Enlightenment Attitudes Towards Religion Essay

This essay has a total of 687 words and 4 pages.


Enlightenment Attitudes Towards Religion





Enlightenment Attitudes Towards Religion

Scientific and philosophical innovations during the 18th century brought about a new breed
of thinkers. Their driving forces of rational and reason shifted the religious temperament
of the elite from “enthusiasts” to intellectuals. “They argued that
there was no divine standard of morality, no afterlife to divert humanity from worldly
concerns” (The Western Experience, pg. 657). They were radicals who sought to
displace the authority of religion.

Driven by reason, enlightenment thinkers naturally opposed superstition and attempted to
replace religious mysticism with philosophical standards and scientific formulations.
Their shift of focus highlighted reverence for the Creator and moral teachings of the
Bible. By eliminating superstition they hoped to bolster the Christian religion (The
Western Experience, pg. 660).

Two philosophies of the new enlightened view of religion were toleration and deism, both
of which sustained the faith of the educated elite. However, these philosophies displaced
the authority of religion in society (The Western Experience, pg. 660). Never again would
the teachings of Christianity be so readily accepted.

French critic Pierre Bayle put forth the concept of religious tolerance in his Critical
and Historical Dictionary. Typical of an enlightenment thinker, Bayle put the claims of
religion to the test of critical reason. He concluded that many of Christianity’s
sacred traditions were myth and its history nothing more than fantasy and persecution. He
also professed that importance lay in an individual’s morality and not their creed
(The Western Experience, pg. 660).

Dennis Diderot echoes this sentiment in his encyclopedic definition of the term
“irreligious” stating that morality is “the universal law that the
finger of God has engraved on all our hearts,” and that “consequently we
should not confuse immortality and irreligion. Mortality can exist without religion; and
religion, perhaps, even exits frequently with immortality” (Course Pak, Chapter 2,
pg. 157). Further Diderot sites the Fathers of a council of Toledo in his definition of
“intolerance” where they state “do no violence of any kind to people in
order to lead them back to faith, for God is merciful or severe to whomever he
chooses” (Course Pak, Chapter 2, pg. 156). By siting the fathers, Diderot
masterfully escapes censorship while fighting the churches belligerence with its own
words.
Continues for 2 more pages >>




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