Guy Stroumsa has identified a paradigm shift that led to the modern pluralistic notion of religion. This chapter shows how, in the Dutch Republic, this shift emerged out of a general and long-lasting conversation on tolerance and diversity conducted by philosophers and theologians. Although well before 1700 the orthodox had also accepted the existing practices of tolerance, Reformed authors of all stripes regarded it as an—inevitable and deplorable—evil, because they all held that true religion should be based on correct theology. Consequently they recognized only one true religion: that is, their own. Over the course of the seventeenth century the knowledge of God necessary for true religion radically changed character. Instead of an extensive and logically coherent edifice of scholastic theology, the dictates of one’s conscience became the rule of faith. For radical thinkers the Bible became irrelevant, at least to the possession of divine knowledge. However, even these radical philosophers remained within the traditional paradigm in which there was one true religion among many forms of idolatry. Only after 1700 did the new religious paradigm develop in two traditions. The tolerance debate caused some influential scholars of natural law and philosophers to underline the individual character of all religions. Other scholars focused on the universal character of religion arising from human nature, which made the differences among existing religions insignificant.

Erasmus School of Philosophy

Krop, H.A. (2019). Fron Reliugion in the Singular to Religions in the plural. 1700 a Faultline in the Conceptual History of Religion. In Enlightened Religion. doi:10.1163/9789004389397_003