Nature, and Utility of Religion

Nature, and Utility of Religion

Nature, and Utility of Religion

Nature, and Utility of Religion

Excerpt

Mill wrote Nature and the Utility of Religion between the years 1850-58. Theism was completed during the years 1868- 70. These three essays were published in a single volume by Mill's stepdaughter, Miss Helen Taylor, in 1874, the year following Mill's death. Nature is a critique of natural law theories. The Utility of Religion examines the thesis that religion is either essential for grounding morality in something more ultimate, or at least, that it is necessary to insure sound motivation for morally acceptable conduct. Theism subjects to critical analysis the belief that reason and experience point to the reality of an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good divine providence.

Distinct as they are topically, these three essays are systematically related to one another. This holds even if Miss Taylor is right in saying that Mill wrote them "without any intention of forming a consecutive series" and that, therefore, they "must not . . . be regarded as a connected body of thought." Some natural law theories are premised on the assumption that the world is governed by an omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good divine providence whose existence is demonstrable by appeal to reason and experience. It is this assumption that Mill questions in Theism. And this same assumption also underlies some forms of the belief that religion is either an ultimate ground of morality or that it is a necessary instrument for guaranteeing sound moral motivation. Moreover, Mill argues in Theism that even if the divine providence in question is conceived as having limited power, its existence is an article of faith which arises in religious . . .

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