Enlightenment Attitudes Towards Religion Essay

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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…show more content…
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. Catholic Habsurg emperor Joseph II championed the philosophy of tolerance in 1781 in the Edict of Toleration. The Edict granted Jews and Catholics the same religious and civil rights, this was the first time such an act was condoned by a Catholic Habsburg ruler. In addition it also tried to limit the power of the Catholic Church by ordering the dissolution of numerous monasteries which were useless and corrupt. (The Western Experience, pg. 660). While tolerance proved to be an important concept of the enlightenment, deism was indeed the primary religious doctrine. Voltaire, one of the Enlightenment’s most prolific writers was an
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