The Age of Reason refers to a period in history where countries such as France and England showed a critical thinking approach to life. Occurring in the 18th century, the age was a period that questioned things such as religion, philosophy, social life, and other things to determine what was logical and what was not. This age is generally regarded as the beginning of modern philosophy and the end of a medieval approach to life. The Age of Reason came after the Renaissance and before the short-lived Age of Enlightenment. Prior to this period, logical people, for fear of being labeled as heretics or even being burned at the stake, could not question some beliefs, especially religious ones.
Philosophy defines this concept as the ability to make a decision and conclusions without the use of emotion. In the Age of Reason, this was crucial to humankind. Logically, humankind deemed things such as miracles and religious rites as mere superstition. Instead, through reason, humanity’s new code of belief became the earth and nature.
The Age of Reason and Christianity
As stated earlier, the Age of Reason came with humankind questioning almost every belief and way of life including the dominant Christianity. From a Christian perspective, this was a period where many people attacked the religion in the guise of logical questioning. In addition, Christians deemed it a period where people came out and openly rejected God and all of his teachings. Instead of worshipping and fearing the one true God, humanity began the worship of new gods such as clear thinking, intellect, logical thinking, and reason. This abandonment was quite interesting in that it was a shift from one extreme to another. In medieval times, people leaned on the extreme that religion was absolute and that questioning it was wrong. In the Age of Reason, the other extreme humanity embraced was the ridiculousness of religion and the perfection of humankind. Any gray area in between the two extremes was completely ignored. Humankind believed that nature and everything around him were enough to know God if he existed at all.
New Schools of Thought
This period also saw the rise of philosophers and critical thinkers such as Descartes and Baruch Spinoza who had some interesting thoughts on religion. Descartes introduced a form of thinking known as dualism, which states that man and God are two distinct beings. Dualism advocates that humankind represents nature while God represents the mind. Spinoza came up with a form of thinking known as pantheism, which states that the universe and God are one. Pantheism also believes that God was merely a substance with an uncountable number of qualities.
In addition to these two philosophies, there was another one known as deism. Deism is the belief that there is a supreme being in the universe who is mysterious and beyond the reach of humanity. Unlike other forms of religion where God is perceived as a being that intervenes in the running of the universe, deists believe that God lets the universe run itself. The running of the universe is under the guidance of laws that can be seen through reason and in nature.