All Can Be Saved: Religious Tolerance and Salvation in the Iberian Atlantic World

By Edwards, John | The Catholic Historical Review, January 2011 | Go to article overview

All Can Be Saved: Religious Tolerance and Salvation in the Iberian Atlantic World


Edwards, John, The Catholic Historical Review


All Can be Saved: Religious Tolerance and Salvation in the Iberian Atlantic World. By Stuart B. Schwartz. (New Haven: Yale University Press. 2008. Pp. xiii, 336. $50.00. ISBN 978-0-300-12580-1.)

Today it sometimes seems that tolerance and religion are uneasy bedfellows, if bedfellows at all. What is more, most people, whether personally involved with organized religion or not, would probably presume that the Holy Inquisition in Spain, Portugal, and their empires in the early-modern period had no room for tolerance and managed to plant that notion firmly in the heads of Catholics under their jurisdiction.These are precisely the notions that Stuart B. Schwartz attempts to subvert in this committed and scholarly study, which deploys a wide range of Inquisition material dated between the late-fifteenth and early-nineteenth centuries.The heart of the book consists of sensitive descriptions and analyses, with much quotation in English translation, of a wide range of cases in which brave individuals- mainly Spanish, Portuguese, and Native American- obstinately clung, often at great personal cost, to the idea that all people of goodwill, who led a good life, would achieve eternal salvation, whatever the religion in which they lived.The cases in question involved Christians, Jews, Muslims, adherents of African and American religions, and Goan Hindus.

Schwartz rightly bears in mind that such "universalist" ideas were by no means unknown in medieval Europe, whence the Spanish and Portuguese discoverers and colonists came, but his main material might have been seen in a more accurate perspective if the earlier evidence had been more extensively deployed. The book is more empirical than theoretical in character, and this can be frustrating at times. In particular, the much-debated questions around the validity of Inquisition evidence- always recorded by one side, in the interests of the institution concerned- are not extensively discussed here. It is indeed possible to deploy the trial documents of the Inquisition as sources of biography and social history, but the point still needs to be defended. …

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