Nov 252010
 

Approaches To Religion In Rousseau And Locke

Approaches To Religion In Rousseau And Locke


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Approaches To Religion In Rousseau And Locke

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Approaches To Religion In Rousseau And Locke

By: Anna Petrescu

About the Author

The author Anna Petrescu has academic writing experience of over 5 years. She holds a PHD in education from Cambridge. She has been assisting students in writing professional academic papers including thesis, dissertations, research papers and term papers. bestessayscenter.com

(ArticlesBase SC #2040242)

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/Approaches To Religion In Rousseau And Locke





For many people, religion has an indispensable place in society. Regarding its exact place in the society however has largely remained debatable. For some politics and religion are simply incompatible. Regarding religion and politics there are two extremes. One view simply seeks to eliminate religion out of politics. This view has several supporters even today; those who believe that politicians should stay away from religious issues, while pastors should stay away from political issues. It has had several supporters for a long time. John Locke was one of those who sought to draw a line between religion and politics. His is one of those positions that this paper will concern itself with. The other position is that seeks to marry religion with politics. This view as already indicated tends to go to another extreme. It nonetheless has been subject of great discussion within the field of rational thinking. Jean Jacques Rousseau is one philosopher who supported this kind of idea. So what is the point that these two are trying to make in their arguments? Why are their positions totally different?

Locke on Religion

Locke sought to draw a line between the authority concerned with matters of this temporary world and the world that is expected, which is spiritual. The distinction that he offers is quite clear. The persons that are charged with the responsibility of guiding people in as far as the goods of this world are concerned should not claim to have the authority to direct people even in matters of non material eschatological world. This for Locke is informed by quite a number of reasons. First, God has apparently not given anyone power to determine the way of salvation for others, and this includes deciding for anyone which religion to follow. This is informed by the awareness that there is an abounding responsibility in every individual to seek after their own salvation. This is done in the freedom that is inherent in nature. Therefore no one should give up their right to seeking individual salvation to the determination of the leadership of the country, or the judicial officers. One cannot follow any belief whatsoever without fully being convinced mentally that this is the faith that will likely offer them salvation. Resigning one’s right to the whims of the judicial officers then would reduce the individual to a subject of the politicians. This would already take away the liberty that is at the core of human subsistence. Worth mentioning is the fact that even the judicial officers also have the responsibility of saving their own souls. The heart of any religion is actually deeply rooted in the full conviction of the believer that whatever they hold in their mind is exactly what is required of them by God and that that is what they should do. The power of the political leadership is entirely external. This means that it appeals to forces outside in order to govern well. The power of any genuine religion however, is inherent is in the mental conviction that what one is following is the path that leads to their own redemption. This means that no one can force another into a form of religion, because no matter how hard they may try, they cannot force someone to accept mentally what they are convinced is not right for them. The power of the judicial authorities resides in their ability to enforce laws. Taking away from a man all he owns cannot force him to accept a religion that he sees as not leading him anywhere. The judicial power does not go beyond the laws. It is without their mandate to come up with ways of worship, because there is no way they can enforce these ways. It ensues from deep mental convictions. Furthermore, even if the state were able to force people to accept its religion, this does not necessarily mean that they have the salvation of their souls. What would result is a situation where each state dictates its own kind of religion, suitable to the interest of its leader. This only amounts to a blind resignation to the whims of the rulers. It takes away any use of conscience and reason.

These arguments show that the authority inherent in any government to lead the people relates only to the corporeal realities. Locke makes it clear it is imperative that people learn to tolerate each other. Everyone has a right to enjoy their belonging in a particular state, and no one is allowed to take this away on account of religion or lack of it. If someone should go contrary to what is considered as the right way, too bad, but no one should punish them in this world, in the assumption that they will suffer in the next. If the political leadership is to join a particular church, it does not mean that that particular church is identical with the state. The difference must be maintained fully. The judicial officers have also a role to play in as far as toleration is concerned (Locke, 2009). As already indicated, the responsibility of caring for the soul entirely resides in its owner. It often so happens, that certain individuals neglect this responsibility. If this happens, just as in the case of individuals who neglect their wealth, the judge must exercise toleration. The law only protects private property from any external interference, but not against its rightful owner. Moreover, the judge has neither the power to forbid the use of any rites within any particular church, or permit the use of others. This lies without his jurisdiction. Those rites however, ought to be in tandem with the normal functioning of life, not harming anyone or their property, and the judge is not obliged to tolerate those who perform unacceptable rituals (Locke, 2009). All that is acceptable in the state must not be forbidden in religion and vice versa. Ideally, Locke is drawing a line between the state and religion. There should be clear separation of roles because both are concerned with totally different realities (Locke, 2009).

