The enlightment and the question of its refusal of religion and the church

The enlightenment period is believed to be the time of reasoning around the 18th century in Europe where intellectual’s movement began with great philosophers coming up and try to move and mobilize the ability to reason by people so as that they can change the society and advance knowledge (Jacob, 1991). David Hume a Scottish historian is one of the philosophers during the enlightenment time. Thinking liberty and thought expression is always dangerous to the power vested in priesthood power. Priests have been considered to be the enemies’ of liberty in all the world ages is certain (Hackett, 1992). Their steady conduct must be founded on reason and interest that are fixed.

Human beings are free to get the truth and obtain reality. Religions, governments and other institution should allow people to obtain the truth and get real information. The enlightenment turned away from church and religion thus rejecting it. Through religion, the church used its doctrines to persecute and prevent people from having democracy and liberal views. Realization of liberty varied between different countries either through constitution and other movement activities. Either way, the efforts were all aimed at realizing a common goal of independent reasoning of people and democracy. During the same period is when churches broke away from the Roman Catholic. According to David Hume, the priest and the church at large were involved in serious manipulation of its faithful minds such that they never tried to search for the truth and reality. In Britain and other countries of Europe, the belief had different implications. When the great empire of Rome collapsed, the control of the entire Europe devolved to the Christian churches. The roman church was the ultimate institution that had enough infrastructures to ensure their cause and order. There was a profound spiritual influence since there was a complete secular church control. Doctrines and systems of theology of the church were used to control the minds of the Christians. Religious leaders were believed to have specific motivations from theirs faithful. File and rank get their inspiration from the faith light, whereas the religious leaders were taken by a mixture of self interest and calculation. Philosophers during the period of 18th century decided to unlock peoples mind by trying to spread reality (Hackett, 1992).

The disruption and slaughter of Britain’s civil war that ended in 1649 by the execution of the king changed the minds of many to the political philosophy discovery. The discovery made people who made strong disagreement to be able to live in the same country together. Theocrats and autocrats came with the idea of having a free and democratic society. Hume had strong criticism to the religious leaders. Religious liberty was considered to be very dangerous. Christian’s sects did all their best to deny liberty religion. Majority of Roman catholic in the 1529, demanded religious liberty for their congregation in territories covered by Lutherans, while they refused religious liberty to the Lutherans in the Catholic territories (Haakonssen, 2006). Toleration ideas were inimical to the churches. Christians regarded the champions of tolaration as enemies in England and most part of Europe.

Humans deserved a right to life, property and liberty according to the enlightenment, which was being denied by the priest (Halsall, 1997). Fredrick the great was the first leader in Europe to espouse toleration in religion and equally detested all the denominations. Voltaire became the greatest toleration champion in France. Much of his time was spent on fighting fight against intolerance in religion, punishments that were inhuman and injustice. Liberal thinkers were also considered enemies by the church. At one time Paine Thomas was forced to flee England due to his views that were libertarian. He was instrumental in the establishment of new revolutionary government spirit in America and through him and other free thinkers; the USA had no option but to adopt a constitution that was secular. Deist’s like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington and john Adams were like Paine. The Bill of Rights and the USA constitution were direct enlightenment products, rejecting directives that were religious and embraced toleration principles.

Torture was used in Europe so as to make sure that person accused, according to the canon law, by their own mouths would condemn and admit themselves to liberty crimes (Halsall, 1997). When the Emperor Joseph II decided to end persecution that were religious, and consequently passed a toleration edict in the Australian Empire, he was strongly objected by Pius VI a pope from 1775 to 1799 (Haakonssen, 2006). The emperor had allowed anyone to be a lawyer, a physician, to hold any public office; he also abolished censorship and made education system to be both compulsory and secular. The church and the pope were outraged. Gregory XVI the pope had denounced the press freedom, speech freedom, conscience freedom and freedom to education. It appeared as if God had instructed him about the issues of liberty since he had no doubt about any of them and his decisions (Jacob, 1991). He claimed that ideas that were liberal were as bad as a sewer full of filth and bound to be vomited. He refused the separation of the church from the state. He attacked countries that were moving towards democracy which included Belgium, France and Austria. Pius IX declared that Austrian laws were illegal and threatened to spiritual penalties to those having any involvement in them (Halsall, 1998).

Muslims too had religious intolerance, where they segregated against women, their belief in religious wars also were against the right to life of their followers (Israel, 2010). The right to kill by using terrorism is also inhuman. The Muslims fanatics believed that the Koran contained absolute truth that could not be questioned. Similarly as open criticism through democracy that results to a good government, rather than the suppression of autocracy controlled debate, criticism freedom discourages religious leaders from the propagation of prejudice and superstition and followers manipulation (Hill, 2004). Defenders of enlightenment were correct to be afraid of religious enthusiasm. Priests, imams and rabbis have to develop openness to understanding. Apart from the Roman Catholics who were denied basic rights, other European countries also denied rights to Christians apart from the ones in the denominations approved by the state (Halsall, 1998). Churches abused their powers everywhere, even in the democracies that were liberal. Religious registration was compulsory in Sweden. In Europe naming of children was not free it was controlled by the religion. In France, only biblical and saints names were allowed until the 1990s (Cassirer, 1979). Any person that was not baptized had no status of civic and any legal name that would be accepted. Kings or people were believed to have been appointed by God and everyone was expected to follow their conditions and demands. The church provided everything to the society from civil servants to diplomats. Universal suffrage idea was not considered. Many denominations took sides with whoever was going to possibly favor their interest (Israel, 2010).

The church and the religion were both rejected by the enlightenment since they were together used to prejudice people and prevent them from gaining knowledge (Cassirer, 1979). The champions of the ability to reason among them philosopher Rene’s Discrete and David Hume helped people in the spreading of knowledge that they need to be able to make independent reasoning. Through religion doctrines and believes the minds of innocent Christians were used to block them from making judgment (Hill, 2004). Religions and Churches in all countries should allow their followers to be free and feel independent. Many countries majorly in Europe had different ways that in which religion and churches were acting towards their Faithfull’s and how the enlightenment responded. The enlightenment was a great tool that led to reforms and democracy that is being enjoyed all over.


Blom, P. (2005).Enlightening the world. New York: Pricely

Cassirer, E. et al. (1979). The Philosophy of the Enlightenment. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

Hill, J. (2004). Faith in the Age of Reason. Downers Grove, IL: Lion/Intervarsity Press

Halsall, P. (1997). David Hume: On Miracles. Modern History Sourcebook. Retrieved 1st September 2011.

Halsall, P. (1998). Thomas Paine: Essays on Religion. Modern History Sourcebook. Retrieved 1st September 2011.

Haakonssen, K. (2006).Enlightenment and Religion: Rational Dissent in Eighteenth-Century Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Hackett, L. (1992). The Age of Enlightenment: The European Dream of Progress and Enlightenment. Chicago: Chicago press.

Israel, J. I. (2010). “A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy. New Jersey: Princeton University Press

Jacob, M. C. (1991). Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press

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