The A-Z of Believing: T is for Tolerance

Ed Kessler, head of the Woolf Institute, presents the 20th part in a series on belief and scepticism

Saturday 29 December 2018 15:35 GMT

T is for... Tolerance

The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman World were considered by the people as equally true, by the philosophers equally false and by the magistrate as equally useful. And thus toleration produced not only mutual indulgence but even religious concord. – Edward Gibbon

You and I may view toleration and the granting of civil equality to all, irrespective of their religious convictions, as the bedrock of a free society. But we should remember they have come slowly, haltingly, and disturbingly recently to our world. Yet, in 27 BCE, Marcus Agrippa designed the Roman Pantheon as a home for all gods. But when it was dedicated in 609 CE as the Church of the Santa Maria Rotonda, the gods were driven out, replaced by the One God. It seems that pagan tolerance was swept away by monotheistic intolerance of “other gods”.

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