Religious Scepticism and Disenchantment: The Case of Thomas Hobbes

FBK Aula Piccola

Fondazione Bruno Kessler - Polo delle Scienze Umane e sociali
Aula Piccola

FBK Aula Piccola

Fondazione Bruno Kessler - Polo delle Scienze Umane e sociali
Aula Piccola

What did secularization and disenchantment represent, as historical events? And what contributions did Christian and anti-Christian arguments make to these events? My talk will offer some tentative answers to these questions by focusing on Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651), one of the foundational works of secular politics, in the context of Christian Hebraism. Although there is an ongoing debate regarding Hobbes’s religious opinions, I will argue that his interpretations of theology were both unorthodox and strategic, designed to support his attack on the Two Kingdoms doctrine and the division of authority between church and state that had contributed to the English Civil War. Hobbes invoked standard Protestant tropes regarding the cessation of oracles, prophecy, and miracles in order to delimit the ability of such events to serve as the basis for claims of authority independent from that of the state. To that extent, he contributed to the events later described by Max Weber as “disenchantment” (Entzauberung). However, Hobbes went further, interpreting the Bible itself as a mythologized account of political history, as his mentor Francis Bacon had done for pagan myths. Hobbes deployed arguments from classical Greek skepticism to label religion as a false appearance of politics, undermine Christianity, and return to a form of pagan civil religion.


Speaker: Robert A. Yelle, Ludwig Maximilian University

Scientific coordination: Massimo Leone, Direttore FBK-ISR


Cycle of seminars: “(Dis-)Enchantment in Religion and Ethics


The talk will be held in English.

The speaker will connect remotely.

The presentation will be in-person in the FBK Aula Piccola while seats last and online.

Registration by February 8, 2024 at 12:00 a.m. is required in order to arrange the connection.



Fresco of Schweitzer


  • Robert A. Yelle
    is Professor of Religious Studies at Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich. He was educated at Harvard (A.B. 1988), Berkeley (J.D. 1993), and Chicago (Ph.D. 2002), and has held fellowships from the University of Toronto, the University of Illinois, NYU Law School, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Dartmouth College (as Harris Fellow), and the University of Turin. Yelle is the author of "Explaining Mantras" (Routledge 2003), "The Language of Disenchantment" (Oxford University Press 2013), "Semiotics of Religion" (Bloomsbury 2013), and "Sovereignty and the Sacred" (University of Chicago Press 2019), in addition to several edited volumes and numerous articles and book chapters. Currently he is working on a history of political secularization in the early modern period tentatively entitled "The Religion of Thomas Hobbes: The Birth of Secularism and the End of Political Mythology".


Registration to this event is mandatory.

Registration closed on 08/02/2024.



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