The dangers of religious intolerance

Steno Sari

by Steno Sari — Under certain circumstances, being intolerant is not so out of place. Murder, theft, rape, child abuse and kidnapping are all considered intolerable in most societies, and with reason. However, in the course of the centuries in Christianity, deplorable forms of intolerance towards heretics and schismatics have been justified: real persecutions in no way justifiable.

History teaches us that the Churches have used the secular arm in Europe to vent their intolerance towards Jews and Muslims, Cathars and Albigensians, heretics and European Protestants. However, the Catholic Church did not have the monopoly of religious intolerance; even the Protestants did their part. Calvin sent Michael Servet to the stake and Luther became sadly known for his anti-Semitism and more: he burned four "witches" in Wìttenberg.

Sure the churches have learned from their mistakes, but perhaps not entirely. It is of these days the heartfelt appeal to President Putin and to his administration, made by 50 scholars of religions among the best known in the world, to put an end to the relentless persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses who are arrested and tortured in Russia and sentenced to prison terms.

In the words of Massimo Introvigne, one of the most authoritative sociologists of religions at international level, it seems that their worship activities are punished "because of their growth which is unwelcome to the powerful Russian Orthodox Church".


Every religious denomination, considering itself the exclusive bearer of salvation, can in fact assume a very firm attitude towards those who considers wrong, but this in no way justifies turning to secular power to oppose and eliminate those who think differently.

When religions add the instrumental use of political power to their beliefs, they become intolerant in the most vulgar and deplorable sense of the term. Moreover, the State, due to its secularism, should not enter into the merits of religious doctrines and discriminate against a group for its cultural diversity.

As for Jehovah's Witnesses, whether they are liked or not, considerede nice or not, their point of view must be respected. Regardless of the doctrinal gap, the majority agree that they are certainly not supporters of dangerous ideas. Paolo Piccioli wrote: "Jehovah's Witnesses are what they believe and do, and not what the prejudiced opponents say about them. The label of ‘cult’ stuck behind them has the same value as the prejudice of those who define them as such, having no other means than defamation, as happened for the first Christians, called the ‘cult of the Nazarenes' by religious leaders "(The price of diversity, published bu Jovene, p. 602).

It is not surprising that in Russia a real persecution has been unleashed against some poorly tolerated minorities. It is a repeating story. Too often the dominant religions have spread unfounded and discriminatory rumors against those who think differently.

Article appeared on Libero on October 4, 2020 and republished with the authorization of the author