Bentham on Christianity, Paulism, and sexual morality

After nearly 200 years, utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s defence of homosexuality and other sexual practices has been published. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, anyone can now download and read his work without charge.

The Bentham Project is pleased to announce the publication of a preliminary edition of Jeremy Bentham’s Not Paul, but Jesus Vol. III. This is the first time that the third volume of Not Paul, but Jesus has been published in any form. The first volume, appearing in 1823, was published under the pseudonym Gamaliel Smith. In the work as a whole, Bentham aimed to drive a wedge between the religion of Jesus and the religion of Paul — between Christianity and Paulism. In this third volume, he focused on sexual morality. This version will eventually be superseded by an authoritative version in the complete edition of Not Paul, but Jesus in the Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham.

Not Paul, but Jesus Vol. III by Jeremy Bentham, edited by Philip Schofield, Michael Quinn and Catherine Pease-Watkin, is now freely available to view online, and can also be downloaded as a PDF.

Kris Grint, “Not Paul, but Jesus Vol. III“, The Bentham Project, 30 April 2013.


Bentham addressed the subject of sexual non-conformity when working on his penal code in the 1770s and 1780s. He argued that, since consensual sexual activity did not cause harm to any one, it should not be constituted into a criminal offence, and hence the English penal laws against homosexuality should be repealed. Bentham returned to the subject in the mid-1810s as part of a wide-ranging critique of religion. In 1814 he wrote an essay entitled ‘Of Sexual Irregularities’. In 1816 he composed material under the heading ‘Sextus’, into which he integrated some of the material written for ‘Of Sexual Irregularities’. In the autumn and winter of 1817–18 he redrafted ‘Sextus’ in order to form the third and final volume of ‘Not Paul, but Jesus’. It is this text that is published here for the first time.

Philip Schofield, “Editorial Introduction” (April 2013) to Not Paul, but Jesus Vol. III, p. 7.

Thanks to Tyler Cowen for the pointer.


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