The idea of tolerance and freedom of religion is, in essence, a Christian idea.
The modern world will deny this, of course. They will claim it is a humanistic idea, but as you read the ideas at the root of the formation of America, the right to choose what you believe is rooted in the idea of a Creator. While many of those men were Deists and not your modern conservative evangelicals, they considered the idea of a Creator and rights endowed by him as “self-evident.” That means we all know this, intrinsically, to be true.
Modern day humanism, in contrast, seeks the benefits of a Creator without acknowledging his existence.
At its core, Christianity is about love. Not modern misconceptions about love, but the Person who is love. In order for eternal life to be based and rooted in love, there must be choice. There is a Kingdom, and while the ideas of authority and power have connotations for us, even negatively, our participation in the Kingdom must be voluntary.
Now, I understand that there are theological ideas that differ on free will and predestination and all those things, but no matter what you believe about how involved God is in drawing those with his revelation and love, it is to some degree God’s initiation and our voluntary submission. Therefore, to try to force someone to believe is foolishness.
Not that some “Christians” don’t try or haven’t through history. As we can imagine, despite assumed good intentions, those attempts to force belief do only harm. It is not the design.
In order to be a voluntary decision, Christianity is then steeped in revelation, reason, logic, faith, and evidence. Most of the major educational centers in our nation were begun by Christians who sought knowledge of God through learning about his creation in genuine intellectual pursuit. Ironic that now those same places will teach how ignorant and anti-intellectual Christianity is out of a humanistic/atheistic perspective.
Also, since we must choose to submit and cannot be forced, Christians must love others and be tolerant of their beliefs. In fact, I find it interesting when a non-Christian (usually an atheist or humanist/socialist) questions whether or not tolerance can exist within a Christian context.
Now there are different ideas of tolerance. If the idea of tolerance is, “Only a modern liberal progressive viewpoint is acceptable and everyone else is intolerant,” then I can’t subscribe to that, for hopefully obvious logical and intellectual reasons.
If a person is genuinely concerned with whether or not one can believe what they choose, then a Christian context is the best, if not only, context in which that can be true. A Christian may express his or her beliefs, but because of the necessity of choice, we cannot expect another to believe what we do. On the contrary, we expect that others do not.
Again, I do not want to deny that some, or even many, Christians have not adhered to this standard when given authority. Many throughout history have, however, and do today.
But the rise of humanism/atheism in our schools and government has only proven more hostile, closed minded, ignorant, intolerant, and violent than any crimes they accuse Christians of, valid or not. It will only continue to prove so.
Because the atheist/humanist rejects a portion of the Christian idea of purity and morality. While it wants some of those benefits from the Creator, we cannot pick and choose with God. And ultimately, when we reject his wisdom and design, then even the wisdom and design of religious rights and tolerance and the ability to choose what one believes goes out the window with the rest, as does real love. Simply ask communists.
For those of us in the Kingdom, it is important to remember that the Kingdom threatens the powers of this world. “They will hate you. They hated me first,” Jesus says. We must expect such rejection and oppression when following God. We must also remember we cannot force anyone to believe. It is against the love of God to do so. All we can do is reason with people, “Please, be reconciled to God.” And let them know it is their choice.
And with all decisions, there are rewards and consequences. That is why we plead and reason with others.