Of David Hume, Adam Smith And Religion

Perhaps the most famous economics book is Adam Smith’s, “The Wealth of Nations…”. Smith was a contemporary and friend of the towering philosopher, David Hume. An new book investigates the link between the two famous men.

To put things in context, “The Wealth of Nations..” was published in Scotland in 1776, the same year as the Declaration of Independence. The Constitutional Convention was held in 1789.

David Hume’s lasting legacy was what he wrote about religion. He wrote that religion was driven by people’s fear of the unknown. We know death is one of these. He wrote that the monotheistic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism had their origins in paganism. Even though he was a famous writer in his time, Hume was prevented from holding a university position because of his scandalous views on religion

Adam Smith was more of an establishment guy. He did not reveal any religious faith in his writing or record but said nothing good about it either. His friendship with Hume makes one suspect he was a secular person.

Only 13 years after the “Wealth of Nations…” was published in Scotland, leaders in the U.S. convened in Philadelphia to write our Constitution. With God firmly included in some state constitutions one would expect the founding fathers to make Christianity our national religion. But they did not.

It has been said the late 1700’s and early 1800’s was a period when secularism flourished in Europe and the U.S. It is our good fortune to have the writing of Smith and Hume available today.

5 Responses

  1. unregenerate

    “Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.”
    ? Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

    “It is an absurdity to believe that the Deity has human passions, and one of the lowest of human passions, a restless appetite for applause.”
    ? David Hume


      1. Juan Ruiz

        One thing that seems to characterize all gods is a distressing lack of self-esteem. Despite omniscience and omnipotence, they all have the need to be told how great they are.

  2. entech

    A couple of things could contribute to Smith being more circumspect than Hume:

    The Church of Scotland tried to have him charged with infidelity (apostasy???) and succeeded in having being prevented from obtaining a university position – he was nominated to succeed Smith.

    Hume was born in 1711, just 14 years after the same Church of Scotland murdered Thomas Aikenhead.

  3. Wolfy32

    In a nutshell I simply say, I believe there’s something to the universe, do Christians, or humans in general have it all figured out… Not in my opinion. There’s a lot to “Take on faith”.

    Is there tidbits of wisdom, some guiding principals in the bible, sure. Generational instruction for basic successful living. No different than teaching kids to read, do math, and how to treat each other today.

    Teach kids to get something for nothing…. then, you reap an entitled population. Much is practical and simple. The part that’s concerning is the fanaticism within. Why does a God create people to only make sure they die in his name? What good are dead people to a God of creation.

    Nature is to be our example, yet, nature is much more brutal than humans.

    I prefer to believe there could be something we haven’t discovered yet…. Does the bible have it all figured out… I’m not sure how we could agree it does since no religion on earth agrees with another religion….

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