Religious Tolerance in World Religions

Edited by Bruce Chilton Jacob Neusner (1932–2016)

Today, and historically, religions often seem to be intolerant, narrow-minded, and zealous. But the record is not so one-sided. In Religious Tolerance in World Religions, numerous scholars offer perspectives on the “what” and “why” traditions of tolerance in world religions, beginning with the pre-Christian West, Greco-Roman paganism, and ancient Israelite Monotheism and moving into modern religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. By tolerance the authors mean “the capacity to live with religious difference, and by toleration, the theory that permits a majority religion to accommodate the presence of a minority religion.”

The volume is introduced with a summary of a recent survey that sought to identify the capacity of religions to tolerate one another in theory and in practice. Eleven religious communities in seven nations were polled on questions that ranged from equality of religious practitioners to consequences of disobedience. The essays frame the provocative analysis of how a religious system in its political statement produces categories of tolerance that can be explained in that system’s logical context. Past and present beliefs, practices, and definitions of social order are examined in terms of how they support tolerance for other religious groups as a matter of public policy.

Religious Tolerance in World Religions focuses attention on the attitude “that the ’infidel’ or non-believer may be accorded an honorable position within the social order defined by Islam or Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism, and so on.” It is a timely reference for colleges and universities and for makers of public policy.


  • Responds to a recent survey conducted by Zogby International that sought to identify the capacity of religions to tolerate one another in theory and practice
  • Contains new research presented at a symposium in April 2007
  • Accessible to undergraduate and graduate students as well as public-policy makers

Preface / vii

Part 1. Questions about Religious Toleration

1. The “What” and “Why” of Religious Toleration:  Some Questions to Consider / 3
William Scott Green

Part 2. Ancient Israel

2. Tolerance in Ancient Israelite Monotheism / 15
Baruch A. Levine

Part 3. The Pre-Christian West

3. Greco-Roman Literary Expressions of Religious Tolerance / 31
Carolyn Dewald

4. Greco-Roman Paganism: The Political Foundations of Tolerance in the Greco-Roman Period / 60
Robert Berchman

5. Ritual Resources of Tolerance in Greco-Roman Religion / 99
Kevin Corrigan

Part 4. Christianity

6. Tolerance and Controversy in Classical Christianity: the Gospel according to Matthew and Justin Martyr / 133
Bruce Chilton

7. Roman Catholic Understanding of Religious Tolerance in Modern Times: The Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) / 153
William Reiser

8. The Latter-day Saint Doctrine of Salvation: Religious Exclusivity, Tolerance, and Accommodation / 174
Danny Jorgensen

Part 5. Judaism

9. Theological Foundations of Tolerance in Classical Judaism / 193
Jacob Neusner

10. Tolerance of Idols and Idol Worshippers in Early Rabbinic Law: The Case of  ishnah Tractate Avodah Zarah / 218

Alan J. Avery-Peck

Part 6. Islam

11. Sources of Tolerance and Intolerance in Islam: The Case of the People of the Book / 239
Ibrahim Kalin

12. Theologies of Difference and Ideologies of Intolerance in Islam / 274
Vincent J. Cornell

13. Theological Foundations of Religious Tolerance in Islam: A Qur’anic Perspective / 297
Ismail Acar

Part 7. Buddhism and Hinduism

14. Toward a Buddhist Policy of Tolerance: The Case of King Ashoka / 317
Kristin Scheible

15. A Policy of Intolerance: The Case of Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism / 331
Bradley S. Clough

16. Tolerance and Hierarchy: Accommodating Multiple Religious Paths in Hinduism / 360
Richard Davis

Contributors / 377

Index / 381