The English deist movement

A case study in the construction of a myth

in The Enlightenment and religion

This chapter emphasises the politicisation of religion, and the reasoning and mechanisms by which the scare figure of Deism was manufactured, dealing primarily with the period from the 1690s to the 1730s. It illustrates how sections of the clergy and political class were keen to talk up the existence and threat of a deist movement for their own particular ends. The debate further deepens the discussion on how centrally important public opinion was to the whole process of creating the historical record. The two case studies on France and Italy contain very little discussion devoted to Deism, instead concentrating much more intensely on identifying the broad elements and processes of religious change. The case study of England is the first of the case studies, because the Enlightenment was at its most precocious in England, as conditions there relate to the arguments on creation of the myth of Deism.

The Enlightenment and religion

The myths of modernity

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