Religious intolerance in the Bible
The word "intolerance" does not appear in any of the 18 English
translations of the Bible that we checked. But every translation
contains many passages that describe great intolerance without using the word. There are far fewer biblical
passages that describe or advocate religious tolerance.
Two themes found throughout the Bible is religious exclusivity and
||In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) God is recorded as
punishing ancient Israelite individuals and members of other tribes for following the wrong religion,
or deviating from "proper" religious practices. In some cases, the
viewed as having no right to continue living. In the book of Joshua and
elsewhere, God instructed the ancient Israelites to commit what would
be termed genocides and "mass crimes against humanity" in
today's world. The victims were newborn, infant, child, youth, and
adult Canaanites and other nearby tribes who followed Pagan
religions. 1 Samuel contains accounts of genocides perpetrated by David and
||In the Christian Scriptures, (New Testament) particularly in the
Gospel of John, "the Jews" are vilified and called
the sons of Satan. Until recent decades, many Christian
denominations held that Jews of the first century CE
and their descendents down to the present day were held equally
responsible for Jesus' execution. 1 This laid the groundwork for
millennia of Christian persecution of Jews and set the stage for
the Nazi Holocaust of the mid 20th century.
||Religious exclusivity is also found elsewhere in the Gospel of John, and
in some Epistles which claim
to have been written by Peter and Paul. A frequent message is that the
followers of other religions hold invalid beliefs
which were wrong, deluded, immoral, and/or heretical.
These authors also condemned fellow Christians who followed different
sects within the primitive Christian movement -- notably the Jewish
Christian and Gnostic Christian movements.
This section does not include a complete list of passages containing religious intolerance in
the Bible. It is intended to give a general impression of the degree and types of hatred
found there. They are arranged in the same order as they are found in the books of the
Bible. The King James Version (KJV) is used as the preferred translation, for
About the instances of intolerance ordered by God:
Some of the acts of intolerance cited in this section were actually
ordered by God. Among the most serious were the
genocides in which God instructed that every Canaanite newborn, infant,
child, youth, and adult be slaughtered by the Hebrews without mercy.
Consider two passages from Deuteronomy:
||"When the Lord your God brings you into the land
you are entering to possess and drives out before you may nations...then
you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them and show them no
mercy." Deuteronomy 7:1-2, NIV. 1
||"...do not leave alive anything that breaths.
Completely destroy them...as the Lord your God has commanded you..."
Deuteronomy 20:16, NIV. 1
In this section, we do not address the topic of whether God's ordering of the
genocides and other intolerant acts was moral. They certainly would have been
considered the most serious crimes against humanity if they were ordered by
humans in modern times. But many Christians would argue that since God
created the human race, the Earth, and the rest of the universe, he has the
right to exterminate or order the slaughter of any person or group of
humans at any time for any reason. In this section, we merely report the acts as instances of
intolerance, without delving into whether the acts were justified or moral.
Religious intolerance topics included in this section:
Related essays on this web site:
J.D. Crossan, "Who Killed Jesus: Exposing the roots of Anti-Semitism in the
Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus," Harper Collins, (1995) Order from
K.C. Davis, "Don't Know Much about the Bible," Eagle Brook, New York,
NY (1998) Pages 152, 153. Order from
Copyright © 1998 to 2012 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2012-JAN-29
Author: B.A. Robinson