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The myths of modernity
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This book offers a critical survey of religious change and its causes in eighteenth-century Europe, and constitutes a challenge to the accepted views in traditional Enlightenment studies. Focusing on Enlightenment Italy, France and England, it illustrates how the canonical view of eighteenth-century religious change has in reality been constructed upon scant evidence and assumption, in particular the idea that the thought of the enlightened led to modernity. For, despite a lack of evidence, one of the fundamental assumptions of Enlightenment studies has been the assertion that there was a vibrant Deist movement which formed the “intellectual solvent” of the eighteenth century. The central claim of this book is that the immense ideological appeal of the traditional birth-of-modernity myth has meant that the actual lack of Deists has been glossed over, and a quite misleading historical view has become entrenched.

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The Enlightenment and modernity
S.J. Barnett

The Enlightenment and modernity INTRODUCTION The Enlightenment and modernity The rationale of this book In historical studies and indeed most fields of the humanities, the terms modernity and Enlightenment are so frequently linked that either term almost automatically evokes the other. It has become an accepted commonplace, part of the historical canon, that modernity began in the Enlightenment. This begs the obvious but yet problematic question: what was the general character of the intellectual phenomenon we term the Enlightenment? Since the end of the 1960

in The Enlightenment and religion
S.J. Barnett

. Some, however, were not entirely so, and were in good part the result of a matrix of personal, economic and politico-religious 11 The Enlightenment and religion circumstances and exigencies that prompted some observers to exaggerate threats to Christianity. The results are beyond doubt. The deism scare proved to be one of the great and enduring European propaganda coups, the results of which, in academic terms, are still with us today. Historians, wishing to locate the origins of secular modernity in the Enlightenment, have perpetuated the notion of a secularizing

in The Enlightenment and religion
Owen Davies

of such authors was generally censorious, tempered with a confidence that the forces of modernity would eventually vanquish such ‘old-fashioned’ beliefs. The language was not quite as harsh as M. Hilarion Barthety’s talk in 1874 of the ‘imbeciles’ who held such beliefs, but the word ‘credulity’ was used liberally. 12 One such author was Félix Chapisseau. Writing in 1902 of the area of La Beauce, in the plains south of

in Witchcraft Continued
S.J. Barnett

philosophical interpretations have influenced the thinking of professional historians.’1 For decades, the connection between the Enlightenment and modernity has been viewed as unproblematic. In his review of European Enlightenment studies Per una storia illuministica (1973), for example, Furio Diaz uncritically noted that the years c. 1955–70 had been ones in which hope for economic, political and cultural reform and improvement had been dominant. It was ‘natural’, therefore, that historians searched in history for ‘times and processes’ which reflected their own objectives of

in The Enlightenment and religion
S.J. Barnett

popular in style,16 developed and aimed at religious opponents. Those who have searched for the 50 Historians, religion and the historical record roots of modernity have looked insufficiently at intra-Christian polemical material because of their presupposition that evidence of modernity should take the form of secular or secularizing thought linked to a pronounced development of reason as a critical tool. Perhaps the most vital battleground of the Christian polemical terrain was history. Protestants, Catholics and their subdivisions sought to demonstrate that the

in The Enlightenment and religion
Ralph Keen

theologians needed to articulate a vision of history that accounted for the deterioration of religion over time and its restoration in their own day. From his first years in Wittenberg, Melanchthon stressed the purity of the distant past over the corruption of recent times.26 The heroic figure was the one who could restore ancient thought, practice, and piety. The contrast of a heroic antiquity with a decadent modernity is a prominent theme of Melanchthon’s work. Nevertheless, the Life of Luther is structured strangely, and one would be tempted to dismiss it as an incomplete

in Luther’s lives
Open Access (free)
The revolt of democratic Christianity and the rise of public opinion
S.J. Barnett

beliefs. It would have been unthinkable that the more pious Jansenists would not express some traditional elements of Catholic religiosity, even though Jansenists usually combatted what they regarded as excessive superstition. Indeed, even some more religiously orientated Jansenists thought the miraculous ‘cures’ to be an embarrassment. Scholarly modernity hunters have of course also recoiled with distaste at these events and have turned their heads elsewhere for the roots of modernity. Those who look for pure revolutions, movements or trends, however, will of course

in The Enlightenment and religion
Open Access (free)
black magic and bogeymen in Northern Ireland, 1973–74
Richard Jenkins

further evidence of an enchanted universe within which the Troubles were experienced and interpreted, and within which the black magic rumours circulated and found a degree of credence. An enchanted world: religion Northern Ireland in 1973–74 was far removed from the disenchantment that Max Weber predicted as the miserable fate of scientific, rationalized modernity. Nowhere is this more apparent than in

in Witchcraft Continued
Open Access (free)
Beyond the witch trials
Owen Davies
and
Willem de Blécourt

abuse that secular Catholic intellectuals threw at the theologians who clung fervently to the notion of witchcraft.9 It was likewise used by intellectuals in Protestant countries. It was also a label applied to the cultures of the ‘lower orders’ as a means of clearly demarcating the world of the ‘ignorant’ from the educated, the ‘irrational’ from the rational. In this sense ‘superstition’ became the antithesis of modernity. Marie Lennersand’s innovative account of the aftermath of the major witch trials in Dalarna, Sweden, demonstrates how the authorities began this

in Beyond the witch trials