Quoted from the author's "Foreword:"
"In the year 1779, when Germany had recovered from the appalling devastation which the struggle of Catholic and Protestant in the Thirty Years War had brought upon it, one of its most learned scholars, Lessing, wrote a book, "Nathan the Wise," in which he gently rebuked religious bitterness. It was in the form of a dialogue between a Catholic, Protestant,
and a Jew. Lessing had taken. the idea from one of Boccaccio's stories, "The Three Rings." In this the famous and genial story-teller had turned aside from dalliance and naughty adventures and had given his distracted world the finest moral counsel that any wicked man had ever yet given it. From his superior position of a mere sensualist he had urged these Arabs, Jews, and Christians, who took the Fatherhood of God so seriously that they cut each others' throats over differences in the conception, to see that life would be much sweeter for everybody if they concentrated rather on the Brotherhood of Man. The idea was not new. It had occurred to many, both Arabs and Jews, in the brilliant and skeptical Arab-Persian Empire which a few centuries earlier had spanned the earth from Portugal to Baluchistan."
"We seem, amongst other strange things, to be back in the intolerant medieval bitterness, and I propose to renew these old counsels and enforce them with the larger knowledge of our age. I have, alas, neither the graceful irony of Boccaccio nor the solid learning of Lessing, but I may claim one virtue for such a task. It is a peculiar feature of writings of this kind that the less seriously the author takes the religion which he represents the more seriously and effectively he tries to promote human welfare and peace. Boccaccio was a Humanist, Lessing a Deist. I have the advantage that I do not care about these three historic religions or any kind of religion, and this may enable me to see more clearly the greater human truth to which they must all submit."