Jean Jacques Rousseau

Unlike Locke, Rousseau considers that religion is totally crucial for the proper functioning of any society. The role of religion for him was to bring unity in the society. Three things were central to the civil religion of Rousseau: the idea of a life after this life, punishment or reward for virtue or lack of it, and tolerance (Rousseau, 2003).  Governments were free to uphold such beliefs as eternal life. Rousseau considered that originally, there were no rulers; only gods existed. However, because every state had its own gods, no state would accept the gods of another, and even within a nation, differences brought about worship of many gods. One particularly interesting thing in Rousseau is that despite the fact that several gods existed within nations, a state of peace among the various religions persisted. This is apparently because; there was no border line between the gods and the law. There was no separation as such, between the state and religion (Rousseau, 2003). These gods however were restricted to the borders of the people over whom they lorded. This is seen even with the people of Israel, when they refused to worship alien gods after being exiled. An interesting thing was with the Roman attack on other cities. The solders required that the gods in that particular city leave before the attack, and victory meant that the gods of the defeated people would have to be subject to the gods of the Romans. Rousseau compared between three kinds of religion, which for him were in some way defective (Rousseau, 2003). The first one is that of man, this one is internal, and is not subject to any external factors. It lacks the physical sacramental typical of other religions. It involves the person with God, and the moral demands on the person. The other one relates to the people and the government. The laws and dogmas governing this kind of religion are designed by the law. This is a civil kind of a religion. The last one is a bit difficult to follow. This is because it offers dual codes to those who subscribe to it. Christianity falls into this kind of religion. It preaches a life in a different world, thereby reducing this world into a lesser one. This religion is destructive of unity, because it leaves people confused, between following diligently the faith they profess and the citizenship that they allege. Any kind of a system that is destructive of the bonds of society is totally unacceptable. It is important therefore that people follow the second kind of religion because this religion brings about the marriage between the law and the divine. This consequently means that when the people serve the needs of the state, they are in reality serving the deity. This can be almost comparable to the medieval period when Ceasaropapism was the order of the day. This means that anything that is done on behalf of the state is done in the name of God.

However, this kind of religion needs to be well guarded against any kind of tyrannical tendencies, and possible deception.  The state should come up with articles meant to help the citizens become better in their service to the state and each other. The state cannot force anyone to follow the prescriptions in these articles, but it ought to throw out those who do not abide by them. This is because these are enemies of society. Those who knowingly go against the set religion should actually be killed. However, these prescriptions should be few and clear enough for the people to be able to follow them. There should be no difference placed between the theological and civil intolerance. It people go against the state by breaking the law; they are by extension going against God. Therefore they must be punished in the same way that God would. To Rousseau therefore, the mention of the theological presupposes the civil and vice versa.

Conclusion

As already established, these two philosophers have very interesting thoughts regarding the kind of relationship that should exist between the state and religion. The kind of relationship by both of them however, does not necessarily fit within present levels of life. It is absolutely impossible for instance to take religion as totally out of the state, because those who profess that religion are basically the same individuals that form part of the government. It is also impractical to assume the possibility of a marriage between state and religion. As it stands, there is a plurality of religions, and this must be respected if the state of war that Rousseau attempted to address is to be avoided. What should be put in place, however, is a sound constitution that respects the core freedom of people to worship, while at the same time respecting their own responsibilities as citizens of their respective countries. Ceasaropapism, where the pope was Caesar was tried in Rome with severe consequences. There is a very thick line between matter spiritual and matters material, yet the line that separates the two within the individuals that understand them is very thin. This brings a lot of problems. Therefore it would be important that reason be applied in matter of faith, in order to eliminate the possibility of either fundamentalism or Fanatism.

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Anna Petrescu -
About the Author:

The author Anna Petrescu has academic writing experience of over 5 years. She holds a PHD in education from Cambridge. She has been assisting students in writing professional academic papers including thesis, dissertations, research papers and term papers. bestessayscenter.com

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The author Anna Petrescu has academic writing experience of over 5 years. She holds a PHD in education from Cambridge. She has been assisting students in writing professional academic papers including thesis, dissertations, research papers and term papers. bestessayscenter.com

Related Religion Articles

Sep 192010
 

Question by BAFY: How did Enlightenment thinkers, John Locke and Baron de Montesquieu influence the ideas in the US Constitution?
Many of the Constitution’s framers had studied the works of Enlightenment writers.How did Enlightenment thinkers, John Locke and Baron de Montesquieu influence the ideas in the US Constitution?

Best answer:

Answer by Redskin
john locke- the idea of life, liberty, and property (changed to pursuit of happiness).

montesquieu- seperation of powers

all major points of the constitution

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