Role of Religion in the Englightenment (Descartes and Voltaire)

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During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries writers such as Descartes and Voltaire were heavily influenced by religion, as evidence of their writings. The Declaration of the Rights of Man is a perfect example of how religion impacted society during the period of Enlightenment.

As Descartes uses knowledge as an Archimedean point, he uses the existence of God as part of this knowledge. He studied the relation between science and religion very carefully. He set out to find out how we know that we are able to know. At the same time, he studied the relation between reason and faith. In his rationalism, he knew that we lived in a world that has laws that are created through the use of reason. He used God's existence to give social structure to society. Finally, Descartes shows the role of religion through his rationalism. This Continental Rationalism was centered on "Descartes belief that the human mind contains innate ideas or ‘certain seeds of truth that are in our souls'" (Trulove, 13). Our ideas come from our souls, which came from a higher power. As evidence in his writings, Voltaire was also heavily influenced by religion during the age of Enlightenment. Similar to Descartes, Voltaire used faith in reason to research the natural laws of human behavior. However in Candide, he disagrees when he states that man was not born with innate ideas. Voltaire does not believe man is either good or bad. According to Trulove, he "continued a cautious yet certain, humanistic and secular path toward a human-based knowledge of the world" (29). In this knowledge he found that evil existed. He hated the pain and suffering that existed in God's name through organized religion. Voltaire is "soberly hopeful that through the growing exercise of reason people can make improvements in life" (Trulove 43). Religion made Voltaire analyze society and strive to fix what man made wrong in the name of God. In 1789, the Declaration of the Rights of Man was written in France establishing...
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