Donnerstag, 11. Oktober 2012

Hobbes's God

Last week's Economist published a review of "the first critical edition of Hobbes’s “Leviathan”". Even though Hobbes
destroyed many of his private papers, which is one reason why the life and work of Hobbes has long been such a tricky subject for scholars,
it's astonishing that it took so long. I liked this nugget:
Above all, though, it was Hobbes’s scientific materialism that rendered him an anathema. Like Descartes, and other devotees of the “new philosophy” pioneered by Galileo, Hobbes regarded nature as a machine. But he took this idea further than anyone else and maintained that absolutely everything is physical. There are no immaterial spirits: man’s immortality begins with the resurrection of his body. And God himself is a physical being. This is what made Hobbes an “atheist” to practically everyone except himself. For most of history an “atheist” was a man who worshipped the wrong God, not no God at all; a physical God, as imagined by Hobbes, was not really God. Hobbes’s idea is one of the rarest heresies in the history of Christianity. Some have claimed that Tertullian, one of the Latin Fathers of the Church, believed it. But the idea was abhorrent to all denominations until the 19th century, when the new American religion of Mormonism adopted it. Like Hobbes, Mormons maintain that the Bible means what it says in the passages that describe man as made in God’s image. If Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate in next month’s American presidential election, believes the scriptures of his own religion, he accepts that God the Father “has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s”—the very belief which caused Hobbes to be vilified for centuries.
Now, whatever official theologies say, the image of a god with a human form has always been a feature of Christian popular belief (the father-figure with the beard). Interesting to see this view to be held at least by one great philosopher and by one major religion.

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