Description: Thomas Hobbes’s knowledge of religious doctrine, typology, and use religious rhetoric in his writings is often glossed over in an over-eager attempt to establish his preeminence as a founder of modern political theory and the social contract tradition. Such action, however is an injustice to Hobbes himself, who recognized that in order to establish a new, and arguably radical, political position founded upon reason and nominalist materialism he had to reform people’s understanding of religious revelation, and Christianity specifically. Rather than merely move to a new epistemological foundation, Hobbes was aware that the only way to ensure religion does become a phoenix was to examine and undermine the foundations of religious thought in its own terms. This reformation of religious language, critique of Christianity, and attempt to eliminate man’s belief in their obligation to God was done in order to promote a civil society in which religion was servant of the state. Through reforming religious language, Hobbes was able to demote religion as a worldview; removing man’s fear of the afterlife or obligation to obey God over a civil sovereign. Religious doctrine no longer was in competition with the civil state, but is transformed into a tool of the state, one which philosophically founds the modern arguments for religious toleration.
Date: December 2014
Creator: Higgins, Nicholas J