Essay on The Rise of European Secularism in the 19th Century

2007 WordsOct 9, 20139 Pages
SP History 117 – Final Exam One May 23, 2013 The Rise of European Secularism During the Nineteenth Century Word Count: 2,152 In Europe, the long nineteenth century, (1789-1914) was a tumultuous era of political, economic, and social revolution which created an increasingly secular culture. Europeans of all races and classes looked outside the church to solve societal and familial issues. Gifted intellectuals proposed new philosophies on human thought and behavior, while innovative communication allowed ideas to travel quicker and easier than ever before. By the early 1800’s, Europeans began to question the role and necessity of the church and religion in their lives. Revolutionaries developed political and social…show more content…
Enlightenment philosophers, like Voltaire, railed against organized theocracies and argued that religion prevented rational inquiry while it endorsed repression, tyranny and war. The philosophy of Immanuel Kant, who sought, “liberation of the human mind from the dogmatic state of ignorance,” had a major impact on the future ideology of revolutionaries.4 It was Enlightenment ideas which challenged people to question religious orthodoxy and use their own intelligence to draw conclusions about the legitimacy of traditional authority. These philosophies were the foundation of modern, egalitarian, democratic societies which would later replace Louis XVI’s absolutist monarchy. Enlightenment ideals had profound effects upon the politics of the early and mid-nineteenth century. However, a severe backlash against rationalism and liberal ideologies in France caused the return of church-state power; while conversely, in the state of Prussia, Enlightenment ideals inspired a suppression of the church’s power.5 Whether or not Enlightenment ideals and values were able to root themselves permanently in society, the introduction and widespread acceptance of secular ideas created major changes across Europe. After the Revolution in France, the old absolutist monarchy was replaced by the Constitution of 1791, and King Louis XVI was forced to share power with an elected legislative body in the new constitutional monarchy. In a rather
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