Thomas More wrote Utopia a few years before the Protestant Reformation, during a period rife with religious instability. Not everyone trusted the corrupt Roman Catholic Church, and many Europeans looked elsewhere for their religious inspiration. Though the Utopian religion has some similarities with Catholicism and Protestantism, it is an entirely unique belief system uninfluenced by the numerous European faiths of the period.
The main thing the sets the utopian religion apart Is its complete religious tolerance.
While all the utopian religions are monotheistic and all their god by a general Utopian term of Matthias, they disagree on who exactly Matthias is. The only belief that is not allowed is atheism. Utopians feel that if an individual does not think that he Is responsible for his actions, and that there Is one Supreme Being who controls the world, then there is nothing to stop him from breaking laws and causing disorder. The Utopians don’t believe in predestination like many sects of Protestantism does.
All the religions meet at one church and serve under the same priest. In church one is not allowed to say anything that’s offensive to another religion because of on early Utopian law saying that no one should suffer or be made uncomfortable due to his religion. A Utopian can try to convert others to their religion if they are able to present their argument calmly and reasonably. All this is very deferent from any of the European religions, who were constantly going to war with each other In the name of god.
Catholic kings would go on crusades against the Muslims; Jews during the Spanish Inquisition were kicked at of their homes and persecuted for believing differently, and after the protestant reformation Catholics ND Protestants had years of bloody warfare. Even the religious leaders themselves would start war, such as when Luther declared war on the Jews and the peasants. Religious tolerance was something that didn’t come to Europe until much later. Another thing that shows the uniqueness of the utopian religion is the way they elect and serve their priests. Priests are chosen by the people in a secret election.
Unlike Catholics and Protestants who have numerous corrupt priests, utopians have very few, because of difficulty finding someone moral enough for the Job. The Priest Is also he highest power in the land. This is very opposite of Protestants, who believe in a “priesthood of all Believers” that the priest is equal to the parishioner. Priests, similar to Lutheran are allowed to marry, and their wives are treated like high members of society. Priest also cannot be punished for crime, utopians believe that someone who dedicated himself to god can only be punished by god himself and not through human hands.
A widowed elderly woman is also allowed to become priest which is something that’s not allowed by any other religion. The priest also went to war with he utopians for the purpose of Inspiring the troops, preventing excess killing, and pacifying the enemy’s vengeance. The utopians worship their god in a very unique way. In church they do not sacrifice any animals because they do not think that a merciful god would enjoy senseless bloodshed. This shows how the Utopians would not have approved of the flagellant movement In the fourteenth century.
The flagellants were groups of clerics that would go from town to town and whip their bare skin to inspire public repentance. If the Utopians wouldn’t even draw an 1 OFF animal’s b tort no reason they would never nave approved to hurting oneself tort a oddly purpose. The Utopians do burn incense, because they feel that the scent somehow raises people’s thoughts. They do not burn them for god because they know he has no use for such things. Similar to the Protestants the Utopians don’t focus on acts of devotion. The Utopians, unlike the Catholics, have no visual representations of god anywhere. They also don’t believe in omens and fortune telling.
Their calendar, like the Catholic one, is based on a solar year divided into lunar months. The Utopian religion has a confusing stance on female equality. On the one hand they allow woman to become priests which is something that’s unheard of in any of the European religions, but they also make woman confess all there wrong doings to their husbands before any holiday. They give woman a chance at equality, but then also show them how they are inferior to their husbands. While this does seem paradoxical, it does offer more gender equality than any other religion. The Utopians are also hypocritical with their religious punishments.
They have a law eying a priest cannot punish a sinner because that is the Job of the government. The most drastic punishment they allow the priest to give is excommunication. Yet if the excommunicated one does not convince the priest that he is reformed, he is arrested and punished by the counsel for sinfulness. So the priest technically has the power to punish in a very roundabout but powerful way. He can decide who is reformed or not and through that he is given the power to imprison. If a counsel can arrest and try an individual for impiety, doesn’t that mean a person is suffering because of their elision.
This proves that although the Utopians say they offer complete religious freedom, a person can still suffer because of his beliefs. The truly devout Utopians do one of two things. The holier ones take vows of chastity similar to the Catholics, and eat a very strict diet consisting of no meat. The less holy yet more admired ones take upon themselves heavy labor that will benefit the community. It is more admired in Utopia to do heavy work for the community then to live a life of chastity. This is very different from the Catholic mentality.
Catholics admire priests as holy and serve them only because the priest was able to devote his life purely to god and give up human desires. The peasants who spend the whole day doing backbreaking labor are viewed as the lowest of society even though what they do greatly benefits everyone else. Thomas More would not have though the Utopian religion was ideal. More himself was a devote Catholic who even died for his faith. He played an integral role as Lord Chancellor in persecuting the Protestants after the reformation. He would not have proved of the complete religious toleration of the Utopians.
Also the Utopian laws allowing euthanasia, divorce, and married and female priests are completely against the teachings of the Catholic Church. He wrote Utopia as a way of criticizing the Catholic Church for all of its corruptions not as a blueprint for a new religion. At the end of the book More says that while Hathaway was speaking he kept thinking how some of the Utopian laws were Just bizarre. He says “quite apart from such things as their military tactics, religions, and forms of worship, there was a grand absurdity on which their whole society is based, communism without money. (Utopia 113) This quote proves how Mores intention in writing Utopia was not to create a new way of life, but to criticize the fraudulent doings of contemporary European society. Although Utopia is championed as the ideal place to live there has yet to be a country that NAS tried to mimic its way to elite. Even More himself would nave rejected its unique religion. But regardless of its desirability, the Utopian religion has proven to be a completely unique belief system uninfluenced by contemporary religious beliefs.