Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


Christianity, Age of Enlightenment, John Toland


D uring the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, an important question facing Anglican divines was the relationship between reason and religion. Initiated by the publication of John Toland's Christianity Not Mysterious (1696), the controversy concerning deism raged across both sides of the Irish Sea and called into question the sanctity of revealed religion, forcing believers to articulate more "rational" defenses of Christianity. Closely associated with the problematic origins of the "English Enlightenment;' Toland's provocative tract valorized reason in matters of religion and drew heavily upon the ideas of natural philosophy. Although viciously attacked for its heretical tenets, Toland's position found support during the early eighteenth century among a loosely allied group of individuals dubbed "deists:' Basing their analyses upon Toland's epistemological arguments for the authority of reason, deists such as Anthony Collins built upon Toland's original position and further called into question the pillars of revealed religion.