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83 U. Det. Mercy L. Rev. 579 (2005-2006)
Religious Skepticism, Cambridge Platonism, and Disestablishment

handle is hein.journals/udetmr83 and id is 601 raw text is: ARTICLES
Religious Skepticism, Cambridge
Platonism, and Disestablishment
This article forms the first part of a larger project on the separation of
church and state in America. It delves into a period of the intellectual
history of the Establishment Clause that is usually only presumed or
deemed less significant than the common reference to John Locke and his
insistence of the freedom of conscience as the progenitor of the
Establishment Clause.' I will work towards the thesis that, in America, the
separation of church and state was not an anti-religious matter, but rather
the culmination of centuries of religious skepticism and insights of
enlightened republicanism. The thesis of this paper is that two causes of
concern have proven to be determinative for the outcome reached by the
Framers.   First, the American colonists did not want a Hobbesian
Leviathan, who was a fervent proponent of an established religion by the
state in the face of the chaos produced by the religious strife he perceived.
In addition, the Renaissance in England had taken a different form
than it did in Italy. Whereas religion was regarded by the Florentine
Academy as an impediment to moral and scientific progress, the
Cambridge Platonists were more concerned about scholastic systems and
barbaric forms of theological learning, i.e., they sought to improve or
filter religion through the use of reason. Indeed, in the same spirit, Thomas
More's supreme legislator in Utopia would not make any stipulation
concerning religion because he was not sure whether God Himself does
not intend manifold and diverse forms of worship, and hence give to some
this and to others that form of religious interpretation.2 The influence of
the Cambridge Platonists' religious skepticism upon the development of the
separation of church and state in America remains a scarcely explored
terrain. Their influence on the Great Awakening is usually uncontested, as
is the latter's influence on the War of Independence and the Establishment
* M.A., Leiden University, Faculty of Law (with honors); J.S.D., Radboud
University of Nijmegen, Facutly of Law (cum laude); Graduate Fulbright Scholar, NYU
School of Law. I would like to thank the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library at
Yale University for permission to cite from the Ernst Cassirer Papers.
1. G. Barbara A. Parry, Jefferson's Legacy to the Supreme Court: Freedom of
Religion, 31 J. S. CT. HIST. 181 (July 2006).
2. ST. THOMAS MORE, UTOPIA (Edward Surtz ed., Yale Univ. Press 1984).

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