Article

Religion and Ethics

Gavin Hopps

in The Oxford Handbook of Percy Bysshe Shelley

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199558360
Published online January 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199558360.013.0008

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Religion and Ethics

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This chapter, which examines the legitimacy of the persistent association of Shelley with atheism, begins by looking at his prose writings on religion. These include A Refutation of Deism, The Necessity of Atheism, and On Christianity. The chapter then considers his views on ethics, theology, the Church, and Christ, and whether these changed over time. Shelley is on the one hand unfailingly contemptuous of institutionalized Christianity, which he believed had ‘fenced about all crime with holiness’; and he is equally scornful of what he took to be some of its doctrines and its system of morality. He is also critical of traditional theological apologetics, in particular concerning the role of reason – or lack thereof – in religious belief, and attempts to prove the existence of God. And yet, on the other hand, Shelley was passionately attached to the founder of the system he hated so much – whom he praised as the ‘most just, wise, and benevolent of men’.

Keywords: Percy Bysshe Shelley; atheists; religion; prose writings; ethics; theology; Christianity

Article.  8389 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (19th Century) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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