Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


Religion in the Age of Enlightenment, review, Wayne Hudson


The traditional view of the Enlightenment has often dismissed the study of religion as peripheral to a larger narrative of progress that describes the triumph of reason and liberty over superstition and autocracy. Recent work has begun to correct this impression, as scholars have examined the nature and extent of a "religious Enlightenment" ( or more appropriately "Enlightenments") that developed during the long eighteenth century. Although innovations in political and philosophical thought during this period were relatively cosmopolitan, the religious dimension of the Enlightenment typically reflected national concerns and disputes. This was especially true in England, where the loosely defined thinkers known as deists challenged orthodox Protestantism from a position that rigorously examined accepted tenets through the lens of rationality. This important group is the subject of Wayne Hudson's two-volume study, which carefully explicates their thought and locates it within its English context.