Enlightenment as Religion

This is an insightful paragraph, and the quote highlighted in the meme is a lucid description of the intellectual spirit of the founding era. The predominantly Protestant Christian presence in the colonies, coupled with Enlightenment rationalism, created an odd sort of secular “christian” theistic rationalism in the culture rather than the “orthodoxy” many of the evangelicals believe existed during this time. It is also important to note that Freemasonry was the collective expression for “Enlightenment as religion”

enlightenment-as-religion“The secular version of this intellectual set of interpretations for America’s ‘common faith’ offers the various phases of the Enlightenment (and religious belief, most especially not evangelical Protestantism) as the basis for the profound distrust of Catholicism in the United States. In this account of America’s intellectual life, it is the bracing air of reason, pressed by figures like Tom Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and John Adams, that bequeathed to the Republic its distrust of hierarchical institutions and the argument from authority. Scholars like Daniel Boorstin, Henry May, Bernard Bailyn, and Gordon Wood have presented the real American intellectual tradition as intimately tied to the Enlightenment’s distrust of both revealed truths and nondemocratic sources of authority in every form. This approach was most elegantly presented in May’s great study of four enlightenments that hit British North American culture in successive waves of influence: the real key for understanding U.S. culture was not the relation of Enlightenment and religion, but rather Enlightenment as religion for the founders of the American republic. This version of the intellectualist reading of American cultural roots argued that the common cultural faith was rooted in profoundly egalitarian, rationalist presuppositions about the world, and anti-authoritarian impulses against which the Catholic tradition appeared to many as an easy target.”

– Mark S. Massa S.J., Anti-Catholicism in America: The Last Acceptable Prejudice


– Lucas G. Westman


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s