What Is Religious Intolerance?

Luther W. Martin

Many of us are guilty of using words incorrectly or applying improper meanings to many otherwise acceptable words. Perhaps one of the most misapplied groups of words are those included in the family of "tolerance". Let us consider briefly, the actual meaning of "toleration."


"Specifically, the recognition of the right of private judgment in matters of faith and worship; also, the liberty granted by the governing power of a state to every individual to hold or publicly teach and defend his religious opinions, and to worship whom, how, and when he pleases, provided that he does not hereby violate the rights of others or infringe laws designed for the protection of decency, morality and good order."

President Elliot of Harvard University once stated: "Toleration in religion is absolutely the best fruit of all the struggles, labors, and sorrows of the civilized nations during the last four centuries."

Therefore, from the foregoing definitions of the word 'toleration' it is clearly indicated that in our free nation, we must be willing to permit, let, or allow, any and all religious groups the right and privilege of publicly and privately, teaching and defending their particular belief or shade of doctrine. May we hasten to stress, however, that no one is being INTOLERANT when they by word of mouth or by writing, oppose some given political or religious doctrine or practice. INTOLERANCE begins when the opposers are not willing to limit their opposition to the written or spoken words, but when they begin to inculcate physical force into their opposition to some teaching or practice.

For Example

INTOLERANCE was demonstrated by the Roman Catholic Inquisition, the Crusades as carried on by that same organization, and by such instances as the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in France, when the French Huguenots were slaughtered by the thousands.

Therefore, let us remember that any religious group has the civil right, under the American Government, to uphold, defend verbally, and teach its peculiar doctrines, so long as those doctrines do not infringe upon nor violate the rights of others nor infringe laws designed to protect the decency, morality and good order of society.

Disagreement Is Not Intolerance

Many Roman Catholics, Protestants and other non-Catholics (The writer is neither a Catholic nor Protestant. L.W.M.) hurl the charge of 'intolerance' merely and simply because someone verbally disagrees with them. This, of course, is a completely false accusation and possibly comes more frequently from timid souls whose feelings are worn upon their sleeves. In our wonderful United States of America we have and should enjoy the precious privilege of thinking for ourselves and of being free to express our own views. The Republican can disagree with the Democrat and the State of Florida can disagree with the State of California concerning the virtues of their respective citrus products, and the Catholic religion can be opposed verbally by non-Catholics, and the Catholics are free to oppose Protestantism, etc. All of this can be and is done without its being INTOLERANT! Intolerance only comes when physical force is used in the prosecution of the project . . . When one group attempts to secure the support of the Government in order to achieve goals . . . . so that to resist that group, one is placed in the position of resisting existing government. This is where intolerance begins.

Some Examples of Strict Religious Teachings . . . That are NOT Intolerant . . .

So Long As Men Are Left Free to Make Their Choice

"There can be no salvation f or those who, through their own fault, are out of the Church of Christ, the Holy Roman Catholic Church." (Page 390, Mission Book of the Redemptorist Fathers.)

"The Roman Catholic Church alone has from Christ the commission to preach the Gospel and teach all nations." (Page 382, Ibid.)

"But, nowhere, except in the Roman Catholic Church, are there any real saints." (Page 381, Ibid.)

"The Roman Catholic priest alone can show his mission from God himself." (Page 383.)

"The Catholic Church is infallible and cannot teach error." (Page 389, Ibid.)

"If anyone says that in the Roman Church, which is the mother and mistress of all churches, there is not the true doctrine concerning the sacrament of baptism. let him be anathema." (Canon 3, Seventh Session, Council of Trent.)

"If anyone says that the rite and usage of extreme unction which the holy Roman Church observes is at variance with the statement of the blessed Apostle James, and is therefore to be changed and may without sin be despised by Christians, let him be anathema." (Canon, Fourteenth Session Council of Trent.)

"(The Holy Roman Church) firmly believes, professes and teaches that none of those who are not within the Catholic Church, not only Pagans, but Jews, heretics and schismatics, can ever be partakers of eternal life but are to go into the eternal fire 'prepared for the devil, and his angels' (Matt. xxv, 41), unless before the close of their lives they shall have entered into that Church; . . ." (Page '07, Gasparri's Catholic Catechism.)

"With our hearts we believe and with our lips we confess but one Church, not that of the heretics, but the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic, outside which we believe that none can be saved." (Page '08, Ibid.)

"For we have to hold of faith that no one can be saved outside the Apostolic Roman Church, that she is the one Ark of Salvation, that whoso does not enter her will perish in the flood. " (Page 308, Ibid.)

"No man can find salvation save in the Catholic Church. Outside the Catholic Church he can find everything save salvation. He can have dignities, he can have the Sacraments, can sing 'Allelulia,' answer 'Amen,' accept the Gospels, have faith in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, and preach it too, but never save in the Catholic Church can he find salvation." (Page 310, Ibid.)


From the foregoing excerpts from Roman Catholics, it can be readily determined that much of their teaching is diametrically opposed to the views of others. Nevertheless, they have the right to teach what they consider to be the truth, even though it is false. Merely because they proclaim falsehood does Do constitute intolerance. It is only when she begins to FORCE her teaching upon those who do not believe her doctrines. that INTOLERANCE occurs. Nor are we intolerant, when we oppose her by counter-teaching. Let God be true, and every man a liar!

Truth Magazine I:4, pp. 8-9
January, 1957