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date: 10 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Hobbes was an unusual Christian, and one that recognized the potential power of the Christian story to strengthen (as well as to undermine) commonwealths. This chapter discusses the account of Christianity found in Leviathan, which was designed to replace contemporary versions with one that would promote stability and obedience within the state. Hobbes’s religious ideas, like his political philosophy, began from his understanding of human beings; he insisted that religious belief was natural to humans, stemmed from anxiety, and needed to be coordinated by a sovereign to prevent strife. For Hobbes, Christianity was a particularly effective remedy for such anxiety, at least when interpreted along correct (i.e., Hobbesian) lines. The theology developed by Hobbes was original, but it probably drew on ideas circulating among his Anglican acquaintances; indeed in Leviathan we see these ideas being used for a very different purpose. As Hobbes’s acquaintances realized, at the center of Hobbes’s project in Leviathan lay an extremely heterodox theology which could enhance the state while destroying the independent authority of the Church.

Keywords: Hobbes, Christianity, civil religion, Leviathan, heterodox theology, the state, the Church

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