Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


Religion in the Age of Enlightenment, Earthquakes, Chastisement, Christian


In February and March of 1750, two earthquakes hit London, provoking panic in the population and generating a great deal of providentialist rhetoric from religious authorities and selfproclaimed prophets alike. Public figures used the earthquakes as didactic opportunities to structure domestic identity and national security along gridlines of reason, faith, and national guilt. Such representations indicate not only that religious identity and faith remained important to Britons throughout the eighteenth century but also that, although Britons used Christian belief to structure their national identity, they were by no means convinced of the superiority of actual Christian behavior compared to that of other religious groups. The complexity of English attitudes toward religious "others" could complicate the understanding of-among other power relations-the imbrications of missionary activity, colonialism, and the novel that Edward Said and other postcolonialist theorists have described.