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Rousseau and ReligionRousseau concludes his Social Contract with a chapter on religion His view on the subject is subtle and interesting and moreover I maintain that it provides us with one of the keys to Rousseaus thought Rousseaus near-deification of the General Will has led many analysts to argue that Rousseaus state is merely secularized Christianity A careful examination of this chapter may well help us understand to what extent this thesis is correct2 Rousseaus Typology of ReligionStrangely Rousseau begins by telling us that there are two types of religion but winds up giving us three Religion considered in connection with societies whether general or particular can be divided into two categories the religion of the man and the religion of the citizen p181 The religion of the man is informal and unorganized centering on morality and the worship of God The Christianity of the Gospels is Rousseaus example In contrast the religion of the citizen is what has been called civil religion This is the religion of a single country a national religion Such a religion is organized and hierarchical with formal dogmas It teaches love of country obedience to the state and martial virtues The religions of ancient peoples like the Romans fit this moldTo this list Rousseau adds a third religion Unlike the religion of the man it is organized and hierarchical with precise dogmas Unlike civil religion it is independent of the state in the sense that it is international and has its own agenda It may counsel patriotism but only in a limited fashion because it is the religion of many nations rather than one A religion of this kind is a competitor to the state for the allegiance of citizens and it produces internal division as a consequence Catholicism is Rousseaus favorite example of this kind of religion3 Rousseaus Critique of the Three TypesTo begin with Rousseau is clearly not hostile to religion as such no state has ever
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