Bryan Wilson, Ph.D.
Published by The Institute for the Study
of American Religion
Although toleration is today not infrequently preached by Christian authorities, it is important to recall that the tradition of Christianity is one of intolerance. Unlike most contemporary religions, Christianity was, from Pauline times, an exclusivistic religion, forbidding its votaries to worship other gods or engage in alien practices. It was also a universalistic religion, proclaiming that it was the only true religion for all mankind. Whereas Judaism was also exclusivist, it was not universalist -- it was not a religious choice normally available to those who were not ethnic Jews. Christianity, in contrast, taught that it was the only valid religion for anyone at all. It was a voluntaristic religion which men were free to choose, and should choose. Thus, Christianity was also a proselytizing religion, seeking to persuade people that all other religions were evil, and condemning them as such.