Who is John Toland?June 25, 2021
Toland was born in Redcastle, Ireland in 1660. He died near London in 1722. His family was Catholic and he was brought up in this belief system. But he moved first to the Anglican Church and then to the Presbyterian Church.
Toland, who could not find what he was looking for here, became interested in Socianism, but gradually shifted towards Pantheism. Toland was educated at Glasgow, Edinburgh, Lady and Oxford Universities, respectively. His first work is entitled “Christianity Is Not Mysterious”. Catholic and Protestant Christians showed a great reaction to this work, in which he defended an undisguised Christianity.
Upon these reactions, the Dublin Parliament decided to burn the work. Toland, who published Milton’s Life in 1698, applauded the poet as a revolutionary. Toland in particular angered the Church by saying that there is nothing supernatural or mysterious in the Bible. He rejected the views that the things that the holy books tell are superior to the mind and cannot be comprehended by the mind. Toland was influenced by the views of John Locke.
He advocated an understanding that cannot be fully evaluated as materialism, but rather can be described as naturalist and pantheistic. Toland is a philosopher who wanted to establish a new religion on the basis of naturalism and pantheism and made important contributions to the development of the idea of tolerance. Toland is sensitive about tolerance:
“Let’s give everyone the opportunity to express their opinions freely, without trying to punish themselves or cast a shadow on their dignity, unless they do profanity. Since everyone will have the opportunity to approve or reject these views as they wish, we can be sure that in the end we will have the whole truth. Unless we act this way, we only have pieces of the truth.”
In his work called Pantheistikon, Toland recommends the development of a new religion that will be compatible with philosophy, leaving out all kinds of revelation. Toland describes the universe from which everything comes and returns to itself as God. The religious person should pursue righteousness, freedom, and health. The Toland Church attached great importance to their fathers. Their wisdom is important. But it is wrong to regard them as authorities that restrict the freedom of the human mind. He expresses this freedom as follows: “In the Socratic school, the president says, ‘Do not swear on any master. The community replies to him: ‘And on Socrates'”.
Toland wrote Letters to Serena for a queen of this name. In these letters, Toland stated that he saw the basis of belief in the afterlife in traditions. In these letters, which contain thoughts close to the materialist understanding of matter, Toland also relied on Newton’s thoughts. One of the passages in which he expressed his thoughts close to materialism is as follows:
“The determinations of motion in parts of solid and extended matter constitute what we call natural phenomena; we give these events some names and purposes according to the effect they leave on our senses, the pleasure or pain they cause in us, and whether they serve our protection or destruction; we accept that they are competent or not. But we always give them names such as flexibility, hardness, softness, fluidity, quantity, according to their causes, or according to the substance that composes each other; on the contrary, we attribute no reason to certain motion features, such as the random movements of animals. Because the causes of these movements are of the type of movement that is physical. When a dog watches a rabbit, the shape of the external object acts on the nerves with all its pushing and pulling power; they, in turn, have an effect on the muscles, joints, and other parts of the animal, acting as the agent of the various and possible movements in the animal’s machine.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer Yıldırım