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Locke maintained that each of us has the power to decide which religious community to join, if any. He also maintained that no religious community has doctrinal jurisdiction over any other, and maintained that those communities and their members should tolerate the existence of diverse communities with diverse doctrines. Finally, he believed that no individual should be subject to civil prejudice or penalty due to his or her religious convictions and that religious authorities should have no special civil powers or authorities.
Locke also believed that governments do not have — and cannot be given by the consent of the people — the right to force its members to hold specific religious beliefs or to engage in specific religious behaviors.
Please discuss Locke’s conception of religious toleration and the separation of church and state in an essay that answers the following questions:
- Do you find Locke’s expansive vision of toleration useful and ethical? Why or why not?
- Do you believe that there are ever cases where it is acceptable for a society to decide not to tolerate religious communities whose beliefs or practices seem ‘too extreme’ to be tolerated. If so, what considerations or principles can help one to determine exactly which religious communities should be treated as intolerable?
- Do you believe that it is ever acceptable for individuals’ religious beliefs to affect the administration of law? Why or why not?
Please ensure that your essay addresses each component of the assigned questions and that your answer is well-organized, uses excellent, college-level prose, and makes judicious use of textual evidence. Your essay should be 600-900 words long.