In the "Persian Letters", how does Montesquieu (through the characters Rica and Usbek) view traditional Christian, Jewish, and Islamic religion? Does he view their ancient beliefs positively or negatively?
The Persian Letters serves as a satirical attack of the Church. Recall that Montesquieu was an Enlightenment thinker who upheld the values of tolerance, reason, and logic in the face of religious superstition and prosecution. Montesquieu compares various religious traditions to show that one's manifestation of religious belief is determined by social norms. Montesquieu does not favor one religion over another - he shows that they all have their unique (and largely illogical) tenets, and that each of these beliefs sees the others with suspicion. The discrepancies between these various beliefs lead Montesquieu to espouse a belief in cultural relativism and tolerance. In the end, the only way to approach the various belief systems is to tolerate them and allow individuals to practice the religion best suited to their particular culture and place in life.