Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Mar/13

4

Old Tom Hobbes

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HobbesA man of the secular right, I feel.

Writing in the TLS David Runciman explains:

But between the political parts [of Leviathan] – the first two sections and the final one – come parts three and four, which are concerned with religion. This bit of the book, which makes up nearly half the total, is entirely uncompromising. Hobbes uses it to demolish all those claims to religious authority that he despised, whether coming from Presbyterians or Catholics, bishops or Bible-bashers. He deploys a combination of selective biblical citation and his own materialist philosophy to lay into every absurd religious idea he can find: demons, fairies, the holy spirit, the life everlasting, the immortal soul. Life, for Hobbes, means motion, and when motion ceases, there is only death.

This all-out assault on religious superstition and stupidity is what makes Leviathan a very different book from De Cive, which contains no equivalent. Hobbes’s urgency in 1649–50 derived in large part from his fear that a new political order might provide a fresh opportunity for the peddlers of religious charlatanry to get their hooks into the state.

H/T: Andrew Sullivan

3 comments

  • Mark in Spokane · March 8, 2013 at 6:20 am

    If I remember correctly, Hobbes was a materialist, and he supported the idea of the literal resurrection of the dead and that God himself had a physical body. Among Hobbes’ treasured possessions was a Greek New Testament that was worn from use and study. I think it is fair to say that Hobbes was a relentless critic of the religious orthodoxies of his day, but at the same time he was a vigorous defender of Church establishment under law.

    Hobbes doesn’t really fit current categories — he is more like many of the Founding Fathers in that way. He vexes both the Nicene believers and the separationist atheists. He isn’t part of the Secular Right — anymore than Jefferson, Adams or Washington would be.

  • CJColucci · March 8, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    “Nicene Believers” was my favorite Mokees song growing up.

  • CJColucci · March 8, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    That’s “Monkees,” of course.

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