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Rousseau on Civil Religion

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 06:29 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 53.2 
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Religion is a component of almost every society.


Knowing this, one might look at the function it


serves. For Jean-Jacques Rousseau, religion,


specifically a civil religion established by the


Sovereign, is an instrument of politics that serves a


motivating function. In a new society people are


unable to understand the purpose of the law.


Therefore, civil religion motivates people to obey the


law because they fear some divine being. For a


developed society, civil religion motivates people to


maintain the habit of obedience because they grow to


understand and love the law. First of all, it is


necessary to clarify Rousseau’s ideas on religion. In


Chapter Eight of On the Social Contract, Rousseau


distinguishes four types of religion.


The first of these is the “religion of man.” According


to Rousseau, this type of religion is “without


temples, alters or rites.” It is “limited to the


purely internal cult of the supreme God and to the


eternal duties of morality--is the pure and simple


religion of the Gospel, the true theism, and what can


be called natural divine law” (SC, Bk IV, Ch. 8).   In


addition, he describes the “religion of man” as


Christianity. However, it is different than the


Christianity of today in that it is focused on the


Gospels and “through this holy, sublime, true


religion, men, in being the children of the same God,


all acknowledge one another as brothers, and the


society that united them is not dissolved even in


death” (SC, Bk IV, Ch. 8). Rousseau finds fault in


this type of religion. True Christianity of this sort


would require every citizen to be an equally good


Christian for peace and harmony to be maintained. In


addition, Rousseau argues that it would be...

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