The Ur-text for much modern theology, these 1799 essays attempt to promote the idea of religion to an elite audience versed in the very latest transcendental philosophy. Religion isn't what they thought it was, it turns out to a intuitive sensibility for the relation of the finite to the infinite cosmos, and as such may be manifest throughout culture and in different religions. FS is happiest when describing non-historical idealised religious communities, less successful in connecting these ideas with actual-existing "positive religions", which seem to be incurably corrupted yet nevertheless objects of his recommendation. It's obscure how notions of *authority* can fit in his model, if true religion is a simple intuition by a pure heart - if there is to be any worldly church or community at all, then it should be a form of Quakerism or something like Tolstoyism, nothing like the conventional state-sanctioned faith. Underlying all this are unexamined prejudices whereby non-christians are merely superstitious and barely worth notice, and the Jews and Catholics not much better (though of course they can all be converted to the light of true Protestantism). Deism is criticised for being thin gruel compared to the positive religion it despises, yet his own conception (which was explicitly distinguished from any metaphysics or morality) would be equally lacking. There is a switch going on here: "religion" is being used both in a newly-invented sense, and also passed off as meaning the traditional entity, whose prestige is to be transfered to it. It's the game that Giles Fraser and modern liberal Anglican cohorts play as well, and it started here, with a bunch of other ideas that appear in Hegel and Kierkegaard.
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