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tv   Lectures in History  CSPAN  December 20, 2015 12:01am-1:01am EST

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>> will you are watching american history tv. all weekend every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook. this week on lectures in the louisiana state university professor andrew burstein speaks on the enlightenment era to show how these endeavors were in line with the humanist ideals of the time. he also argues that the great awakening, a religious movement of the 1740's, was in conflict with the emphasis on scientific thinking. this class was about an hour.
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>> all right, welcome to another exciting adventure in the united states history. as i have said before, as an important part of this survey course, exploration of the ideas that came to define the american identity. we try to see our history in new and novel ways. to push up against the boundaries and think critically. occasionally, to laugh at professors' jokes. lsu is not a mickey mouse university, but let's suppose for a moment there is a mickey mouse university. there is a professor mouse and student mice, and at mickey mouse university the class looks up, looks to the door, and sees a ravenous cat looking right at him, hungry.
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the mouse, mickey mouse professor, yells out, oh, and the cat hightails it and immediately runs away. one of the relieved students speaks to the professor and says, "what was that, professor?" and the professor says, "that, my friends, is why it is good to learn a second language." [laughter] language. language and wit. that is one of today's key themes. we are all affected by the meaning we attached to words. language, we figure, is the most logical part of the word. -- of the world. why is it that we sit in the stands at an athletic
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contest? why do we build a building if it is already built? why is there no good definition for a thesaurus? think about that. why is palindrome not spelled the same backwards and forwards? language and wit. science tells us that we are the remains of stars, inorganic material that is somehow combined to produce light. -- that is somehow combined to produce life. we don't know what to call god. we don't have the language, we don't have the uniform language for everything that concerns or consumes us. that is kind of what the 18th-century enlightenment is all about. check this out.
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this is -- [laughter] thank you. this is by one of the greatest new yorker artists. -- new yorker cartoonists. you just witnessed the combination of imagination, or imaginative wit, and reason and judgment. that is how you got the joke. wit and judgment are both with the association of ideas. congratulations. you are now able to understand the philosophy of john locke. john locke was one of the most influential philosophers in
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history. he was well-known to the founding generation of the united states, the american revolutionaries. why does it matter that he was trained as a physician? well, he and many of the enlightened philosophes were initially physicians before they entered into writing philosophy by the late 17th century, when locke was writing. advanced studies of anatomy and physiology became the scientific understandings of the human body, especially focusing on the brain and the nervous system. and they rejected, for the first time, the philosophy that had
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been passed down from the ancients, from the greek and roman world. bloodletting was still practiced by physicians in the 18th century, although they also talked about the nerve. internal convulsions were extrapolated into political convulsions. the mechanisms of the body relate to mechanisms of government. the nerves coursing through the body made us who we are more than some godly touch or godly inheritance. so physicians like locke looked to the senses, the brain. something they called nervous fluid. here lay answers about human social organization.
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the language of medicine. the physician-philosophers of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, reduced the importance of the humors and replaced that ancient vocabulary with a new nerve-based vocabulary. for them, everything critical was organized in the head. empirical knowledge, reason and the senses, experiment and judgment. that meant rejection of magic and superstition. that is where suspicion of organized religion came in. that is where deism came in. to give you the simplest definition, it was the idea that
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god created a self-sustaining universe,created the earth and was no longer directly involved in managing it. so for locke, in his essay "concerning the human understanding," the best known of his works among the american founding generation, he tells us no knowledge is innate. we are born like a blank slate. experience determines the most about us. ideas enter our minds through the senses as impressions. perception is one source of our ideas. another is reflection, driving satisfaction the or uneasiness that rises from
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thoughts. this makes him something of a psychologist as well, because he is examining human passions along with a medicalized vocabulary. how locke influenced politics. he disputed the divine right to rule over citizens arbitrarily. he explained human beings possessed free will and should learn to appreciate liberty, to obey superiors out of conviction and not out of fear. he went so far as to write that excess tyranny justified revolution. this comes from his two
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treatises on government. this was published in the same year, 1690, in which he advocated -- a man ahead of his time, a system of government and legislature that owed their office to an implicit contract with the people. now you can see, knowing what you already know, locke would have been influential among those looking to create a republic. locke was a cautious believer. in his time, to be branded an atheist was a very dangerous thing. locke was rather cautious when it came to criticizing religious belief.
