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Example research essay topic: Gods Law Good Fortune - 1,328 words

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Anthony Missed Gov. 1260 First Essay Essay # 4: Machiavelli vs. Luther Machiavelli and Luther have been well respected by historians from all walks of life for centuries now. They were both very outspoken in times when ones life might be the penalty for thoughts such as they expressed. However, neither seemed to be deterred by such penalties. This paper will discuss their religious views in relation to politics and western political thinking. Similarities and differences alike will be compared as well as contrasted.

Niccolo Machiavelli was born in present day Italy in the city of Florence in 1469. This is important because of the political and social atmosphere on the Italian peninsula at the time. Florence was part of the Florentine Republic, which had power throughout a good deal of the Tucson region. The prospect for unity at the time was non- existent and Machiavelli was greatly disturbed by that. Machiavelli seemed to give a certain amount of respect to the religious rulers of the time and throughout history.

He made a great number of comments about the way in which these rulers manipulated the people through religion. Its as if he was laughing at the people for being so ignorant as not to realize the way theyd been manipulated. Furthermore, it is as if he was congratulating the rulers for being smart enough to con the people with the fear of a higher being. Numa, finding the people ferocious and desiring to reduce them to civic obedience by means of the arts of peace, turned to religion as the instrument necessary above all others for the maintenance of a civilized state, and so constituted it that there was never for so many centuries so great a fear of God as there was in this republic. (Mac. p 139) For lack of a better word, Machiavelli is basically calling Numa's intentions a crock. Religion claims to be good in nature.

However, in this situation it was used for population control. ? its citizens were more afraid of breaking an oath than breaking the law, since they held in higher esteem the power of God than the power of man. (Mac. p 139) This is a great quote because it illustrates Machiavelli's view on religion perfectly; he believed that it was a tool to control the masses from the beginning of religion. Why should anyone listen to an ordinary man? What can he do to anyone?

God on the other hand would have the power to punish someone in the afterlife as well as the present life. This double threat instilled a great fear among the masses. Although he somewhat badmouths the manipulation of religion by rulers, Machiavelli also points out the good that was brought about by it. All things considered, therefore, I conclude that the religion introduced by Numa was among the primary causes of Romes success, for this entailed good institutions; good institutions led to good fortune; and from good fortune arose the happy results of undertakings. (Mac.

p 141) It is arguable whether the good outweighs the bad in this situation but he makes it quite clear that he agrees with manipulating the population through religion, if it attains a greater good. He also claims that without the fear of a higher being, a society will not be as strong as it could be, in fact it might actually be weak. Another good point was raised in Machiavelli's discussion about the Religion of the Romans. He points out that it is possible to create a successful society without religion however, for a much shorter time span. ? kingdoms which depend on the virtue of one man do not last long, because they lose their virtue when the life is spent, and it seldom happens that it is revived by his successor. (Mach. p 141) Luther did not agree with most of Machiavelli's views.

He believed that religion should be practiced because one feels that it is the right and proper thing to do. He felt that is was totally outrageous that Machiavelli even suggested that religion should be used to instill fear amongst a nation. He basically said that God was not to be feared, rather he should be respected. Furthermore, he wanted the leaders of the world to be good Christians. He wanted them to follow Christs word rather than use his words to make others follow them. But my hope is that I may be able to teach princes and secular authorities how they can remain Christians and yet leave Christ as Lord, without reducing Christs commands to mere counsels for their sake. (Luth.

p 4) This quote clearly illustrates Luthers feelings about Machiavelli's views. Luther also says that it is important to obey Gods law before obeying any secular law. He also draws a clear distinction between Gods law and secular law. The first point to be noted is that the two parts into which the children of Adam are divided, the one the kingdom of God under Christ, the other the kingdom of the world under secular authority, have each their own kind of law.

Everyday experience sufficiently shows us that every kingdom must have its own laws and that no kingdom or government can survive without law. Secular government has laws which extend no longer than the body, goods and outward, earthly matters. But where the soul is concerned, God neither can nor will allow anyone but himself to rule. And so, where secular authority takes it upon itself to legislate for the soul, it trespasses on (what belongs to) Gods government, and merely seduces and ruins souls. (Luth. p 23) Machiavelli and Luther both believed that religion was a fundamental part of any successful society, large or small, but for very different reasons. Machiavelli strongly believed that religion was the only thing that would lead to widespread conformity with the basic laws of society.

He strongly believed that it was all right to use religion in politics to ultimately control the people. It was religion that facilitated whatever enterprise the senate and the great men of Rome designed to undertake. (Mach. p 139) Apparently he believed that the overall outcome was good therefore the way in which Numa implemented religion and in turn manipulated it, was good. ? how much religion helped in the control of armies, in encouraging plebes, in producing good men and in shaming the bad. (Mach.

p 140) Machiavelli makes two points here. First he again displays the control religion established. More importantly he says something that Luther would later contradict. He basically said that religion disciplined the army for conquest, which he said was success.

To Luther, this is not success. He was a firm believer in the teachings of Christ. Although Numa didnt introduce Christianity, Luther would have been against using the sword for the purpose of conquest. Luther states that it is permissible for one to use a sword in defense but not for aggression. He interpreted the bible strictly and did not forbid the use of the sword for defense and punishment, but he would never support any malice. And so, even though Christ did not bear or teach the sword himself, it is enough that he did not forbid or abolish it but rather confirmed it, just as it is enough that he did not abolish the married state but confirmed it, albeit he himself took no wife and taught nothing about it. (Luth.

p 19) This justifies the use of the sword, in Luthers eyes, for the uses, which he felt proper. But it is very far from Machiavelli's writings in which he describes the uses of the sword in an aggressive manner as successful. Luther was a man of fundamental belief. He felt that religion and politics should be intertwined but only with good intentions.

In his opinion, the way in which Numa used religion was flat out wrong. It was not clear whether or not Numa


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