LSP FINAL - Williams |1 Patrick Williams LSP 112 Religion...

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W i l l i a m s | 1 Patrick Williams LSP 112 Religion and Enlightenment Paine vs. D’Holbach Thomas Paine and Baron D’Holbach were two key figures during the time of the Enlightenment, although Paine is perhaps more noteworthy than D’Holbach. Paine’s fame comes from his Common Sense pamphlet which is a cornerstone in the foundations of the American and French revolutions. D’Holbach is most known for his writings denouncing religion and advocating atheism. At a glance, these two men’s ideals might seem completely contradictory as Paine is a believer in God and D’Holbach a fiery Atheist. In spite of this, both philosophers’ ideas concerning morality, religion, and reason are strikingly similar. In their respective works, Paine’s The Age of Reason and D’Holbach’s No Need of Theology…Only of Reason…, similarities and differences alike can be seen. Baron D’Holbach’s stance on theology and reason revolve around one essential quotation; To learn the true principles of morality, men have no need of theology, of revelation, or gods: They have need only of reason. They have only to enter into themselves, to reflect upon their own nature, consult their sensible interests, consider the object of society, and of the individuals, who compose it; and they will easily perceive, the virtue is the interest, and vice is the unhappiness of beings of their kind. Let us persuade men to be just, beneficent, moderate, sociable; not because the gods demand it, but because they must please men. Let us advise them to abstain from vice and crimes; not because they will be punished in the other world, but because they will suffer for it in this. (D’Holbach 144) This quote, taken from his Natural Ideas supposed to Supernatural , contains the essence of his belief which is that mankind has no need for theology, but only of reason. D’Holbach thinks of theology as a custom preserved only because it has been valued in societies throughout the ages.
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Theology is a chimerical system used to explain natural phenomena. The very foundation of religious belief is based on the idea that humanity cannot fathom the reasoning of God; therefore we are not to question the validity of these dogmas. However, using human reason, it is glaringly obvious that the bases of theology are built upon unstable grounds. Paine, too, finds fallacies and impossibilities among the doctrines of organized religious institutions across the globe; Every national church or religion has established itself by pretending [to be on] some special mission from God, communicated to certain individuals. The Jews have their Moses; the Christians their Jesus Christ, their apostles and saints; and the Turks their Mahomet—as if the way to God was not open to every man alike. (Paine 176) Paine points to the idea of revelation, or the word of God, in all religions as a fallacy. In terms of religion, revelation means something communicated directly to man from God. All of the aforementioned religions claim to have revelations handed down to them by God, and these
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LSP FINAL - Williams |1 Patrick Williams LSP 112 Religion...

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