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beyond our senses, he wrote, we cannot be certain of anything, except a god whose rational purpose was evident in the harmony and order of nature. beyond our senses, ok, our senses. that is where impressions form ideas. where we read for understanding. -- where we reason through for understanding. harmony and order of nature. god to locke only worked through the laws of nature, not independent of the laws of nature. this is the critique of magic and superstition. privileging science over the supernatural.
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religious dogma, religious toleration, religious freedom. we move to david hume. he became more influential after his death in 1770, a significant year in our history. in the natural history of religion published in 1757, david hume, one of the scottish philosophes, denoted blind faith as irrational. he wondered how sublime works of history could make so many bizarre beliefs about god. natural religion. that is the vocabulary hume introduced. the idea, going from locke, that
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god is the equivalent of the laws of nature, substituting that for revealed religion, which as we discussed last class with regards to puritans. puritan religion focused on god actively saving the souls. of the elect. god's grace. this is what enlightened philosophes are rejecting. two other scottish philosophes worth mentioning, because they were influential in shaping the minds and outlooks of the american founders, adam smith and lord kames. "the theory of moral sentiments," published in 1759,
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was widely read. and quoted. in 1776 he published the wealth of nations about political economy. it was the theory of moral sentiments that shaped the moral direction of the american revolution, to the extent that it was read by the elites who wrote the documents that we take pride in today as the founding documents of the nation.
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lord keynes published elements of criticism in 1762. that is the work he is most that is the work he is most famous for and in his time. what these men said, as you can see, is that we recognize, in human behavior, the operation of the principle of benevolence as well as that of selfishness. it is natural to have selfish feelings, but it is just as natural to have feelings of the most exquisite sensibility. sympathetic feelings. fellow feeling, adam smith calls it. fellow feelings. this is the idea that we are endowed with a moral sense. that we do not have to be taught morality that is built-in when we are born. this is something of a departure from locke's blank slate. the scottish philosophes, all
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adored smith and kames. -- keynes. they gave the central place to conscience. of a morality separate from religion. that set the idea of a republic founded on moral principles and operating on the human spirit. we are talking about the evolution of the americas sense of collective identity.
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enlightenment thinkers were those that arrogated to themselves special knowledge. for them, their critique, the intensity of emotion in the breach or the prophet had nothing to do with the discovery of subjective truth. he who declares that he is speaking of a knowledge of god is really only talking about himself and revealing his own interstate. they asked, what god would enlighten some individuals and leave the rest in moral darkness? critique ofplicit the puritan theology. so, for the enlightenment thinkers, it was enough to say god permeates the world. they were happy to stop there. ok. let's synthesize what we have
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done up to now and then we will move to the american scene, directly. 18th-century enlightenment humanists accused religion of being oppressive, hindering intellectual progress, reducing the chance of achieving a just social and political order through the kind of hierarchy that organized religion presented. they equated religious ritual or primitivetion fear of demonic, as religious skeptics, they do not see themselves as atheists. as long as religion represented an affirmation of humanism and they upheld religions moral
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value. humanism, let's get to the core of this. every culture arrives at a different consensus when it comes to the meaning of what it is to be human. for some cultures, the relation of man and one to god is -- of men and women to god is paramount. for other cultures, the competitive instinct triumphs. you have the royals, landed elite as a protected class. and their lives matter more. and then there are the beyond to -- and then, there are the p eons to labor for these
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elites. they are co-opted into believing the superiority of their social betters, even the divine character of the monarch. just ask the emperors and the pharaohs and the slaves who built their giant tombs. there are open and secular societies and closed secular societies. there are open religious societies, and closed religious societies. i guess i'm saying no one is safe. arguably, our technology has not freed us. even now, we can ask how advanced are our systems of belief. how much more advanced are we than the generations preceding ours? when it comes to questions of science, religion, ethical progress, we are still confused. that is another reason why
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history matters, and why it matters that we are studying the debates that took place in the middle of the 18th century. and that we are studying the men, largely men, who produced the documents by which our political lives are organized. what is freedom? language matters. do we have a good definition of freedom? freedom is not absolute. we have laws. freedom has no clear, fixed definition that everyone agrees on. we talk about individualism in this country, but nothing is more human than to exist concurrently under delusions of grandeur and delusions of subordination. we talk about equality.
