How did the Enlightenment lead to a more secular outlook in society?

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The Enlightenment (1685–1815) led to a more secular society for several reasons. The Enlightenment is also known as the Age of Reason; reason replaced faith for many people during this period. People often met in coffeehouses to exchange ideas and debate the issues of the day.

The Christian Church had dominated the Middle Ages. After the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West in 476 CE, the popes of the Catholic Church wielded enormous power. Great rulers, such as Charlemagne, were crowned by popes. But Napoleon grabbed the crown from Pope Pius VII and put it on his own head at his coronation in 1804; such a bold act would have been unthinkable before the Enlightenment.

Isaac Newton, John Locke, and other Enlightenment figures (philosophes) strongly believed that knowledge was attainable through human reason and calculation. Denis Diderot’s Encyclopédie summarized human knowledge; it, not the Bible, had the answers. Philosophes believed that natural law—not the hand of...

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on October 29, 2019