By Peter Harrison
The beginning of the trendy notion of faith might be traced to the Enlightenment. This publication indicates how the options of "religion" and "the religions" arose from controversies in 17th- and eighteenth-century England. The start of "the religions," conceived of as units of ideals and practices, created a brand new technology of faith during which a few of the "religions" will be studied and impartially in comparison. Harrison supplies an in depth historic photograph of the emergence of this idea and the way it resulted in the self-discipline of comparative faith.
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Extra info for ''Religion'' and the Religions in the English Enlightenment
The Cambridge Platonists were a group of seventeenth-century English theologians and philosophers who were distinguished by their veneration of Plato and Plotinus, their opposition to religious fanaticism, and their preaching of a reasonable religion of holiness. The major figures in the school were Benjamin Whichcote, Ralph Cudworth, Henry More, Nathaniel Culverwel, Peter Sterry, and John Smith. George Rust, John Worthington, Simon Patrick and Richard Cumberland were lesser lights. All of the major figures in the group were educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, 'RELIGION' AND THE L I G H T OF NATURE 29 although Platonism also had its disciples at that traditional stronghold of Aristotelianism, Oxford.
The Synod of Dort, which met in 1619 to resolve the matter, decided in favour of the Calvinists, but despite this setback Arminianism continued to have great influence in Europe. In England, as early as 1580, Peter Baro at Cambridge had been espousing what were to become Arminian ideals. 17 Of the Five Arminian Articles, the first is of most concern to us. 18 This deceptively bland declaration has a significance which goes well beyond the theological controversy it engendered. For now, effectively, the whole business of salvation no longer falls under divine jurisdiction.
71 These views of the nature of religious knowledge mesh with a more general epistemological rationalism, which the Platonists shared to a degree with Descartes. Glanvill, More and Cudworth each insisted upon the a priori nature of fundamental religious beliefs, and indeed of all knowledge. Descartes' defence of his own understanding of the innate idea of God serves just as well for the Cambridge Platonists: I never wrote or concluded that the mind required innate ideas which were in some sort different from its faculty of thinking; but I observed the existence of certain thoughts which proceeded, not from extraneous objects nor from the determination of my will, but solely from the faculty of thinking that is within me, then, that I might distinguish the ideas or notions (which are the forms of thought) from other thoughts ADVENTITIOUS or FACTITIOUS, I termed them INNATE.
''Religion'' and the Religions in the English Enlightenment by Peter Harrison