Religious Tolerance, Freedom of Conscience, Freedom of Religion and Belief in the period of Establishment of Christianity


  • Mykhailo Babii UARR



early Christianity, religious freedom, Milan edict, Tertullian, Constantine, state religion, freedom of the church


The author examines the process of establishment of Christian understanding of freedom of conscience and freedom of religion and tolerance. In doing so, he draws on the achievements of the Greek and Greek-Roman traditions of interpreting freedom of conscience. The time of late antiquity accounts for the time of organizational establishment and strengthening of the new religion - Christianity. Describing this period, the author notes the presence of a variety of cults and sects in which foreign gods (in particular, Egyptian and Iranian) were worshiped. In this situation, individuals were free to choose their faith and satisfy their personal need for spiritual connection with God or gods. Against the background of the fall of the authority of ancient religions, the emergence and strengthening of the Emperor cult Christians seek recognition by the authorities, the equation of rights. After all, Christianity becomes a state religion. At this time, a new religious paradigm was emerging that could be a factor in the multi-ethnic, multi-tribal, or multilingual unity of the Roman Empire. The tendency of growing interest in monotheistic, in particular Jewish, religion became noticeable: the idea of one and all-pervading God was opposed to ancient polytheism.

The article reveals the peculiarities of the Christian understanding of freedom, which underlies the inner personal spiritual freedom bestowed by God. Christianity the first formulated the idea of freedom of religious conscience as freedom to choose religion. In addition to the individual dimension of freedom of conscience, Christianity has actualized the community's right to freedom of religion, freedom of outside religion, and worship. At the same time, it theoretically substantiated these rights and practically required its observance by the authorities.

The legitimacy of the affirmation of the principle of freedom of religious conscience is the Milan edict of 313, which opened the union of the Christian church and the state, as well as the constitutionalization of the Christian church as a state church. This provoked persecution on religious grounds and the struggle of different movements, both within Christianity and beyond, for the right to freedom of religion, the free expression of their religious beliefs.

Christianity significantly influenced the evolution of ideas about freedom of conscience, becoming the semantic nucleus of its modern understanding. However, early Christianity proved to be a force that, in the struggle for its claim, was repeatedly harassed, but also resorted to persecution of dissenters, showing intolerance to other worldviews and religions.


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