May 30, ] About the Authors Alan S. Kahan received his Ph. He is the author of Aristocratic Liberalism: He is currently working on a long-term project, "The Three Pillars of Liberalism:
David Little Though gradual and subject to numerous influences, the undoing of the idea of papal authority in Western Christianity marked the end of the Medieval era and the beginning of the Early Modern period.
At this point, West and East completely parted company, and the West, under the impact of the Protestant Reformation, pursued a radically distinctive path with portentous implications for the development of religious freedom. Renaissance humanism, a force to contend with in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, was an important part of the background.
Its emphasis on both new and ancient languages, as well as the recovery of classical and early Christian sources, produced a serious challenge to the Roman Catholic concept of Christendom and introduced a spirit of fresh inquiry and independent thought.
At the same time, humanists were not reformers. Some were indifferent to social affairs, while others favored existing patterns of status or supported the growing trend toward political absolutism.
The Protestant reformers, especially Anabaptists and Calvinists, would make a significant contribution to the growth of religious freedom. Free church Anabaptists, like the Swiss Brethren and the Mennonites, opposed all coercion in matters of religion, implying a radical separation of church and state.
They were mercilessly persecuted but their views had influence, particularly in seventeenth century Holland and England. Neither Luther nor Calvin went nearly as far as the Anabaptists. The two reformers believed that uniform religion helped secure civic order, and therefore they supported severe limits on the freedom of conscience.
Ordinary people should throw off old beliefs and take up new ones. Once familiar religious beliefs were successfully challenged, it was not difficult for others to emerge.
That was even truer of Calvin. Legally educated, he embraced and enlarged upon Conciliarist themes, particularly constitutional reform of church and state, with a special place for natural rights, including the freedom of conscience.
Christian liberty was not just the right to believe without interference, as with Luther, but also the right so to organize. Christians must be permitted to restructure churches and in some cases states in accord with the separation of powers, the importance of popular participation, and the independence of church from state control.
As it spread throughout northern Europe, Great Britain, and colonial New England, Calvinism modeled exquisitely the ambivalence toward religious freedom characteristic of Christianity from its origins.
However, he was ardently opposed by a majority of fellow colonists who, equally convinced of their Calvinist pedigree, favored stringent limitations on religious belief and practice.
Still, these agreements assured that newly emerging nation-states, having each adopted an official faith—Catholic, Lutheran, or later Calvinist—would be under great pressure to tolerate the others both internationally and domestically.
Sixteenth century Catholics like Francisco di Vittoria, Francisco Suarez, and Bartholomew de las Casas also made an important contribution to emerging concepts of religious freedom. Basing their views on the universal protection of political, territorial, and religious freedom dictated, as they saw it, by the natural law, they condemned the European invasions of Central and Latin America, and the coercive policies of European monarchs, for violating these basic freedoms of the native populations.
Discover similar content through these related topics and regions.In my last essay, I argued that the Supreme Court’s determination to treat religion as a purely personal expression denies our true nature, undermines religious community, and leaves us open to forms of ersatz community (and religion) dangerous to republican self-government.I will address the destructive capacity of courts’ anti-religious atomism to our common law in my third and final essay.
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Christianity and Religious Freedom in the Early Modern Period ( – ) Author: David Little Though gradual and subject to numerous influences, the undoing of the idea of papal authority in Western Christianity marked the end of the Medieval era and the beginning of the Early Modern period.