The era of France Enlightenment and religion have a misconception that leads one to believe that they were enemies. The Enlightenment was not against religion but it was against the superstitions and the supernaturalism of religion. Philosophes during the era of France’s Enlightenment did not look to abolish religion or the Catholic Church of France. They simply wanted a separation of religion and state because it was believed that the state was based on reason and religion was based on morality. Religion and the Enlightenment were compatible and Dr. Sorkin argues: “the Enlightenment was not only compatible with religious belief,” it actually generated new formulations of that belief. One goal that was a reflection of the Enlightenment’s goal was the freedom from cristism of prejudice and the freedom of unfitted scrutiny. This meant that one should freely be able to worship their God in their own way or lack of worship without the persecution of the state intervening. The standard-bearers of the religious Enlightenment championed religious toleration and the freedom of religious minorities, although they stopped well short of calling for state neutrality in religious affairs. In this paper it will be explored that the infamous philosphes: Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau and Diderot did not oppose the Catholic Church of France but rather they opposed the power it possessed over its citizen’s religious needs. The Enlightenment was an expedition to encourage reason and to not discourage one’s belief in religion.
The official religion of France was Catholicism and there was not room for any other religion within the defined walls of this country. Protestants and Jewish minorities were denied full citizenship to France due to their religious beliefs. There was a lack of religious tolerance within this emerging country and the lack of religious tolerance was holding France back from budding. The people of France yearned for freedoms that were not controlled by the Catholic Church of France. Philospophes understood the tight control that the monarchy and the church held over its own citizens and fought for religious tolerance in order to bring unity to France. Leading thinkers of this religious Enlightenment sought a “reasonable” faith that was answerable to contemporary science and philosophy, and not grounded merely on dogmatic authority, pure emotion or fascination with the miraculous.
The Catholic Church of France
The church and the state had to contend with the growing influence of the Enlightenment and the need to strike a new balance with religion, a more utilitarian balance determined in large part by its own political rationalism. Power was held within the monarchy and the church. The monarchy of France and the Catholic Church were allies that were unbreakable. The King was the master of the temporal realm, while the Church under his protection ruled the spiritual realm. Kings derived their authority...