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Religious Tolerance logo



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The Bible contains many religiously intolerant statements and describes many religiously intolerant actions. Most of the genocides mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) were motivated by intolerance of neighboring tribes' religious beliefs. Some biblical passages call for the execution of people of other faiths during peacetime. Some applicable passages from the King James Version of the Bible are listed below:

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Passages from the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament)

bulletLeviticus 17:7-9: "And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils...Whatsoever man...that offereth a burnt offering or sacrifice, And bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer it unto the LORD; even that man shall be cut off from among his people." This rule also applied to foreigner visitors in their land; they were allowed no religious freedom.
bulletNumbers 1:51: "...when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death." A non-Israelite who comes too close to the Jewish temple is to be executed. 
bulletNumbers 3:10: "...they shall wait on their priest's office, and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death." As above. 
bulletNumbers 18:7: "...the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death." As above.
bulletNumbers 17:13: "...whosoever cometh any think near onto the tabernacle of the Lord shall die." As above.
bulletDeuteronomy 17:2-5: "If there be found among you...[a] man or woman...[who] hath gone and served other gods and worshipped them...then shalt though bring forth that man or that woman...and shalt stone them with stones, till they die." This is a statement of total religious intolerance, calling on the death penalty for holding different religious beliefs.
bulletDeuteronomy 32:16-20: "They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not."
bulletPsalms 106:35-38: "But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works. And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils..." Gods and Goddesses of other societies were regarded as devils.

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Passages from the Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. New Testament)

bulletActs 10:34-35: "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." This passage is ambiguous. It can be interpreted in at least two ways:
bulletThe World Council of Churches' interreligious relations & dialog group interpret s this passage as implying God's tolerance of other religions.  They write: "Interest in a Christian approach to people of other faiths can already be seen in the New Testament. In the book of Acts, Peter, responding to the realities of a multi-faith context, says to the gentile Cornelius, 'I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.' " 1 They appear to infer that people in "every nation" who worship their God and perform good deeds are acceptable to Yahweh. This would include Hindus praying to Krishna, Muslims to Allah, Zoroastrians to Ahura Mazda, etc.
bulletThis passage could also be interpreted in an exclusive manner. Both references to "him" would then refer exclusively to Yahweh. A person would have to fear Yahweh before he was acceptable to Yahweh. Thus, God would accept only those who specifically worship him, irrespective of where they live or what their skin color is, etc.  Then, individuals who worshiped other deities would be rejected by Yahweh.
bullet1 Corinthians 10:20-21: "But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils." Again, the Gods of the Gentile Pagan religions were perceived as devils.
bullet2 Corinthians 6:14-17: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers [in Christ]: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial [Baal]? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel...Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you." The author associates non-Christians to unbelief, unrighteousness, darkness, the worship of Baal and uncleanliness. He calls on Christians to separate themselves from persons of other religions.
bullet1 Timothy 4:1: "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils..." Beliefs of other religions are described as coming from evil spirits and devils.
bulletRevelation 9:20-21: "And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk." This is a reference of an end-of-the-world scenario in which non-Christians did not abandon their worship of other gods - here defined as devils and statutes of deities.

Jesus appears to have rejected many of the prohibitions against other religions found in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Examples are:

bulletMatthew 15:26-28: A Gentile woman from Canaan asked Jesus to heal her daughter who she believed was severely demon-possessed. The state of medical science in1st century Palestine was primitive. Jesus and others believed that mental illness was caused by demon possession. At first he described his teaching as bread and referred to the woman by a racist term: a dog. She responded with a joke, and Jesus healed her child. Here Jesus initially rejects a woman of another faith, and later accepts her as a fellow human being.
bulletJohn 4:7-12: Jesus visited Sychar in Samaria and stopped at the well built by Jacob. He asked a Samaritan woman for some water to drink. She is surprised for two reasons: why a Jewish male would talk to a Samaritan, and why he would talk to a woman. Jewish males at the time would not speak to women in public, and avoided interacting with Samaritans because they were considered impure. Their faith was only partially based upon Judaism.

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  1. "What do we do?," World Council of Churches, at: http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/

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Copyright © 1997 to 1999 incl., and 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2002-JUL-4
Author: B.A. Robinson

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