Lessing's Conception of a Universal Religion

1115 Words Jun 23rd, 2018 5 Pages
Lessing’s Nathan the Wise implies a conception of a universal religion of reason which is typical of the enlightenment period. Even though, Lessing does not dismiss existing religions in his work, I will argue that his humanistic religion conflicts with the idea of identity that is necessary to define one’s humanity. Thus, Lessing’s understanding of religion is not feasible since it overlooks the basis of religion. First, I will state that the play refocuses our intention on manhood and humanity. Next, I will explain how Lessing tries to reconcile religious beliefs with his humanistic religion through reason and tolerance. Finally, I will demonstrate how such a reconciliation is not practicable and how Lessing’s conception of a universal …show more content…
Therefore, Lessing does not reject particular religions, but integrates them into a humanistic context. In his attempt to reconcile his conception of a universal religion of reason and particular religious beliefs, Lessing seems to discount the very nature of religion. On the one hand, he concedes that religion is rational since it plays a role in justifying human existence. On the other hand, he claims that personal beliefs must be put aside for a greater purpose which is humanity. Lessing’s commitment to a humanistic religion conflicts with the idea of a religious community. These two conceptions of religion lead to an alienation of humanity, since both claim to define what constitutes a human being. For Lessing, it is the reasonable investigation for truth that implies tolerance whereas for a particular religion it is the practice of certain rituals and the belonging to a given religious community that constitutes humanity. This conflict is observable in the current struggle between the Islamic world and the West. While one endorses the precepts of Islam as the main characteristics for one’s humanity, the other fends for secularism and tolerance. Not only does Lessing’s humanistic religion call for a redefinition of humanity which conflicts with those endorsed by religious communities, but it also fails to consider evil and history. In his optimistic vision, Lessing believes that God’s truth will one day be
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