Montesquieu

All the peo­ples of the Orient, with excep­tion of the Mohammedans, believe all reli­gions to be indif­fe­rent in them­sel­ves. It is only as a change in govern­ment that they fear the esta­blish­ment of ano­ther reli­gion. In Japan, where there are seve­ral sects, and where the state had an eccle­sias­ti­cal head for so long, they never quar­rel over reli­gion.1 The same is true of the Siamese.2 The Kalmouks3 go far­ther : for them it is a mat­ter of cons­cience to suf­fer all sorts of reli­gions ; in Calcutta4 it is a state maxim that every reli­gion is good.

But it does not result from all this that a reli­gion impor­ted from a very dis­tant coun­try, one wholly dif­fe­rent in cli­mate, laws, ethos, and man­ners, has all the suc­cess that its holi­ness ought to pro­mise. This is espe­cially true in the great des­po­tic empi­res : at first forei­gners are tole­ra­ted, because no atten­tion is paid to any­thing that does not appear to threa­ten the prince’s autho­rity ; they are in extreme igno­rance of eve­ry­thing. A European can be wel­co­med for some know­ledge he pro­vi­des : this is very good for a start. But as soon as he has some suc­cess, as soon as some dis­pute ari­ses, as soon as the per­sons whose inte­rests may be affec­ted are aler­ted ; as this state, by its nature, insists on tran­qui­lity above all, and as the sligh­test dis­tur­bance can over­throw it, the new reli­gion and those who pro­claim it are imme­dia­tely ban­ned. With dis­pu­tes brea­king out among those who preach, they begin to turn away from a reli­gion about which even those who pro­pose it are not in agree­ment.

See Kaempfer.

Memoirs of the Count de Forbin.

Histoire généalogique des Tatares, part 5.

Voyage de François Pyrard, ch. xxvii.