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Hobbes on Politics and Religion$
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Laurens van Apeldoorn and Robin Douglass

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198803409

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198803409.001.0001

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Tolerance as a Dimension of Hobbes’s Absolutism

Tolerance as a Dimension of Hobbes’s Absolutism

(p.63) 4 Tolerance as a Dimension of Hobbes’s Absolutism
Hobbes on Politics and Religion

Franck Lessay

Oxford University Press

The sovereign’s unlimited power, including in religious matters, was a logical consequence of Hobbes’s politics. Yet this chapter argues that by making civil peace the criterion by which public doctrines must be appraised, instead of intrinsic truth or the citizens’ salvation, Hobbes restricted the sovereign’s mission in the field of religion to a secular preoccupation, thus legitimizing a policy of non-interference with theological debates. Besides, Hobbes’s ecclesiology tended to transform the church into a mere function of the state, while a comprehensive structure like the Church of England appeared to Hobbes as the best adapted for allowing maximum individual autonomy in terms of belief. By a striking paradox, this chapter concludes, it was as ‘supreme pastor’ that the sovereign could assume full independence from religious concerns and implement a policy of religious toleration oriented towards peace between contending faiths.

Keywords:   belief, church, conscience, peace, salvation, sovereignty, Thomas Hobbes, toleration

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