Sunday, December 09, 2012

The Enlightenment and its influence on the U.S. Installment 4

Like Descartes, Newton had no time for mystery which he equated to stupidity and ignorance. He too was anxious to rid Christianity of mysticism.

 He believed that the doctrine of the Trinity, (father, son, and Holy Ghost), were false. He believed they were purposely created by the church to attract converts because it too was being subjected to the new scientific principles.

 Once this started to happen the modern period of true skepticism was irrevocably launched.

Hermann Reimarus, (1694-1768), argued that Jesus just wanted to found a godly state. He believed that it was when his mission failed that he had died in despair. He pointed out that in the Gospels; Jesus had never proclaimed that he had come to atone for the sins of mankind. 

That idea can only be traced back to Saint Paul who is the true founder of Christianity. We should not, therefore, revere Jesus Christ as God. He believed that he should be thought of as the teacher of a remarkable, simple, and exalted Religion. 

Once the scientific method had become the standard, it became difficult for many people to read the Gospels in any other way. Western Christians were now committed to a literal understanding of their faith. They had taken a step back from myth. After all, a story was either factually true or it wasn’t.

The traditional doctrine of the Atonement, (the reconciliation of God and man brought about by the death of Christ), which depicted God demanding the death of his own son presented an unacceptable picture of God. He was the righteous God, the embittered God, and the angered God. 

His demands for strict retribution purposely filled many Christians with fear and compelled them not to be sinful.

More and more Christians were becoming embarrassed by the cruelty of so much of their Christian history. Christians had conducted fearsome crusades.

 They conducted inquisitions, and persecutions in the name of God. This was a God that is supposed to be all encompassing, all understanding, and all forgiving.

 They were becoming increasingly enamored with liberty and freedom of conscience. The bloody reformation for many, proved to be the final straw.

Reason did seem to be the answer. However, could a God stripped of the mystery that had surrounded him for centuries be an effective God? 

In the west Christians were on the edge of a more secular age, though they still adhered to a belief in God. The new Religion of reason would be known as Deism.

 This is belief claiming foundation solely on the evidence of reason. They believed in the existence of God as creator of the Universe who after setting it in motion abandoned it. He assumed no control over life. He exerted no influence on natural phenomena. He also gave no supernatural revelation, man that sounds pretty objective.

It had no time for the imaginative disciplines of mysticism and mythology. It turned its back on the on the myth of revelation. The new religion also turned its back on such traditional mysteries as the Trinity. The Trinity had for so long held people captive of superstition. Instead it declared allegiance to the personal God which man could discover with his own efforts.

Francoise Marie De Voltaire was the embodiment of the enlightenment movement. He also described his version of the perfect Religion.

 Wouldn’t it teach much morality and very little dogma? Wouldn’t it tend to make men just without making them absurd? It would be a religion that did not make you believe in things that are impossible. He believed it would be a religion that was not contradictory. 

He believed that it would be a religion that was not injurious to divinity, and harmful to man. He believed it would be a religion which did not menace with eternal punishment anyone possessing common sense? 

Would it not be that which did not uphold its beliefs with executioners? Wouldn’t it be a religion that did not inundate the earth with blood on account of unintelligible argument?

 It would be a Religion that taught only the worship of one God, justice, tolerance, and humanity. This all sounds ideal, he has my vote. 

The Churches had only themselves to blame for this defiance. Since for centuries they had burdened the faithful with an overwhelming amount of doctrine. Voltaire did argue however, that faith in one God was more natural and rational to humanity. Voltaire’s problem of course, was not God but the doctrines about him which offended the standard of reason. Life Today The Real Story "2005"

James Joiner
Gardner, Ma


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