Age of Enlightenment Essay

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The 18th century is referred to as the ‘Age of Enlightenment’. The trends in thought and letters from Europe to the American colonies brought a new light and attention upon mankind. This new movement described a time in Western philosophy and cultural life in which reason was advocated as the primary source and legitimacy for authority. ‘To understand the natural world and humankinds place in it solely on the basis of reason and without turning to religious belief was the goal of the wide-ranging intellectual movement’ (Hackett). At the heart o this age, a conflict began between religion and the inquiring mind that wanted to know and understand through reason based on evidence and proof rather than belief on faith alone. Many scholars…show more content…
It was and age of reason based on faith, not an age of faith based on reason. ‘The enlightenment spiritualized the principle of religious authority, humanized theological systems, and emphasized individuals from physical coercion’ (Rempel). The central theme of this movement was the effort to humanize religion; all philosophies however, rejected original sin. One philosopher that created problems for the church was Blaise Pascal, who proposed the Probability Theory. ‘Pascal proposed that to believe in God or not constitutes a wager that he exists or does not exist. Being alive and human, we cannot avoid making a bet on one or the other. If God exists, then to believe in him is to receive eternal life, while to dent him is to suffer damnation. If he does not exist, then to either receive or refuse him is to lose nothing. Hence, the wise gambler will choose to accept God, since to win the wager is to win all, and to lose is to lose nothing’ (Rohmann, 299). Jean-Jacques Rousseau had a more original solution to Pascal’s problem. He believed that human beings are not born of and in original sin but are born good and are corrupted by society (Rohmann, 347). ‘Thus salvation comes through the social contract. Man must save himself’ (Rempel).
During the Age of Enlightenment, intellectuals began to examine the standards by which rulers governed their people. The new liberal ideas of this era stated that individuals had natural rights
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