Volume 73, Issue 3, Summer 2021

Brian Barbour
Pages 149-160

The Crucifix and the Post
A Note on the Christian Theme in Gulliver’s Travels

An unremarked major theme in Gulliver's Travels is, Why does Gulliver lose his Christian faith? In Part III he is a devout Anglican who unlike Dutch Calvinists will not disrespect the crucifix, even at the cost of not being allowed to return home. In Part IV he dismisses the crucifix as a "post," a thing "indifferent." What has happened is made clear in Chap. VII where Gulliver's reveals his parodic or inverted conversion to the ruling principle of the Houyhnhnms, that "Reason alone is sufficient to govern a rational creature." For Swift that disastrous alone is a grave error, linking the earlier errors of the Reformation - sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura - with the coming darkness of the Enlightenment. Gulliver's loss of faith is predictive of the next phase of European intellectual life.