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date: 08 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter, which examines the legitimacy of the persistent association of Shelley with atheism, begins by looking at his prose writings on religion. These include A Refutation of Deism, The Necessity of Atheism, and On Christianity. The chapter then considers his views on ethics, theology, the Church, and Christ, and whether these changed over time. Shelley is on the one hand unfailingly contemptuous of institutionalized Christianity, which he believed had ‘fenced about all crime with holiness’; and he is equally scornful of what he took to be some of its doctrines and its system of morality. He is also critical of traditional theological apologetics, in particular concerning the role of reason – or lack thereof – in religious belief, and attempts to prove the existence of God. And yet, on the other hand, Shelley was passionately attached to the founder of the system he hated so much – whom he praised as the ‘most just, wise, and benevolent of men’.

Keywords: Percy Bysshe Shelley, atheists, religion, prose writings, ethics, theology, Christianity

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