No writer is so grudgingly admired. He wrote great poetry, goes the received wisdom, but his creed was narrow, chilling, inhuman. He was a Puritan. This toxic label implies that he supported an authoritarian form of Protestantism that was intent on imposing itself upon the nation, banning its fun, policing its very thoughts. This says the author is one of the oddest reputations in the entire history of ideas. No contemporary opposed religious authoritarianism with such vehemence. No one was so adamant that political freedom is built into the Christian gospel. This book concentrates on Miltons religious vision and is more concerned with his prose than his poetry. He insisted that Protestantism was compatible with political liberty- that the two causes are complimentary. This was a new vision. By treating all ecclesiastical authority with suspicion, he helped to establish the modern ideal of secularism. He was a Christian libertarian who wanted every form of church to wither away, so that the Gospel might be completely free of coercion. The book is thus a vital contribution to the debate about the place of religion in public life. It will appeal to those interested in the history of political thought, especially the concept of liberalism as well all those with an interest in religion and literature. There has never been a study of Milton that highlights his relevance to the core issues of our day: how religion gives rise to and interacts with secular ideals. Milton should be living at this hour. We have need of him.

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