Tolerance in Benjamin Kaplan´s Divided by Faith

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The modern definition for toleration can be summed up as: the act or practice of allowing, experiencing, and accepting thoughts, beliefs and practices different than one’s own. This modern notion of tolerance is very different from that expressed in Benjamin Kaplan’s book, Divided by Faith. Kaplan explores the idea that the practice of toleration amongst various religious sects between the time period of about 1550 and 1790 is very different from the notion that we hold today. Kaplan argues that religious tolerance (or intolerance) must be looked at with an understanding of the complex socio and political situations that existed during the age of confessionalism. Kaplan looks to shift the reader attention from looking at the Reformation from the perspective of the nobles and those who wrote the laws to the people who actually had to live and practice toleration on a daily basis (7). Kaplan divides his book into four sections: Obstacles, Arrangements, Interactions, and Changes. Within these sections Dr. Kaplan seeks to establish that tolerance was not just an intellectual concept or policy but a “form of behavior: peaceful coexistence with others…” (8). Kaplan seeks to explain why this early modern period practice of toleration succeeded in some areas during certain time periods and not in others. This paper will discuss how Kaplan was able to dive into toleration and give evidence of his hypothesis. Dr. Kaplan seeks first to establish a foundation of why religious tolerance was so difficult to obtain in the early modern era. One common sentiment amongst folks during the early modern period was that a religion was what held a community and state together. Because of this view religion and civic matters were almost entirely int... ... middle of paper ... ...ed after everything calmed down a bit, the idea of toleration was limited towards specific populations and not every part of social structure. Kaplan’s last point is that even with stark religious differences existing amongst folks within communities these same folks could manage civil lives with each other (358). If we look at Kaplan’s book as a summary of most of the events that we have discussed throughout the class this semester, it helps solidify the complexity of the reformation in early modern Europe. It fits along the lines that recent historians have argued that traditional views on toleration and the reformation are outdated and need to be more closely examined. When viewed from all angles (or at least the ones we can look at) the reformation takes on a very vast and difficult social, political, and religious situation that will be continually revisited.

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