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As If God ExistedReligion and Liberty in the History of Italy$
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Maurizio Viroli

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691142357

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691142357.001.0001

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Without God

Without God

Chapter:
(p.89) 10 Without God
Source:
As If God Existed
Author(s):

Maurizio Viroli

, Alberto Nones
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691142357.003.0011

This chapter considers the impact of Jean-Jacques Rousseau on the history of republican religion. Rousseau was well aware that republics need religion to come to life and endure. He notes that great lawgivers had to place the rules of civil life in God's mouth and that only men with great souls can persuade people that they have been inspired by God and hence can establish enduring laws. At the same time, he charges the Christian religion with inculcating in its followers a servile mentality. Inasmuch as both past and present religions are ill suited for founding a civil morality, Rousseau recommends a new religion, to be instituted and preserved through the force of laws, founded not on dogmas but rather on “sentiments of sociability without which it is impossible to be either a good citizen or a loyal subject.” Rousseau's ideas on civil religion had considerable impact not only in France but also in Italy during the “Jacobin years” (1796–1799), when, in the shadow of French armies, republican governments were formed.

Keywords:   republican religion, Jean-Jacques Roussea, Du Contrat Social, Christianity, republican government

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