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The man who made America: Reason, religion and the brilliant mind of John Locke

Locke’s Two Treatises of Government appeared in December of 1689. It began with a full-throated refutation of the hereditary, divine right of kings, and a scathing dismissal of Scriptural justifications for such power, such as claims by kings to be descended from Adam. The second essay outlined a civil society in which all men were created equal. This cohered with Locke’s theory of selfhood and the mind. What could all those blank slates be but equal at birth? Nearly simultaneously, he sent out his letter on toleration, that divisive subject that had long simmered in Western religious and legal circles. Hiding behind anonymity, Locke argued that civil interests included life, liberty, health, and possessions, but not the salvation of souls. Since belief emerged from the full persuasion of the mind, error could be challenged by reason only. Force was useless. Dissenters, Locke proposed, should be treated like odd fellows who did their hair up in a silly manner.

Read more from this excerpt at Salon

Excerpted from “Soul Machine: The Invention of the Modern Mind”

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