Discuss how the Age of Enlightenment affected the authority of the social and religious establishment.

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Age of Enlightment came to full blown on the 18th century (the 1700's) and one of the biggest proponents and leaders of the moement was none other than Isaac Newton, whose discoveries had altered the role of mankind in the invention of things, much like in previous years God had taken the lead role in the creation of all that surrounds us.

Suddenly, the Newtonian Era began to put questions in everyone's brains because, not long before the time, the Clergy was nearly hand in hand with the Kingdoms in terms of ruling everything from politics, to education, to even what was permitted  to be known and what was not allowed to be learned.

Prior to the Enlightement, it was true that people were "blinded" or "in the dark" *hence, the paradoxical term "Enlightement". Just a couple of centuries prior the Spanish Inquisition and all the other witch hunts that occured in Europe meddled in everything from which way the Earth moved to who moved against who, how far the stars were located, how big the moon was, and even wheter gravity was real or not. Come on?!

The clergy was literally a JOKE, with popes and cardinals having orgies, wives, children, and spending money in debaucheries. In other words, the people have had enough and something HAD to give.

This is why once the doors of science opened into floodgates of new knowledge and experience, all that was considered "sacrosanct" came with a big "WHY" sticker, and this time there was enough proof to show who was right.

This is how the Age of Enlightment facilitated the social shift and intellectual growth that opened the doors to the world as we know it today.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Age of Enlightenment sought to reduce the role of religious establishment.  The notion of a force that would take away from the ability of a human being to think and exercise rational thought represented something that was almost inconceivable to the Enlightenment thinkers.  The social authority which also sought to reduce the individual's ability to exercise free will and reason is something to be derided and devalued, as nothing should supersede the powers of the individual.  Thinkers like Voltaire were extremely instrumental in exalting the rights and powers of the individual. For his own part, Montesquieu sought to create a framework of government where power would be limited over the individual, who would still be able to pursue a life of their own free will and choice with minimal interference from external bodies.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In general, the authority of both of these establishments was reduced by the Age of Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment was based on a couple of major ideas.  Thinkers from this era believed that people were all more or less equal to each other.  They also believed that people whould look to science and not to supernatural/religious explanations to try to explain how the world worked.

As you can imagine, both of these ideas weakened entrenched establishements.   The first of these ideas went against the authority of the monarchy while the second ate away at the authority of religious hierarchies.