I’ve been reading Hobbes’ Leviathan for a class in early modern political philosophy, and ran across a number of quotes which I am both surprised to find in Hobbes, and which others may find just as interesting and provocative, all of them on the subject of religion, and in particular on the cause of Monotheism in man. I thought it was interesting that Hobbes recognizes the explanatory value of Theism as being the principle cause of the belief in Monotheism.
“Curiosity, or love of the knowledge of causes, draws a man from consideration of the effect to seek the cause, and then for the cause of that cause, ·and so on backwards· until finally he is forced to have the thought that there is some cause that had no previous cause, but is eternal; this being what men call ‘God’. So you can’t conduct any deep investigation into natural causes without being inclined by it to believe there is one eternal God; though we can’t express his nature in any idea in our mind.”
“Men want to know about the causes of the events
they see—some want this more strongly than others…
In its ignorance of causes, being always in the •dark (so to speak), mankind carries with it this perpetual fear, which must have something as its object—·that is, men must have something to be afraid of ·. So when there is nothing to be •seen, the only thing they can hold responsible for their good or bad luck is some •invisible power or agent. That may be what some of the old poets meant when they said that the gods were at first created by human fear, which is perfectly true when said about the many gods of the pagans. But the acknowledging of one God, eternal, infinite, and omnipotent, can more easily be traced to men’s •desire to know the causes of natural bodies and ·of· their various powers and operations than to their •fear of what would happen to them in the future. For someone who sees something happen and reasons his way to its immediate cause, and then to the immediate cause of that ·and so on backwards·, plunging deep into the pursuit of causes, will eventually reach the conclusion that there must be (as even the heathen philosophers acknowledged) one first mover—that is, a first and eternal cause of all things—which is what men mean by the name ‘God’.”