1. The philosophes did not accept the scientific revolutionary notion that the laws of Nature express the will of God. The philosophes made it clear that God, revelation, Scripture, and all of the other ingredients of traditional Christianity were subjects of scorn. Scholars in many countries found it increasingly difficult to bridge the gulf between natural and supernatural, to reconcile natural law and divine providence, and to balance moral philosophy and spiritual virtue. Revealed religion was under siege, and the answer seemed to be to reject the new modernity or to reject traditional dogmas that relied on non-scientific epistemology (Columbia).
Philosophes set out to get a few things out of the way, namely Christianity, not its ethics of love and brotherhood, but its supernatural history, theology, and church. Richard Simon led the way in what is known as the higher criticism of Scripture, the analysis of its meaning and truth, and not just the purity of the text. Around this time Spinoza was expanding a philosophy deeply marked by natural science, which was incompatible with a literal belief in the Bible. The Bible, when closely read, appeared to be a compilation by anonymous scribes and full of contradictions. The moral teachings were admirable, the historical parts uncertain, and the stories allegorical (Barzun).
Bayle's Dictionary had a message on the Book of Genesis, saying it is not wrong on one point and that is God did create the universe, but nobody knows how, and He set it going according to rules-the laws of science-with which He had no reason to interfere (Barzun).
Most empiricists of the first generation acknowledged God as the Creator, the Great Watchmaker, who set the cosmos in motion and then let it run on its own. He also endowed Man with the gift of reason, with which he discovers this orderly scheme. God may very likely not exist, there is in truth no need for Him. Lucretius demonstrated that al... Continue Reading