Enlightenment Worldview Is the Root of the Essay

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Enlightenment worldview is the root of the "liberal social order," and is predicated on the belief in "the natural unfolding of human progress," (Kagan, 2012). Preceded by a Church-dominated orthodoxy, the Enlightenment directly threatened the political power of the Church, the main cause of rising fundamentalism in the defense of orthodoxy. However, the relationship between religion and the Enlightenment was not one of direct contract and opposition to create two binaries in the European consciousness. In fact, "recent studies of the Enlightenment suggest that its relation to religion is far more complex than a simple process of increasing secularization," (The German History Society, 2007, p. 422). One example of how the Enlightenment ironically bolstered, or at least reshaped, orthodoxy, was via the accessibility of the Bible due to the Gutenberg printing press. Making the Bible available in the common English and German languages, readable by a substantial portion of the populace outside of the province of the clergy, rendered the mystique out of the Bible and permitted a "dogma-free Christianity," if such a thing were possible (The German History Society, 2007, p. 422). Therefore, the Enlightenment emphasis on Reason as a mode of inquiry and critical thought initially presented challenges to orthodoxy, but it did far from erase the religious impetus in the European spirit, instead allowing a curious blend of liberalism and orthodoxy.

Conservative thinkers have posited, as Henrie (2002) points out, that "Enlightenment liberalism was a project that set out to transform the world in a quite partisan way," (p. 27). This narrow view is unsubstantiated, and is far too simplistic. The Enlightenment did not set forth to wage a "multi-generational" battle against its "enemy," the Catholic Church and the "the social world that Christianity had brought into being in Europe," (Henri, 2002, p. 27). There was, however, a rise in "bourgeoisie" culture that transposed itself upon "the classical and Christian virtues," (Henri, 2002, p.
27). Questioning the sovereignty or metaphysical existence of God, however, was a project reserved for future generations -- indeed centuries later in the modern era. Enlightenment writings, theories, and philosophies do not reject God so much as they reject Church orthodoxy. God fit firmly within a pattern of Enlightenment thought that welcomed the coexistence of theism and Reason. Kant's Critique of Pure Reason embodies the fusion of Enlightenment analytical thinking with orthodoxy.

It must be acknowledged, though, that during the Enlightenment the seeds of critical inquiry into the potential non-existence of God did emerge. The German History Society (2007) presents the most "radical" form of Enlightenment thinking under the rubric of philosopher Spinoza, who was a "rationalist, atheist, and libertarian, and anticipated the dominant liberal values of the present day," (p. 422). This was not the dominant strain of thought during the Enlightenment, though. The Enlightenment also had a diverse and multifaceted impact on European thought because of geographic and cultural differences. Those differences related to the perception of the Church and its authority, and also to the perception of Reason and political empowerment. Thus, the Enlightenment took shape differently in Italy, Austria, Germany, and England (The German History Society, 2007).

Enlightenment infused reason into orthodoxy, enabling a transformation of the Church and its role in society. The "boundaries of conservative certainty and doubt" were to be found simultaneously in the Church and in Reason; even though those were not shared boundaries (Henrie, 2002, p. 28). The dimensions of doubt were also applied to multiple domains: politics, social….....

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