The political necessity of religion : classical, Christian, and modern approaches to religion’s role in the City of Man.


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This dissertation asks whether religion and theology are necessary for (or even conducive to) political life. Towards understanding this question, the dissertation examines Lucretius, Augustine, and Hobbes’s respective accounts of religion in the political community as three fundamental alternatives. While Lucretius acknowledges a (utilitarian) necessity of religion in political life, and Augustine proposes that Christianity can play a unique and valuable role in ennobling political life, Hobbes expresses confidence in the self-sufficiency of the state—a man-made “Mortal God.” That is to say, Augustine’s division of the Two Cities acts as provocateur to Hobbes’s campaign against both Christian ecclesial theology and classical political philosophy (including that which Lucretius espouses). The dissertation concludes that, considering arguments drawn from Lucretius and Augustine, Hobbes’s thesis remains deeply questionable. It then briefly makes a case for returning to Augustine’s principles from Hobbes’s innovations, even while giving sober consideration to Lucretius’s broad critique of religion.