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Toland, John

Toland, John (tōˈlənd) [key], 1670–1722, British deist, b. Ireland. Brought up a Roman Catholic, Toland became a Protestant at 16. He studied at Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Leiden and after 1694 lived at Oxford for several years. In 1696 he published Christianity not Mysterious, in which he tried to reconcile the scriptural claims of Christianity with the epistemology of John Locke. He asserted that neither God nor his revelation is above the comprehension of human reason. The book was widely attacked, and it was burned in Ireland in 1697. Toland's next work (1698) was a biography of John Milton, which also caused a scandal; it contained a passage that was believed to cast doubt on the authenticity of the New Testament. His Anglia Libera (1701), in support of the Act of Settlement (see Settlement, Act of), brought him favor from the court of Hanover, where he was received by the Electress Sophia. To her daughter, Sophia Charlotte, he addressed his Letters to Serena (1704), in which he argues that motion is an intrinsic quality of matter, thus repudiating the Cartesian conception. In his Pantheisticon (1720) he develops the pantheistic ideas implicit in the Letters. He is believed to have been the first to use the term pantheism.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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