Rousseau Research Paper Rousseau and ReligionRousseau

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Rousseau Essay, Research Paper

Rousseau and ReligionRousseau concludes his Social Contract with a chapter on faith. His position on the topic is elusive and interesting ; and moreover, I maintain that it provides us with one of the keys to Rousseau ’ s thought. Rousseau ’ s near-deification of the General Will has led many analysts to reason that Rousseau ’ s province is simply secularized Christianity. A careful scrutiny of this chapter may well assist us understand to what extent this thesis is correct.2. Rousseau ’ s Typology of ReligionStrangely, Rousseau begins by stating us that there are two types of faith, but winds up giving us three. “ Religion, considered in connexion with societies, whether general or peculiar, can be divided into two classs, the faith of the adult male and the faith of the citizen. ” ( p.181 ) The faith of the adult male is informal and unorganised, focus oning on morality and the worship of God. The Christianity of the Gospels is Rousseau ’ s illustration. In contrast, the faith of the citizen is what has been called “ civil religion. ” This is the faith of a individual state, a national faith. Such a faith is organized and hierarchal, with formal tenet. It teaches love of state, obeisance to the province, and soldierly virtuousnesss. The faiths of ancient peoples like the Romans fit this mold.To this list Rousseau adds a 3rd faith. Unlike the faith of the adult male, it is organized and hierarchal, with precise tenet. Unlike civil faith, it is independent of the province, in the sense that it is international and has its ain docket. It may advocate nationalism, but merely in a limited manner, because it is the faith of many states instead than one. A faith of this sort is a rival to the province for the commitment of citizens, and it produces internal division as a effect. Catholicity is Rousseau ’ s favourite illustration of this sort of religion.3. Rousseau ’ s Critique of the Three TypesTo Begin with, Rousseau is clearly non hostile to religion as such: “ no province has of all time been founded without faith at its base. ” ( p.180 ) But he does hold serious ailments about each of the three types of faith. Let us analyze his ailments, so see what Rousseau Judgess to be the least faulty of the three.To Begin with, Rousseau will hold no truck with the 3rd sort of faith – organized yet separate from the province. As Rousseau tells us, “ The 3rd sort is so obviously bad that the pleasance of showing its badness would be a waste of clip. Everything that destroys societal integrity is worthless ; and all establishments that set adult male at odds with himself are worthless. ” ( p.181 ) The job, in short, is that this sort of faith competes with the province for the entire commitment of the people ; in effect, society is divided. Persons might believe that scruples demands noncompliance to the province, and they would hold an organized hierarchy to endorse them up and marshall opposition. To a positive corporativist like Rousseau, this is intolerable.Let us turn now to the first type of faith, exemplified by the Christianity of the Gospels. At the beginning, Rousseau tells us that this signifier of faith is non merely holy and empyreal but true. While that would look to settle the affair, it doesn ’ T for Rousseau. Alternatively, he moves on to kick that simple Christianity is bad for the province. Christian religion is other-worldly, and hence takes off from citizens ’ love for life on Earth as exemplified by the province. As Rousseau explains, “ Christianity is a wholely religious faith, concerned entirely with the things of Eden ; the Christian ’ s fatherland is non of this world. ” ( p.183 ) In effect, Christians are excessively detached from the existent universe to contend against domestic dictatorship. Furthermore, Christians make bad soldiers, once more because they

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are other-worldly. They won ’ t battle with the passion and nationalism that a lifelessly

army requires. Why any of this should count against Christianity after its truth has already been conceded is hard to understand.We then turn to civil religion. It has much to recommend it: “The second kind of religion is good in that it joins divine worship to a love of the law, and that in making the homeland the object of a citizens’ adoration, it teaches them that the service of the state is the service of the tutelary God.” (pp.181-182) If the sole purpose of religion is to butress the state, then a civil religion is the one to pick: it inspires obedience and service, but could never become an independent standpoint from which the state might be criticized or called to task for misdeeds. Religion is necessary to provide the state with moral underpinings; but if religion is separate from the state, then there is always the danger that the decrees of religion will fail to match those of the state, and instead positively mandate disobedience.Yet Rousseau cannot give a whole-hearted endorsement to civil religion either. For one thing, “it is based on error and lies, it deceives men, and makes them credulous and superstitious.” (p.182) Again, this would appear to be a fatal blow; but for Rousseau, it is just one bad point to keep in mind. Civil religion also makes the people “bloodthirsty and intolerant” and Rousseau doesn’t like that either.4. Rousseau’s Compromise and the General WillAfter considering the advantages and drawbacks of different sorts of religion, Rousseau figures out a compromise. Tolerance should be granted to all religions that will grant it to others. Apparently, Rousseau believes to some extent in religious tolerance; at the very least, uniformity is no longer achievable in the modern world. In this sense, religion becomes a matter for private conscience.But that is not the end of the story. Rousseau wants to have a public religion in another sense. Namely, he wants all people on pain of banishment to accept some religious doctrines, “not strictly speaking as religious dogmas, but as expressions of social conscience.” (p.186) The state should not establish one religion, but it should use the law to weed out any religions which are socially harmful. All legal religions must accept: “The existence of an omnipotent, intelligent, benevolent divinity that foresees and provides; the life to come; the happiness of the just; the punishment of sinners; the sancity of the social contract and the law.” (p.186) In addition, they must foreswear intolerance; not only “civil” intolerance (The state must crush unbelievers) but also “theological” intolerance (There is no salvation outside the church).Rousseau makes an important exception to the last point mandating tolerance: “unless the state is the church and the prince is the pontiff. Such a dogma is only good in a theocratic government; in any other, it is pernicious.” (p.187, emphasis added) In principle, then, the state may be as intolerant as it likes, so long as it is theocratic. This exception is particularly interesting in light of the remainder of Rousseau’s political theory. For suppose that the General Will (in practical terms, the majority) believes that there is no salvation outside of their church? Would it be wrong for them to vote to establish their own view and crush all dissent? On Rousseau’s terms I can see no objection. It appears to be another legitimate exercise of the General Will; and if the minority disagrees, it is merely mistaken about what it wills and must be forced to free. Rousseau’s principles do not imply a theocratic state; but so long as a majority of the people want it, it is not only morally permissible but morally required. The charge that Rousseau’s system is just a secular version of Christianity is not exactly correct; as a matter of fact, Rousseau’s system gives a secular justification for any form of popular intolerance, both secular and religious.

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