(Zenit) John Boyle on Thomas More's Utopia and Achieving the ideal Society

The religion of Utopia is not unlike that of the Roman Empire, in that there is a state religion. “No one is forced to belong to it,” Dr. Boyle explains, “but in Utopia ”“ where everyone is reasonable and rational ”“ most people do because it is a reasonable and rational religion in accord with nature and philosophy.” All other religions, while tolerated and permitted, are considered to be superstitious. The only requirement is that all people must hold to the immortality of the soul, and to a final judgment of some kind. This is so as to motivate moral behavior. “It’s not a religious claim. It’s a social claim.”

“It’s very interesting when they talk about worship in Utopian religion,” Dr. Boyle notes, “They have very little to say about the object of that worship; they practice confession in Utopia, and the one person who is not confessed to is God. Children confess to their parents, wives confess to their husbands: nobody confesses to God.”

There is, however, an ironic application of the way Utopia enforces freedom of religion, as recounted by the character of Raphael Hythloday. “He tells the story of bringing Christianity to Utopia, and many Utopians apparently converted. But one convert’s apparently an obnoxious, overzealous convert, because he insists on the exclusive character of Christianity. He’s banished from Utopia on the grounds of the principle which is that no one should suffer for his religion.”

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One comment on “(Zenit) John Boyle on Thomas More's Utopia and Achieving the ideal Society

  1. MichaelA says:

    “What More is arguing, however, is that intellectuals, like himself, should seek to enter into the concrete areas of social and political life.”

    More’ own forays into public life had mixed results.

    In 1516 when he wrote Utopia, More was in favour of church reform in various ways. However, after he became involved in disputes with Luther in 1521, More’s position changed. After 1523, he no longer supported church reform of any kind.

    In 1528 he wrote the Dialogue against Heresies, which argued that heretics should be burned; criticised earlier judges for leniency (there had been no burnings of heretics for many years); and argued that Turks and heathen should be converted to Christianity by war, not by peaceful means.

    In 1529 he became Chancellor. At least six “heretics” were burned during his chancellorship, but many more perished or were permanently affected by stays in prison.