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Locke and Natural Religion

Posted on: Oct 21, 2015

Thursday, November 26 – 4 p.m. – HA015
With Elliott Rossiter, Visiting Academic Fellow appointed to Department of Philosophy and Religion

There has been a great deal of speculation about the religious commitments of John Locke, beginning with the controversy generated by the first publication of his major works in the 1690s and leading up to the present day. Some argue that he is a fairly orthodox Anglican, while others maintain that he is heterodox in various ways, perhaps even that he is an atheist. I argue that while Locke was quite guarded about his religious commitments, he nevertheless was quite clearly committed to the project of natural religion. I begin by briefly explaining what natural religion is in the context of late 17th century England. Broadly understood, natural religion consists in what can be known about God and our duty by natural reason, independent of revelation. I then show how some important themes in Locke's major works make sense in light of his commitment to natural religion. I conclude by briefly exploring some ways that the project of natural religion contributed to the process of secularization in Western Europe during the enlightenment