“‘Of Religion’ in Hobbes’ Leviathan” by Devin Stauffer

Devin Stauffer, The Journal of Politics, v. 72, no. 3 (July, 2010): 868-879

Abstract: Although Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential works in the early modern critique of traditional Christian political theology, a debate persists over Hobbes’s view of religion. This essay contributes to that debate through a close analysis of the chapter of Leviathan in which Hobbes offers his most direct discussion of religion. In Chapter 12, “Of Religion,” Hobbes presents an account of the psychological “seed” of religion; an account of God as the mysterious x at the beginning of the chain of causes; an analysis of the political difference between pagan and Biblical religion; and a sketch of the causes of the “resolution” of religion back into its first seeds. A close examination of his arguments in this crucial chapter, I argue, brings to light key aspects of Hobbes’s critique of religion and provides evidence of his antireligious intentions in Leviathan.

Cambridge Journals