An early plea for religious toleration

Who would wish to be a Christian, when he saw that those who confessed the name of Christ were destroyed by Christians themselves with fire, water, and the sword without mercy and more cruelly treated than brigands and murderers? Who would not think Christ a Moloch, or some such god, if he wished that men should be immolated to him and burned alive? Who would wish to serve Christ on condition that difference of opinion on a controversial point with those in authority should be punished by burning alive at the command of Christ himself more cruelly than in the bull of Phalaris, even though from the midst of the flames he should call with a loud voice upon Christ, and should cry out that he believed in Him? Imagine Christ, the judge of all, present. Imagine Him pronouncing the sentence and applying the torch. Who would not hold Christ for Satan? What more could Satan do than burn those who call upon the name of Christ?

Sebastian Castellio, On Heretics (1554), quoted in, The Radical Reformation, G.H. Williams, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1962, p.629

Castellio complained with other anabaptists against the use of the State to persecute heretics.


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