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Taming “The Tyranny of Priests”: Hume’s Advocacy of Religious Establishments

From: Journal of the History of Ideas
Volume 73, Number 2, April 2012
pp. 273-293 | 10.1353/jhi.2012.0014

Abstract

Abstract:

This paper aims to explain why David Hume supported the religious establishment despite his anti-clericalism. First, the Church of England could be regarded as a happy medium between two forms of false religion: superstition and enthusiasm. Second, Hume’s concern over “the tyranny of priests” led him to advocate a spiritual establishment bound to secular authority. Hume’s Erastianism does not contradict his opinion that civil magistrates should maintain impartiality in religious matters: both views reflect his thoroughly secular attitude towards religious institutions. Despite alleged differences between Hume and Adam Smith, they shared much common ground in their approach to religious institutions.