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What were the background issues which provided the basis for enlightenment?


The Enlightenment saw more than new advances in the sciences. The very revolutionary nature of those scientific discoveries ensured that no field of thought would remain untouched especially about religion and philosophy.

  • First of all, there was the Protestant Reformation. Reformation led to a series of religious wars that ravaged Europe for nearly a century (c.1550-1650). One result of those religious wars was that many people grew tired of religion and socio-economic destruction brought by it.
  • Second, the Renaissance, with its interest in ancient Greek philosophies, gave rise to secular ideas that helped spawned the scientific revolution of the Enlightenment. This helped to discredit the Church’s old ideas on the universe and raise the status of humanity and its ability to reason.
  • Finally, the rise of towns led to the resurgence of feudal monarchies into nation states. By the sixteenth century, they were using the doctrine of Divine Right of Kings to undercut the Church’s authority in order to elevate their own.


All of these factors converged to undermine the role of blind faith in the Church’s authority. While faith was still of prime importance, human reason was also an important element, especially in recognizing and avoiding the pitfalls of religious fanaticism and intolerance and role of reason in religion increased while the role of faith declined correspondingly.

Finally, reason completely replaced faith in a philosophy known as Deism. This was based largely on a Greek philosophy, Epicureanism, which saw God as detached from worldly affairs.

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