For the prince to maintain power, it is important that he act ruthlessly if necessary. Contrary to popular belief, Machiavelli is not endorsing blood-soaked tyranny. He's simply saying that, under certain circumstances, a prince needs to do whatever it takes to remain in control—not just for his own good but for the good of his realm.
Among other things, this means that a prince cannot draw upon the values of Christian morality in discharging his responsibilities as ruler. Machiavelli certainly thinks that there's a place for Christianity, but not when it comes to statecraft.
What has made Machiavelli so controversial down the centuries is his steadfast refusal to pay lip-service to religious teachings in formulating his political ideas. As far as he's concerned, the business of getting and maintaining power is a purely secular matter, whether it concerns the power of princes or prelates. In practical terms, this means that it will often be necessary to resort to cruel and underhand...
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