Would you believe that one of the most cruel and barbaric rulers and conquerors of all time created an empire in which religious tolerance had its beginning? This was Genghis Khan, who came to power in the 13th century in present day Mongolia. In this heavily researched new volume, the scholar, Jack Weatherford, who also published GENGHIS KHAN AND THE MAKING OF THE MODERN WORLD, shows the reader that our Founding Fathers were directly influenced by the ideas and policies of Temujin (Genghis Khan’s first name)in their writing of our First Amendment.
In thirteenth century Eurasia, religions were at the height of their power and influence. Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Taoism were flourishing in their respective geographic locations. As Ghenghis Khan conquered and consolidated lands to the east and the west, he faced interreligious conflict and violence as the major problem. He himself believed in a God or a spirit, in an all-powerful control of human lives, but balked when it came to institutional faith. To him all that religious establishments did was to drive walls between peoples. So he decreed that in his conquered lands, from Hungary in the west to Korea in the east, all could practice their religions freely but could not interfere with each other or force allegiance on outsiders. His own life, with a harsh childhood and conflict and poverty ridden young manhood, forced him to come to terms with human nature as he fought “the most extensive war in world history” (Simon Winchester, New York Times Book Review.) The separation of church and state was, to him, the only way to stop constant instability and fighting.
In the last years of his life, Genghis Khan created a kind of philosophical and religious salon in his camp, where he called on religious and secular thinkers alike to visit him and engage in discussion about humanity, society, and the world beyond. Little did he know that almost ten centuries later, a new nation would find his “secular civility” the basis for a new government in a new country.
A BIG BOOK, BUT ENGAGING AND ACCESSIBLE TO THE READER. Lydia Peale