How did the enlightenment change basic western attitudes toward faith, reform, and reason?

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jilllessa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Enlightenment brought about major changes in Western attitudes  towards faith, reform and reason because the movement was based on the triumph of reason.  The men of the Enlightenment sought to answer all of life's questions by reason and rational thought. They believed that anything that could not be explained rationally was not really believable so they applied reason to all areas of life.  They used scientific method and reason to question areas that had been before relegated to trusted authorities or religion.  This brought about great change in the faith of Europe.  It made men question the church and its restrictions.  It made them question their governments and their social structure.  Some important concepts that were developed included idea that "All men are created equal" and that they should be equal before the law.  The men of the Enlightenment saw things that were wrong in their society and set out to change it thus opening the mind's of Europeans to reform and setting the scene for both the American and French Revolutions.  Reason, rather than faith, became the guiding force for European society and reason could bring about reform.  The thinkers of the Enlightenment and their ideas are still influencing the society in which we live.

dbello eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Enlightenment philosophy engaged the idea that man was generally 'good' and that this 'goodness' would govern his decision making abilities. Those who adopted an 'enlightenment philosophy' believed that they had the capacity to reason and therefore were entitled to autonomy over their lives. Enlightenment thinkers believed that they themselves were capable of reforming the society they lived in and it did require permission from the church. This new belief flew in the face of religion, namely the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. As a result, many enlightened thinkers moved away from the absolute obedience the church required of them and instead adopted a Deist philosophy. Those who considered themselves Deists believed in a higher or supreme being however were free to worship as they saw fit. They viewed the Roman Catholic Church as an institution that lost its revelance in the new scientific, philosophical world they lived in. The rules and requirements the church 'forced upon the sinning masses' simply went against the idea that people were generally good.