Worden on religion

On pp. 77–78 of his short book The English Civil Wars: 1640–1660, Blair Worden makes a very succinct statement about the social value of religion:

Religious tolerance went against the grain of seventeenth-century thinking. In a society without a police force or, ordinarily, a standing army, the preservation of order will seem dependent on the coherence, even the uniformity, of ideas and beliefs. The coexistence of faiths within a nation’s frontiers was generally assumed to be unattainable and undesirable.

Add to this how the church filled so much of the space now filled by the state—birth, marriage, and death records, for example, or relief for the destitute—and the more advanced economy—a very large part of the disposition of labor, property, and tax money—and disputes about the beliefs and organization of the church take on much greater importance than they possibly could in the 21st century.

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