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Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) was a British writer and poet who addressed the social issues of his time. For more information on his biography, follow the link below. Arnold wrote several books critical of religion, including St. Paul and Protestantism in 1870, Literature and Dogma in 1873, God and the Bible in 1875, and Last Essays on Church and Religion in 1877.
Arnold thought religion was important, but his interest was more pragmatic than spiritual. He thought religion could be useful to society by teaching people virtues which would make them good citizens. Arnold was conservative in his values and he thought highly of religious rituals and traditions. However, he was critical of the superstitious elements in religion and the unwillingness of religion to change and accept scientific findings. He felt the religious leaders who clung to the old orthodox teachings were blocking truth and making religion unappealing to educated people of his day. He was skeptical about religious dogmas and about the Bible as a source of religious truth. In light of new scientific findings, he preferred a more symbolic or poetic interpretation of Bible passages.
However, Arnold also did not agree with the new ideas of scientific positivism, which believed only those things which can be observed or proven scientifically can be believed. So Arnold had to carve out a new position that used science to help people find religion credible.
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