Patrick Coleman notes in his Anger, Gratitude, and the Enlightenment Writer (pp. 9-10) that early Enlightenment writers didn’t necessarily dismiss God. They merely defanged him:
“Enlightenment writers were acutely conscious of the ways in which secular as well as ecclesiastical authorities could brandish the image of an angry God to instill fear and obedience in their subjects. . . . Scientific investigation could also be inhibited by warnings that God would be offended if, repeating the sin of Adam and Eve, humanity overstepped the bounds supposedly set on human knowledge. Since in biblical tradition God’s anger was prompted not only by human pretensions to divinity, but even more by the worship of other gods, removing anger from the list of God’s attributes also opened the way to greater tolerance of other religions. It made room for accommodating cultural practices (notably in the realm of sexuality) at odds with the beliefs of one tradition but considered natural in others. In all these cases, God is not necessarily banished from the scene; it is simply no longer plausible to think of him as taking offense at human waywardness, now largely redefined as cultural variety.”
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Saturday, September 15, 2012 at 2:17 pm
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