Enlightenment Attitudes Towards Religion Enlightenment Attitudes Towards Religion Scientific and philosophical innovations during the 18th century brought about a new breed of thinkers. Their driving forces of rational and reason shifted the religious temperament of the elite from "enthusiasts" to intellectuals. "They argued that there was no divine standard of morality, no afterlife to divert humanity from worldly concerns" (The Western Experience, pg. 657).
They were radicals who sought to displace the authority of religion. Driven by reason, enlightenment thinkers naturally opposed superstition and attempted to replace religious mysticism with philosophical standards and scientific formulations. Their shift of focus highlighted reverence for the Creator and moral teachings of the Bible. By eliminating superstition they hoped to bolster the Christian religion (The Western Experience, pg. 660). Two philosophies of the new enlightened view of religion were toleration and deism, both of which sustained the faith of the educated elite.
However, these philosophies displaced the authority of religion in society (The Western Experience, pg. 660). Never again would the teachings of Christianity be so readily accepted. French critic Pierre Bayle put forth the concept of religious tolerance in his Critical and Historical Dictionary. Typical of an enlightenment thinker, Bayle put the claims of religion to the test of critical reason. He concluded that many of Christianity's sacred traditions were myth and its history nothing more than fantasy and persecution.
He also professed that importance lay in an individual's morality and not their creed (The Western Experience, pg. 660). Dennis Diderot echoes this sentiment in his encyclopedic definition of the term "irreligious" stating that morality is "the universal law that the finger of God has engraved on all our hearts," and that "con…