A Letter Concerning Toleration by John Locke (Awnsham Churchill, 1689)
John Locke is often cited as a profound influence on the American Constitution, and this letter provides a perfect illustration. In it one can see the basic rationale which led to religious liberty being enshrined in the First Amendment.
Locke addresses the problem of religious tolerance mechanically, approaching and considering every component. He explains how he reaches a given conclusion, then moves on to the next aspect of the overall issue. As appropriate, he folds in conclusions reached in previous arguments to build a ladder of reason, at the top of which he finds a concrete rationale for widespread religious tolerance.
At no point during his explanation does he indicate his own religious beliefs are wrong or inferior; if anything, he makes clear that he believes his are the correct views but he refuses to let his opinion supplant his experience and his reason.
Locke’s words should be studied today both by the devout and the irreligious, for both groups could gain by embracing his ultimate conclusion. Perhaps more importantly, it might lead them to read some of his other works as well, and regain a sense of why our country was organized as it was.
If you haven’t read his work within the last decade or two, I strongly urge you to do so. An example of this work, long since entered into the public domain, can be found here.
The Amulet book 1: The Stonekeeper by Kasu Kibuishi (Scholastic, 2008)
This is the first book of a nine-volume series. It’s amazingly popular among middle-school children, and it’s… not complete yet. The first eight books have been released at a rate of one every two years, and the final book has an expected release date of late 2021.
The methodical pace of the author has resulted in a work which is complex and thought-provoking, broaching topics of concern to young teenagers within the guise of a fantasy world. Issues, even when they form the core of a story arc, are addressed in ways which encourage the reader to think about deeper ramifications. The series deserves the accolades and awards which have been heaped upon it.
Book one starts with a family tragedy, a car accident which leads to the protagonist’s father guiding his daughter and wife to safety even as he faces his imminent demise. The author/artist has an excellent sense of timing and uses minimal dialogue during fast-paced scenes, providing a sense of action where appropriate in the series.
The first two books should be purchased together, as they constitute a complete story arc. The remaining books are single storylines, each further developing the main character and her brother.
It’s appropriate for anyone in their early teens and will be appreciated by late teens and adults. Younger children may be disturbed by some of the death, violence and betrayals which pepper the story.