This essay examines two ideas central to the liberal tradition and commonly associated in American political thought: social contract theory and religious toleration. Through the examination of four important cases - the religious establishments in early Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and the thought of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke - I suggest that historically and conceptually these two ideas have little to do with each other and may be fundamentally at odds. By comparing debates over toleration in these four contexts, I seek to illuminate the tension and promise of building legitimate political authority while addressing religious diversity. In doing so, I highlight this uneasy historical relationship between contractarianism and toleration.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science