Fallen stature of Milton's epic + Is religious freedom needed for others to flourish?

Fallen man and the fallen stature of 'Paradise Lost.'

EXCERPT: . . . Pity poor John Milton. Last year also marked the 350th anniversary of the publication of Paradise Lost, the greatest epic poem in English and one of the greatest works of Western literature, and hardly a word was said about either the man or the work. [...] This rather paltry celebration of a great work and writer is all the more surprising considering the poem has been growing in global popularity. [...] But in Milton’s home country? Not so much.

How did a poem that was lauded even by Milton’s enemies [...] and used in English-speaking classrooms to teach rhetoric instead of classical texts lose so much ground to both Shakespeare and Austen, particularly in Western countries?

One reason is that Paradise Lost is, well, a poem, and poems are not only more difficult to read than either prose fiction or plays, they are harder to put on a screen, the reigning medium of our day. [...]

The other reason is that Paradise Lost is an unabashedly religious work. Early readers, Poole reminds us, shared Milton’s belief “in the truth of his subject”—that is, of God, angels, and demons. Like many readers in the 17th and 18th centuries, John Wesley read the poem devotionally. He even published a religious commentary on it in 1763. Today, however, “the vast majority of readers, both those who defend and those who attack Milton’s project,” Poole writes, look at the work as merely a “technical masterpiece. . . . This is our view today, and Milton would not like it.”

[...] The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley praised Milton’s Satan as “a moral being . . . far superior to his God . . . who perseveres in some purpose which he has conceived to be excellent in spite of adversity and torture.” The problem is that Satan’s “excellent” purpose is the destruction of “harmless innocence” for personal and political ends. This makes him, Carey writes, “English literature’s first terrorist.”

In short, Satan says all the rightly compassionate things only to the “right” people, who are, of course, his people, and only when his own interests are at stake. He is unflappable only in front of a crowd, courageous only when it is personally advantageous. He acts like a good leader, father, and husband—and even argues with nearly perfect reasoning that he is more morally upright than God himself—all while serving only himself. He is a god of unchecked liberty, and, therefore, in Milton’s view, a god of chaos and destruction.

What is particularly chilling about the character of Satan is the extent to which he believes all his actions, no matter how violent, are not only justified but morally right. As C. S. Lewis put it, “we see in Satan . . . the horrible co-existence of a subtle and incessant intellectual activity with an incapacity to understand anything,” particularly his own selfish motivations. Satan wants the freedom to do as he pleases, but it is a freedom that always comes at the expense of others’ liberty.

Milton, of course, was something of an individualist himself. He wrote in defense of the freedom of the press and divorce and was one of the few supporters of the abolition of the monarchy [...] He served [...] in Cromwell’s Protectorate. It’s strange, then, that Satan often sounds like a republican. In book 1, he speaks out against monarchical tyranny and he democratically offers his fellow demons a chance to travel to Eden to destroy God’s creation....

MORE: http://www.weeklystandard.com/miltons-mo...le/2011211

Is Religious Freedom Necessary for Other Freedoms to Flourish?

EXCERPT: . . . If the answer to our question is “yes,” then religious liberty should be seen not only as a right that is critical to individuals, but also as a kind of linchpin for the bundle of freedoms that enable democracy to take root. If the other freedoms are somehow dependent on religious liberty, nations experimenting with democratic governance (think Egypt or Iraq) are unlikely to succeed without it. Furthermore, without religious freedom they are less likely to contain or eliminate violent religious persecution, extremism, or terrorism.

If, on the other hand, the answer is “no,” then religious freedom can be seen as important or unimportant, but — in either case — largely separable from human flourishing or the other freedoms characteristic of successful democracies.

We will return to human flourishing at the end of this essay. As for the broader issue of ordered liberty, both history and modern scholarship provide compelling evidence that religious freedom is indeed a necessary condition for sustaining the liberties that make democracy last. Of course, the other liberties are also critical. In a very real sense, each is necessary to the whole. In the 21st century, however, religious freedom is in global deficit (seventy percent of the world’s people lives in nations in which religious freedom is highly or very highly restricted). This factor increases the salience of our big question.

Before exploring the answer, let us briefly define what we are talking about....

MORE: https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/2012/...-flourish/
Of course freedom of belief and expression (the root factors of religious liberty) are essential for a free society.

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