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James Mill, the Scottish Enlightenment and the Problem of Civil Religion

Plassart, Anna (2018). James Mill, the Scottish Enlightenment and the Problem of Civil Religion. Modern Intellectual History (Early Access).

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DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1479244317000397
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Abstract

This article argues for a reassessment of James Mill’s anticlerical, and possibly atheistic, brand of secularism. Mill’s well-known religious scepticism and criticism of the Church of England, it is suggested, have tended to obscure his otherwise dispassionate assessment of religion as a social phenomenon. The article traces Mill’s lifelong belief that religious improvement was a necessary precondition to societal progress, from his first major publication in 1805 to his late advocacy of a tolerant state religion in 1835. In this Mill differed starkly from Bentham, who considered all religious beliefs as harmful and whose utopian utilitarian society was secular rather than tolerant. The article contends that the eighteenth-century Scottish enquiries into human manners and religious progress directly inspired Mill’s lifelong ambition to use religion as a tool to reform manners and create the educated public opinion he believed was indispensable to the enactment of his democratic and utilitarian programme.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2017 Cambridge University Press
ISSN: 1479-2451
Keywords: James Mill; civil religion; Scottish Enlightenment
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > History, Religious Studies, Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology > History
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > History, Religious Studies, Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
Item ID: 54047
Depositing User: Anna Plassart
Date Deposited: 28 Mar 2018 09:30
Last Modified: 16 Jul 2019 15:41
URI: http://oro.open.ac.uk/id/eprint/54047
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