Religion in Machiavelli’s Writings

Topics: Niccolò Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy, The Prince Pages: 4 (1303 words) Published: March 18, 2011
Machiavelli’s discussion of the role of religion in governing a people is a curious subject in that he embraces many of the ways religion shapes society, while denouncing a government formed on organized religion throughout his works. In examining Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy and The Prince it is important to discuss how he could support the use of religion to control the people without supporting its use in the doctrine of a government or a prince, and the differences between the two. In his discussion of religion Machiavelli holds the government on a different plane of intelligence from the people. Therefore, he believes that while it is important to the masses, religion, especially the Catholic Church, can corrupt the virtui of the ruling body. However, at times it can be difficult to discern how he differentiates between the two. Machiavelli’s chapters on Christianity and Catholicism in his writings are his clearest examples of criticism of a ruling body being formed around religion. In the Discourses he recounts how the Catholic Church in Italy prevented the states from uniting by being powerful enough to prevent others from conquering itself but too weak to defeat the other states and unite Italy. This is one of Machiavelli’s weakest arguments as it seems to suggest that the Church should relinquish its claims in the region if it is unable to conquer all of Italy as it would be for the good of all. The idea of Machiavelli supporting a ruling body in stepping down from power for the greater good is against all of his writing on the virtui of leaders. His indictment of the Church would appear to be a personal dispute, with Machiavelli upset over its impact in his native Italy, rather than a complaint about the theory of their politics. Furthermore, in The Prince, Machiavelli goes on to discuss how the Church successfully increased its power in Italy through the use of force and wealth, examining the strategy as he would that of any other prince...
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