The religion of the Enlightenment

Speaking of what came naturally leads to concern for the other religious force that Crane Brinton denominated the religion of the Enlightenment with a Big 'E'. While members of the various churches could fight at each other's side and demonize the king and the British, they did not share enough premises to enable them to devise the sets of common purposes that would be needed for nation-building. Here, fortuitously or providentially, this new Enlightened philosophy held sufficient sway among leaders who articulated visions and formulated laws. They were able to transcend sectarian boundaries.

The first traces of the new language that spoke of the God of Nature or the God of Reason were heard among some educated British troops during the colonial wars, around 1758. Never did the advocates who spoke that language attract congregations or large followings. Their ranks were peopled by attorneys and merchants, many of whom had graduated from Harvard and Yale in the north, Princeton in the middle colonies, and William and Mary in the south. Others received some of their education in England, and there picked up the nuances and claims of this religion. They began to apply these in the American colonies.

In the Anglican Church some of these liberalizing viewpoints were called Arminian, accenting, as we have noted, the benevolence of a God who dealt genially and generously with humans who were devoted to virtue. Beyond the church, in most cases, in the circle of religiously minded philosophers, some called themselves deists. Thomas Jefferson would be classified a deist, while Philadelphia patriot and founder Benjamin Franklin, a printer and scientist, though nominally a Presbyterian, paid little attention to the Calvinist creed and, when he did do so he was critical. Let it be noted, however, that as a promoter of virtue Franklin could support the work but not the message of

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