Publicity, Privacy, and Religious Toleration in Hobbes's Leviathan

Modern Intellectual History 10 (2):261-291 (2013)
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What motivated an absolutist Erastian who rejected religious freedom, defended uniform public worship, and deemed the public expression of disagreement a catalyst for war to endorse a movement known to history as the champion of toleration, no coercion in religion, and separation of church and state? At least three factors motivated Hobbes’s 1651 endorsement of Independency: the Erastianism of Cromwellian Independency, the influence of the politique tradition, and, paradoxically, the contribution of early-modern practices of toleration to maintaining the public sphere’s religious uniformity. The third factor illustrates how a key function of the emerging private sphere in the early-modern period was to protect uniformity, rather than diversity; it also shows that what was novel was not so much the public/private distinction itself, but the separation of two previously conflated dimensions of publicity – visibility and representativeness – that enabled early-modern Europeans to envisage modes of worship out in the open, yet still private.
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