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Christianity In Early Modern Europe Essay

1096 words - 5 pages

The role of religion in early-modern Europe (from about 1400 to 1700) religion remained an essential ‘lens’ through which members of this period viewed their lives and the world around them. The influence of religious outlooks was always important during this time period. This can be seen through Cabeza de Vaca’s Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America, Michel de Montaigne’s On Cannibals, and the political works of philosophers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. These authors’ works can only be understood and put into proper context with an understanding of the religious lens through which they wrote.
Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan provides ample evidence for the tremendous importance of religious frameworks in early-modern Europe as well as religions importance as a lens through which people judged their lives and experiences. Hobbes starts the argument of his political system by describing the nature of man without organized political society. "Hereby it is manifest, that during the time men live without a common Power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called Warre [war]; and such a warre, as is of every man, against every man." The phrase “Without a common Power to keep them all in awe” foreshadows Hobbes advocacy for an absolute Sovereign. Additionally, another common Power could be God which is where the Sovereign draws his power. The use of the word awe is interesting as it is often used to describe the feelings of man has at the hands of God. Therefore, Hobbes ideas of a Sovereign have been influenced by religious forces. Hobbes then gives the descriptions for the various roles in the power structure of his proposed political system. "This done, the Multitude so united in one Person, is called a Common-wealth... This is the Generation of that great Leviathan, or rather (to speake more reverently) of that Mortall God, to which we owe under the Immortal God, our peace and defense." Hobbes is establishing a hierarchy where the many of society submit to just one who is the "Mortal God". This Mortal God in turn is under the power of the “Immortal God”. The Immortal God's position at the top of this hierarchy shows that all power stems from religion, even if that power is acted out by a man. Hobbes' use of the concept of God applied to the Leviathan, or the ruler in his proposed government, shows that even in a strictly secular endeavor such as laying out the blueprint of a new system of governance, the religious lens is immensely useful for making his point. Hobbes is operating under the assumption that his audience will understand his points easier through a religious lens. Subsequently, Hobbes uses a religious metaphor to help frame his argument. "Consequently they that have already Instituted a Common-wealth, being thereby bound by Covenant, to own the Actions, and Judgements of one, cannot lawfully make a new Covenant, amongst themselves, to be obedient to any other, in any thing whatsoever, without his permission."...

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