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Sample essay topic, essay writing: Machiavelli On Religion - 1157 words
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.. er the battle of Cannae, the people were kept from abandoning Italy and fleeing to Sicily. He continues on to say that religion throughout history has helped command armies, encourage (or discourage) the lower classes, and keep man honorable by glorifying those who are good and shaming those who are immoral. Machiavelli also writes that religion helps those in power introduce laws to their citizens that they otherwise may find unusual or cruel even though the benefits are obvious to their sensible leaders. Often times, leaders will not find their authority sufficient enough to instill these unfamiliar laws and institution and will show recourse to religion in order to avoid this great difficulty as laws are much easier to introduce when the people are pious and the laws seem to be based on religion than when they are not.
He concludes that throughout history, religion is among the most important reasons for the foundation of successful cities because they, "..brought forth good institutions, and good institutions led to good fortune, and from good fortune came the felicitous success of the city's undertakings." (The Discourses Book I Chapter XI) He writes that it is Numa, and not Romulus, that Rome owes her greatest debt to because Numa introduced religion. While it was easy for Romulus as the founder of Rome to introduce civil and military institutions without divine help; Numa, doubted his own power and pretended to get advice from a nymph which helped him introduce new and untried organizations in the city. Machiavelli then returns to his argument of whether it is better to be feared, loved or both by stating that religion will nullify this argument since people both fear and love God more than any man. He argues that great cities cannot be maintained without the observance of religious teachings because God instills fear in the people, which is one of the most important factors in marinating a successful state. He argues that where a fear of God is lacking, a fear of the leader must be sustained
However, since leaders are mortal, the kingdom that depends on maintaining fear through a single man cannot last long and rarely does the ability to instill fear get passed down to a successor. Therefore, in order to maintain a well-run state, the best leader must organize the government in such a way that it can be maintained after his death. Machiavelli suggests that having well-run religious establishments keep the people pious and loyal to the religion of the state which in turn keeps them loyal to the state. He says this is easy to explain because every state religion at the time of his writing was found in, or near, the state it was practiced in. Therefore, if political leaders want to keep their people united and free of corruption, it is in their greatest interest to "..maintain the foundations of the religion that sustains them," (The Discourses Chapter XII) and endorse all things regarding religion, even if they know they are false.
This brings up Machiavelli's critique of corrupt religious organizations such as the Roman Catholic Church and how detrimental its corruption has been to maintaining a well run state and the overall happiness of the citizenry. In fact, The Prince was intended as a model for a great leader who would free Italy from the grips of the Catholic Church which was corrupt and dividing Italy at the time. Machiavelli basically argues that it is politics that should be able to use to religion to maintain control of the state and problems arise when religion is the one that is controlling politics. "If the rules of Christian republics had maintained this sort of religion according to the system set up by its founder, Christian states and republics would be more united and happier then they are at present. Nor can there be another, better explanation of its decline than to see how those people who are closer to the Roman Church, the head of our religion, are less religious." (The Discourses Chapter XII)He first faults the Church for being corrupt and causing the Roman Catholics to lose devotion and their belief which in turn causes them to become corrupt and immoral rather than pious and ethical as the Church cannot stay religious when it becomes involved in politics.
He also faults the Church for dividing Italy and writes that States cannot be kept happy and united without the rule of one republic or prince as in the example of France and Spain. He argues that is why Italy isn't as successful as these two countries because the country is divided and the reason for the division is the Roman Catholic Church. For the Church held political power at the time, but was neither powerful enough to defend Italy from attacks and rebellions nor was it willing to give up its power and allow anyone else to do so. The Church was in a vicious circle of alliances at the time that was causing disunity and weakness and an inability to defend Italy against attacks. For when Italy drove the Lombards out with the Charlamagne's aid, they put the Venetians in charge.
Then, the church helped drive out the Venetians with the aid of the French and then they drove out the French with the aid of the Swiss. This has kept Italy under the rule of many different governments and has not allowed adequate rulers to grasp power. He cites that the Swiss are the only people living worse off than the Italians as the Swiss are the only government corrupt enough to be living under ancient religious and military practices. "..and he would see that in a short time the wicked customs of that court would create more disorder in that land than any other event occurring at any time could possibly cause there." (The Discourses Book I Chapter XII) In conclusion, Machiavelli's realpolitik approach to religion authorizes the government the power to control religion. While the government must stay secular without the influence of religious organizations, it must appear to be quite the opposite in the view of the citizenry.
Religious organizations must be used to keep the people pious in order to instill the fear of God rather then a fear of the state for the leader to avoid being despised, in turn causing him to be both feared and loved. Unusual laws and organizations are introduced easier into the city when they are based on religion and morals and often times only divine authority would instill them. Religious institutions must be kept from getting too large and must be kept from gaining political power or else they will turn corrupt and cause divisions among the people as in the case of the Roman Catholic Church in Italy since religious organizations are neither powerful enough to defend the state nor are they willing to submit their power to those who can.
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