Locke, Spinoza and Rousseau on the relationship between religion and the state.
Jazbhay, Ahmed Haroon.
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This dissertation investigates the relationship between religion and the state in Enlightenment Europe as articulated by John Locke, Benedict de Spinoza and Jean Jacques Rousseau. I conduct the study focusing mainly on the primary texts of the above-mentioned theorists. Locke and Spinoza conceived of toleration to be the best way in which religion and the secular state could peacefully co-exist, even though they differed considerably in their respective understanding of the concept. Locke conceived of toleration using a moderate theological framework, predominantly paying attention to freedom of worship and the separate spheres of influence for religion and the state. On the other hand, Spinoza was radically secular in his interpretation focusing mainly on the freedom of thought, speech and even the press. Rousseau provided the main alternative to Locke and Spinoza's ideas on toleration. His understanding of the most effective relationship between religion and the state revolved around the implementation of a civil religion. This would be a religion based on civil principles. Rousseau argued that good citizenship, a good lawgiver, patriotism, the doctrine of separation of powers and an elective aristocracy were important for his ideas on civil religion to function effectively. Given the context of Enlightenment Europe, this dissertation concludes that toleration, or more exactly Locke's version of it, now forms the foundation of most Western secular states. This is because it did not digress from the most important aspects of contemporary religious doctrine.