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The Effect of the Enlightenment on Religion, Science and Society

In a stimulating and possibly controversial essay, Daniel Chirot of the University of Washington, Seattle, makes the case that the unexpected economic advance and dominion of the West, which occurred only after 1700, is not either because of Christian Protestantism or in spite of Western religiosity. It is the consequence of the Enlightenment, which did not do away with faith but changed how people thought about and related to their faith. In essence, it was “the intellectual rejection of medieval religious dogma, and then the distancing of scientific and political analysis from traditional religion” that allowed the West to emerge into modernity. And it is when other countries make similar moves that they become co-heirs of modernity and its abundant fruit. Read Chirot’s argument in a 23-page PDF-formatted article archived on the Association of Religion Data Archive website. To see other archived scholarly papers, access the Guiding Papers Series home page.

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