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Enlightenment - Term Paper Example

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Name Instructor Class Date The Enlightenment The Age of Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement of the 1700’s. Its beginnings were on the European continent but the concepts spread throughout many other parts of the world, most famously inspiring the Founding Fathers of the U.S…
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The Enlightenment followed the Renaissance and the Reformation periods of Europe and is included in what has been termed the Age of Reason. Those who championed the Enlightenment such as Voltaire, John Locke, David Hume and Thomas Paine, among many others, dismissed superstition, irrational thought and oppression by the ruling authorities which put them at odds with the monarchies of the time and the Catholic Church. Enlightenment “thinkers” were primarily Deists who questioned the authority of church institutions and whether their influence was a positive for society. Though not advocating the devolvement of religion, they embraced scientific analysis and rational conclusions based on evidence rather than the suppression of knowledge long supported by the Church throughout the dark ages. Enlightenment philosophers sought to deliver people from the constraints of religion and set the standard for secular morals and politics. To them, Christianity celebrated human suffering and poverty while preaching undeserved forgiveness. The Church hierarchy was institutionally corrupt, their actions to oppress the common people appalling and lust for power insatiable. Enlightenment thinkers thought themselves courageous for speaking out against Christianity which they thought was born from the decadent Roman Empire and responsible for ushering in the deeply superstitious and depraved dark ages. Expectedly, theologians of that time reacted negatively to the enlightenment philosophers whose influence was growing among both intellectuals and the common man. (Eliot, Stern, 1979). Bishop Joseph Butler (1692-1752) among other church officials staunchly defended Christianity to the flock while challenging the rational of deist thought. Butler stressed religion that spoke to the heart and not cluttered by thoughts of the mind. The emotional backlash among the faithful to this “heretical” movement was significant and extensive sparking a new movement in the opposite direction. Pietism, started by brothers John and Charles Wesley in 1738, stressed strict adherence to church teachings and that enlightenment was a tool of the Devil trying to poison people’s minds and lead them away from God. By the late1700’s, pietism and rationalism were very much in conflict with one another. Advocates of each diametrically opposed position disagreed fervently on religious ideals. They did, however, concur on the matter of religious freedom. In addition, both pietists and rationalists felt they were outside the mainstream; both feared persecution and acknowledged the blatant, historic abuses propagated by religious institutions. Interestingly, both movements, each considered radical for the time period, were considered similarly threatening to the state and church institutions which had an interest in maintaining the status quo. (Lewis, 1992). A few of the more progressive members of the clergy tolerated ideas born of the Enlightenment, a few even embraced many of the base philosophies. Unfortunately for the movement, various factions involved with the French Revolution distorted and misused concepts of the Enlightenment. Some, intent of banishing the Christian Church from France along with its oppressive tactics, did so under the banner of Enlightenment although none of the philosophers of the time advocated this overreach. As a result of this distortion, the movement was vilified by both ... Read More
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