John Stuart Mill and the Religion of Humanity

University of Missouri (2002)
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Abstract

The study examines the religious thought and aspirations of John Stuart Mill. Contrary to the conventional view of Mill as the prototypical "secular" liberal, it shows that religious preoccupations dominated Mill's thought and structured his endeavors throughout his life. What must be recognized for a proper appreciation of Mill's thought ell as and legacy is the depth of his animus toward traditional transcendent religion, as well the seriousness of his intent to found a new "secular" or non-theological religion to serve as its replacement. Mill's "religious" aim was two-pronged---the evisceration of Christian belief and the social establishment of the allegedly superior morality and spirituality embodied in the "Religion of Humanity" he adopted, with revisions, from Auguste Comte. Mill intended his philosophical writings to assist in the realization of this aim, and they cannot adequately be comprehended without an awareness of their subterranean religious theme. ;The study examines the influence of James Mill, Bentham, Saint-Simon, and Comte on Mill's religious thought and aims. It examines Mill's Three Essays on Religion; discusses his participation in the "Mansel Controversy"; and offers an interpretation of On Liberty and Utilitarianism from the perspective developed in the study. Both essays are shown to have been employed by Mill as crucial instruments toward the accomplishment of his religious mission. ;The material brought to light in this study requires a far-reaching re-evaluation of Mill's contribution to the development of the liberal tradition. Through his influence the radical anti-Christianity of the French Revolution was incorporated into the Anglo-American tradition. Mill's "non-theological" utilitarianism also involved the equally important, if less dramatic, insinuation of Comtean "altruism" and its notion of the superiority of "social" to personal morality into Anglo-American consciousness. The "social morality" embodied in Mill's Religion of Humanity has been assimilated by large segments of contemporary Anglo-American society and is the ethos that has impelled the rise of modern-liberalism The intense intramundane religiosity that Mill incorporated into the Anglo-American political tradition also casts a new light on the nature of modern "secular" liberalism, the chief political carrier of the new secular religiosity in the American context

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Citations of this work

Auguste comte.Michel Bourdeau - 2009 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Colonialism and religion.David Chidester - 2013 - Critical Research on Religion 1 (1):87-94.
On Liberty's liberty.Carlos Rodríguez Braun - 2007 - Telos: Critical Theory of the Contemporary 16 (2):12-28.

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