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Newton's laws of gravity and motion described the world in terms of natural laws beyond any spiritual force. In the wake of political turmoil in England, Locke asserted the right of a people to change a government that did not protect natural rights of life, liberty and property. People were beginning to doubt the existence of a God who could predestine human beings to eternal damnation and empower a tyrant for a king.
Europe would be forever changed by these ideas. In America, intellectuals were reading these ideas as well. On their side of the Atlantic, Enlightened ideas of liberty and progress had a chance to flourish without the shackles of Old Europe. Religious leaders began to change their old dogmatic positions. They began to emphasize the similarities between the Anglican Church and the Puritan Congregationalists rather than the differences.
Even Cotton Mather , the Massachusetts minister who wrote and spoke so convincingly about the existence of witches advocated science to immunize citizens against smallpox.
Harvard ministers became so liberal that Yale College was founded in New Haven in in an attempt to retain old Calvinist ideas. This attempt failed and the entire faculty except one converted to the Church of England in By the end of the century, many New England ministers would become Unitarians , doubting even the divinity of Christ. New ideas shaped political attitudes as well.
John Locke defended the displacement of a monarch who would not protect the lives, liberties, and property of the English people. Jean-Jacques Rousseau stated that society should be ruled by the "general will" of the people. Baron de Montesquieu declared that power should not be concentrated in the hands of any one individual. He recommended separating power among executive, legislative, judicial branches of government.
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American intellectuals began to absorb these ideas. The delegates who declared independence from Britain used many of these arguments. The constitutions of our first states and the United States Constitution reflect Enlightenment principles.
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The writings of Benjamin Franklin made many Enlightenment ideas accessible to the general public. The old way of life was represented by superstition, an angry God, and absolute submission to authority. The thinkers of the Age of Reason ushered in a new way of thinking.
This new way championed the accomplishments of humankind. Individuals did not have to accept despair. Science and reason could bring happiness and progress. Kings did not rule by divine right. They had an obligation to their subjects. Europeans pondered the implications for nearly a century. Americans put them into practice first. Report broken link. American History 1. The Iroquois Tribes 2.
The House of Burgesses 3. Witchcraft in Salem 4.
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The Ideas of Benjamin Franklin 5. Life in the Plantation South 6. A New African-American Culture 7. The eighteenth century was a period of intellectual discovery and ferment in Europe, with dissent religious, political, and social becoming more open, despite widespread censorship and the risks of punishment. A few enlightened rulers, such as Frederick the Great of Prussia, were patrons of radical writers and thinkers, fostering the growth of new ideas. Though still unusual and generally disapproved of, religious scepticism became more common in eighteenth century Europe, partly as a consequence of the development of a more scientific view of the universe.
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Although a religious believer, he offered a rational basis for morality, and has exerted a powerful influence on later philosophers. At the end of the century, the Romantic movement in the arts began. In some ways, in its reverence for feeling above reason, it was a reaction against the scientific and philosophical ideas of the day which are so appealing to humanists.
But a new attitude to nature, one of awe and wonder, typified in the poetry of William Wordsworth, was a lasting legacy of the Romantics and one with which many humanists sympathise. Remember me. Sign up to email updates. Enlightenment Seventeenth Century Europe Religion The seventeenth century saw a continuation of the processes and ideas begun during the Renaissance, with a growth in religious dissent and in the number of Christian denominations, together with much religious persecution and warfare.
The arts and sciences Theatre was banned under the Puritan regime in England, but the Restoration in ushered in a more relaxed attitude to the arts. Religion and Philosophy Though still unusual and generally disapproved of, religious scepticism became more common in eighteenth century Europe, partly as a consequence of the development of a more scientific view of the universe.
The arts At the end of the century, the Romantic movement in the arts began.
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