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Machiavelli and the Role of Religion
Machiavelli, in his works, has used his political outlook and views about the power given to the Church and Christianity to present both his religious and political views to the readers keeping them in a constant thought process of what he really believes in and why.
Throughout the paper we will discuss Machiavelli's political expressions and views in the light of his three writings; "The Prince," "The Discourses" and "The Florentine Histories." In all the three writings, the author has used his characters and plots to describe a setting that would eventually lead him to express his views about the political mishaps and mistakes that led to inflated problems.
It is extremely vital to present, from the commencement of the essay, what Machiavelli's politics is and how he attains his viewpoint so as to comprehend and appreciate his point-of-view on religion in politics. Machiavelli can be categorized as a realist philosopher whose major arguments are in relation to upholding political power over a state by means of past accounts, predominantly Roman, with the purpose of supporting his hypothesis. His major writings are a design of "realpolitik," a government guiding principle that highlights keeping power by utilizing any measures essential together with war and dishonesty. Consequently, one should keep in mind when reading Machiavelli that he is making efforts to utilize religion as a tool to uphold political power rather than an instrument for attaining ideals.
In "The Prince" Machiavelli challenges his readers by painting an indefinite picture of his character, Cesare Borgia, the son of the Alexander Pope VI and the future prince of Romagna. It is through the flaws and mistakes of this character that the author expresses and debates over his views on politics and about the authority that is given to the Church and Christianity, which, according to him is unwanted and overrated.
Even though many agree that the character of Cesare is an idealized portrait of a virtuous man for the author, he too seems to make the mistake of choosing the future warrior pope, Julius II, as his supporter for future elections. Thus, enabling and empowering the Church with an exaggerated authority over state affairs, which in his opinion is what had led to the unfair rule.
Many readers have determined that Cesare was the hero of the novel and the author's own representation to clearly indicate what he believes should be the process of handling the state affairs. In simple words, Rousseau says, "The choice of his execrable hero is in itself enough to make manifest his hidden intention ... The Prince is the book of republicans."
This is further clear in Machiavelli's more republican work like the "Discourses."
In a chapter, in "The Prince," dedicated completely to the authority of the Pope and the Church in Rome, Machiavelli makes his ideas more lucid. In this state the condition is such that the influence of the pope is determined by the assembly of cardinals and vice versa. He feels that for a state to completely re-attain its authority, both the power of the pope and the cardinals will need to be abolished. And in the novel, the author expresses that Cesare has the capability to do that but had been unable to use it to any effect.
To understand the author's suggestions of such an action, one has to revise the history of Italy and how it was influenced by the authority of the Church and Christianity in a general point-of-view. In the novels, "The Discourses" and "The Florentine Histories," he feels that the downfall of Italy was because of the non-sensible division of political power in the state, which he further illustrates at the conclusion of "The Prince." He feels that the church has been able to not only initiate but maintain this division over a course of time while still remaining in power and even though the state has enough power over the territory and can create one sole authority to stand up and fight for it every time it was threatened, it still cannot overpower the authority of the church in fear of losing it territorial power:
"The Church has kept and still keeps this region divided. . . . The reason why Italy is not in that same condition and why she too does not have one republic or one prince to govern her is the Church alone; because, though she has dwelt there and possessed temporal power, she has not been so strong or of such ability that she could grasp sole authority [occupare la tirannide] in Italy and make herself ruler of the country. Yet on the other hand she has not been so weak that, when she feared to lose dominion over her temporal possessions, she could not summon a powerful man to defend her against anyone who in Italy had become too powerful. (1.12 [Machiavelli, 1971, 96]; see also Florentine Histories 1.9)"
This Machiavelli discusses throughout "The Prince" at various points: for instance he writes that Louis XII of France made a blunder "by giving aid to Pope Alexander so that the pope might seize the Romagna" because he was unable to see the simple fact that by doing do he was "making the Church great by adding so much temporal greatness to the spiritual one that gives it so much authority."
At a later phase in the novel, Machiavelli points out a simple truth about the Church that "before Alexander, the Italian powers, and not only those that are called powers but every baron and lord, even the least, held her in low esteem in temporal affairs." But Alexander was sensible enough to augment the territorial power of the Church through his son, Cesare. At first, Machiavelli might come across as an advocate of such a move when he discusses the influential preachment found by Leo X, the uncle of the direct heir of The Prince.
However, the truth is that the author does not believe that the problems of Italy will be solved by the strength of the Church as long as they depend and call upon the mercenary armies form time to time. He makes this point right after the accession of power for the church when he says "the present ruin of Italy is caused by nothing other than its having relied for a period of many years on mercenary arms. . . . And he who said that our sins were the cause [of the French invasion of Italy] spoke the truth. But the sins were surely not those he believed, but the one I have told of." However he blames the church for this when he says that "Since Italy had almost fallen into the hands of the Church and a few republics, and since the priests and the other citizens did not have knowledge of arms, they began to hire foreigners."
In the Discourses, Machiavelli writes that the "Italians" have "our first debt to the Church and to the priests that we have become without religion and wicked" (1.12, see also 1.27). Some of Machiavelli's readers feel that this is proof of his unyielding faith in Christianity and its laws and that the priests and the church should be transformed accordingly. However, on the contrary, it is very clear that the author blames both the Church and the religion Christianity for Italy's misery and the troubles of modern states by and large. In his opinion the Christian religion "has made the world weak and turned it over as prey to wicked men, who can in security control it, since the generality of men, in order to go to Heaven, think more about enduring their injuries than about avenging them." For him, Christianity makes his view of the division of political power stronger, and feels that a strong influential Church will not be of any help to bettering Italy's conditions.
Machiavelli dares to venture into the grounds of reforming Christianity to the point where it won't remain Christian anymore. He expresses that in modern times the faith has to be reformed to meet the modern demands. He discusses what effect Christianity has in his opinion in the conversation the Prince has with Rouen: "For when the cardinal of Rouen said to me that the Italians do not understand war, I replied to him that the French do not understand the state, because if they understood they would not have let the Church come to such greatness." According to Machiavelli, the problem with Louis was his undying faith which according to him was the faith "for dissolving his marriage and for the [cardinal's] hat of Rouen." Machiavelli throughout his writing has insisted that Louis give up this faith and asks his readers to treat the Church and Christianity as weak and hostile so that in the modern times they could adapt to his new ideas for Christianity.
This however, Machiavelli does not feel needs to be done through the action of murdering the pope or…[continue]
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