstrate about the intolerance of Xtians towards them.