Knutzen, Matthias

Knutzen, Matthias, a noted German atheist, was born at Oldensworth, in Schleswig-Holstein, in the early part of the 17th century, and was educated at Konigsberg and Jena Universities. He was the founder of the Conscientiarians, advocating the doctrine that reason and conscience are sufficient to guide all men; besides conscience, he asserted there is no other God, no other religion, no other lawful magistracy. He gave the substance of his system in a short letter (preserved in the edition of Micrcelii syntagma historic ecclesiasticce [1699]), dated from Rome, the contents of which may be reduced to the following heads: "First, there is neither a God nor a devil; secondly, magistrates arc not to be valued, churches are to be despised, and priests rejected; thirdly, instead of magistrates and priests, we have learning and reason, which, joined with conscience, teach us to live honestly, to hurt no man, and to give every one his due; fourthly, matrimony does not differ from fornication; fifthly, there is but one life, which is this, after which there are neither rewards nor punishments; the holy Scripture is inconsistent with itself." Knutzen boasted of numerous followers in the principal cities of Europe; and, as he prided himself in having found adherents to his doctrine at Jena, Prof. John Musieus attacked and refuted him, mainly to dispel the impression which Knutzen had sought to make that Jena was likely to become a convert to his views. He died about 1678, or later. See Bayle, Hist. Dict. s.v.; Genesis Biog. Dict. s.v.: Rossel, in Stud. und Krit. 1844; Hall, Encyklop. vol. lxvi. (J. H.W.)

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