Civil Laws and Religious Authority in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels

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Civil Laws and Religious Authority in Gulliver's Travels

In part one of Gulliver's Travels, Swift present readers with an inverted world, not only by transplanting Gulliver to a land that's only a twelfth the size (a literal microcosm), but also by placing him into a society with different ethical and civil laws. Swift uses these inversions not only to entertain the readers imagination, but more importantly, to transform our perspectives to understand alien worldviews (e.g. in part four, there is great detail given to explain the Houyhnhnms' views on marriage, health, astronomy, poetry, language, death, and reproduction). The Lilliputian conflict that erupts from the egg law (found in part one, chapter four) is an inversion,
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Gulliver writes that:

During the course of these troubles, the emperors of Blefuscu did frequently expostulate by their ambassadors, accusing us [the Lilliputians] of making a schism in religion, by offending against a fundamental doctrine of our great prophet Lustrog. (2353)

Both, the Lilliputians and Blefuscudians, wanted to obey Lustrog, but each interpreted his rule in different ways. Similarly, accusations were made against Martin Luther for not heeding to Papal authority (the traditional view of scripture) and instead defining Scripture according to his own conscience (Bainton 140). Who can forget Luther's speech at the Diet of Worms: "my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right or safe" (Bainton 144). The problem of personal interpretation has cursed Christian churches down through the centuries (e.g. the feudal differences of belief on sacraments, church government, eschatology, and charismatic gifts), and has led to hundreds of Christian denominations. Swift makes a comparison to the Protestant and Papist problem in order to show how destructive religion can be.

Swift argues that warring over religious viewpoints is futile
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