The Persian Letters

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The Persian Letters

The book The Persian Letters by Montesquieu is a fictional novel that was written by the author so he could comment on the society in which he was living. This novel has served as a good example of the ideas that were present during the early Enlightenment. There are many ideas and themes that Montesquieu discusses by using the point of view of two Persian travelers in Europe that correspond with letters to each other and others back in Persia. By using a foreigner’s perspective, Montesquieu was able to present things in a way that gave a much more lasting effect then if he had used two Frenchman commenting on their own country. Through the many themes in the book, one that is prevalent is Montesquieu’s attitude and ideas towards religion. The use of a Muslim Persian is quite effective in commenting on Christianity because the religions are alike in that they are both monotheistic, which can be good for drawing comparisons. Montesquieu believes that God is just and obedience to his laws is crucial. He does not see anything wrong with having different religions because all of them have precepts that Dellaportas 2

are useful to society. All the different religions promote obedience to the law and require their followers to be good and just. He believes that even if there was no God these ideas can still help society function correctly. Montesquieu also criticizes numerous aspects of established religion and shows that he sees it as useless and so he responds to it with indifference. He feels God’s precepts are of the greatest importance and that is exactly what has been lost from the established church. Montesquieu’s beliefs were also similar to many of the other philosophes. They criticized the established church and “certainly opposed the ritual forms of both Catholic and Protestant worship” (O’Brien et al 631). One of Montesquieu’s key arguments throughout...