ak about Enlightenment or
the Age of Reason. However, I have never really understood what made that
certain time period the Age of Reason. In this paper, I hope to clarify
exactly what the Age of Enlightenment was by using different quotes from
authors and notes that I have taken in class. I also hope to show how
different authors used deism in their writings.
The Enlightenment was an age that stressed reason rather than
In Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, he states that
he wished to live without committing any fault at any time; that he would
conquer all that neither natural inclination, custom or company might lead
him into. Habit took the advantage of inattention. Inclination was too
strong for reason. He concluded that our interest was not sufficient to
prevent our slipping, and that the contrary habits must be broken and good
ones acquired and established, before we can have any dependence on a
steady uniform rectitude of conduct. (385-386) The authority was very
powerful during this time but with many people stressing reason instead of
authority, it gradually lost its power.
The Enlightenment was a shift from “otherworldly” to “this worldly”
point of view.
The Enlightenment was an interest in scientific inquiry. It
was an age of great optimism. It was the belief in human and social
perfectibility; that humankind’s inherent tendency was to become better
human beings. It was an era of self-confidence, where personal effort can
lead to reform. That one must analyze and deal with all social problems.
Deism was an important factor of the Enlightenment.
Webster’s dictionary, deism is a movement or system of thought advocating
natural religion, emphasizing morality, and in the 18th century denying the
interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe. Benjamin
Franklin was a deist. One characteristic of Deism is that Man, though
personal, is part of the clockwork of the universe. Man has intelligence, a
sense of morality, and a capacity for community and creativity. These,
however, are not grounded in God’s character. They have a sort of
Franklin wrote that he was never without some religious
principles, that he never doubted the existence of the deity, that he made
the world, or governed it. However there were people of that age that were
anti-deism. (384) For example Philip Freneau wrote in his poem called On
the Universality and other Attributes of the God of Nature, that he lives
in all, and never strayed. A moment from the works he made. (565) This was
completely out of the concepts of the 18th century characteristics of
Enlightenment writings. It was completely anti-deism.
Thomas Paine was also a deist during the Enlightenment. He believed in
one God, and hoped for happiness beyond his life. He thought that it was
necessary to the happiness of man to be mentally faithful to himself. (502)
This coincides with a certain characteristic of Enlightenment. Life should
be devoted to the pursuit of one’s happiness. Another characteristic of the
Enlightenment is that emphasis was placed on the group rather than the
Thomas Paine believed in the equality of man. (502) He did not
believe in the creed that was professed by the Jewish, Roman, Greek,
Turkish, and Protestant church. He believed that his own mind was his own
church. He believed that every national church or religion has established
itself by pretending some special mission from God and communicated to
certain individuals. (502-503) This was a rejection of the supernatural
superstitions and miracles. His papers Common Sense and The American Crisis
were not widely accepted.
I believe that these two works were influential
in the age of Enlightenment. Common Sense helped create the national mood
that inspired The Declaration of Independence. His Common Sense paper
stated many different things about society and about the government. I
believed that his statement that those who are in a community, if they have
a common interest, will mutually and naturally support each other and this
depends on the strength of the government and those who are governed by
that government says it all. The origin and the rise of the government was
a mode that was necessary by the inability of the moral virtue to govern
the world. The design and end of government is freedom and security.
This follows the deist characteristic that ethics is limited to general
revelation because the universe is normal and it reveals what is right.
Paine roused colonists with the first sentence of his .