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John Coffey on Religious Toleration

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
This episode originally was published on September 12, 2019, and reposted here on May 7, 2024.

Self in Society Podcast #7
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Historian John Coffey discusses his book, Persecution and Toleration in Protestant England 1558–1689, and its lessons for today. Coffey reviews the establishment of the Anglican church and the tensions between that church and both the Catholics and the Puritans, tensions that often erupted into state-sponsored violence. Coffee also discusses the theological and political disputes over toleration in this era.

Time Markers
00 Introduction
1:37 How the Christian Church became persecutorial
4:00 Augustine on persecution
6:50 Why executions of heretics were rare for hundreds of years but then became widespread
9:50 Intellectual and moral development as both progressive and regressive
10:50 The impact of John Wycliffe
12:30 The establishment of an English church
16:50 The tension of the established church with Catholics and Puritans
21:28 Tolerationists could see examples both of religious violence and of religious coexistence
26:51 The pro-toleration radical Puritans of the 1640s 31:03 John Milton's Areopagitica of 1644
33:29 Samuel Rutherford's 1649 case against toleration
35:06 Popular views on uniformity, heresy, and toleration
39:02 What persecution looked like in this era
44:34 Locke's "Letter Concerning Toleration" and its context
48:52 Locke on Catholics and atheists
52:00 American anti-Catholicism
53:38 Demonization of Muslims after 9/11 compared with anti-Catholicism
56:30 Toleration and persecution in the American colonies
1:00:57 Whigs versus revisionists on this era of history
1:07:00 Modern oppression of Muslim minorities in China, Myanmar, and elsewhere, and the lessons of history
1:11:09 Today's rise of xenophobia and intolerance; "we shouldn't take toleration for granted"
1:14:26 Wrap-up about toleration
1:15:40 Synopsis of Exodus and Liberation
1:17:42 Calvin and his influence
1:20:45 Wrap-up and Coffey's work on William Wilberforce's diaries

See Coffey’s University of Leicester page and page.

The works that Coffey recommends on the American toleration debates include those of John Ragosta (Wellspring of Liberty: How Virginia's Religious Dissenters Helped Win the American Revolution and Secured Religious Liberty) and Chris Beneke (Beyond Toleration: The Religious Origins of American Pluralism).

A recent article discusses Locke's early document on Catholic toleration (via Jon Hersey).

Jason Bivins has a lecture, "Anti-Catholicism in Europe and America."

See also my podcast episode, "Lawrence Goldstone on the Death and Legacy of Michael Servetus."

Those looking for a refresher on the significant dates surrounding Oliver Cromwell might check out Monty Python.

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