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that is one of the go to words in the language of american national identity. we know in fact that no society has ever existed that is fundamentally based on equality. we have our ideals and then we have our reality. we are still engaged in the debates that the american founding generation was engaged in. we may not be reading as much philosophy as they did, but we are still talking that language. humanism. humanism is not, don't get me wrong, it is not the antithesis of religion. all you have to do is think of pope francis, or the dalai lama, and what they have contributed to the world. through their lives of commitment to humanity, collectively.
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humanism, then, is not a secular worldview necessarily, but it is a distinctive worldview and it goes back to ancient greece and rome, and those philosophers. the philosophers that the ones in the 18th century read and adored. humanism concerns self cultivation. adoration of what science can teach, and aesthetic outlook and appreciation for the intrinsic power of grand nature. that god can exist in nature, and not need ministers to interpret god for those who are willing to study, test
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propositions, and seek truth. we do not want to surrender our will to someone else who is going to tell us where we can find knowledge. these are the values of the enlightenment that our founders were interested in discovering and debating. humanism is bolstered by a government which enacts sympathetic policies and cares about the lives of its citizens. now, you see, why humanism is important. when we talk about humanism, we are talking about the values that created america. whether or not we see them, we feel them in our everyday. these are values that we declared to be consistent with
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the american self-image. language. when you go to a university and you see a department, it is called humanities. that is where this come from -- humanism, the humanities. the development of the modern university. it is all tied together. humanism makes a moral claim in the favor of tolerance. humanism of course reached its pinnacle in the 24th century under the leadership of jean-luc picard, captain of the starship enterprise. this is to see if you're still paying attention. you do not have to put that in your notes.
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humanists contemplate human destiny. so do a lot of other people. the difference is for humanists, the emphasis is on the meaning of our collective life on earth. the human spirit is something to be marveled at. studied seriously for its own sake. that is why the declaration of independence, why the american revolution was couched in the language of pursuing our collective pursuit of happiness. we are getting there. as a moral community, emphasis on community, the pursuit of happiness is an individual value but also a community value. it that is part of the humanist regime. and it stands in opposition to the forces of tyranny that would ostensibly enslave the mind. that now is quintessentially jeffersonian thinking. that is enlightenment humanism.
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where is this heading? we know this guy. for benjamin franklin -- i can do without those. for benjamin franklin, a humanist, a self-made man, the first american to be considered ingenious by the europeans. who contributed to world culture, who made the americans more than subservient colonials, that benjamin franklin, born at the beginning of the 18th century and lived 84 years,
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franklin never attended college, but he read incessantly. at the age of 20, just 20 years old, your age, he knew locke's theory of sensation, to question the immortality of the soul. he grew up in boston, but his -- but his own sense of , and his desire for scientific knowledge, self-taught, made him a humanist. puritanism's suspicion of the individual will, franklin rejected from an early age. for him, as the enlightened humanist in england and the
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continent, religious belief smacked of magic, superstition, and miracles. he totally rejected that in favor of science and experiment. the search for empirical evidence. though it makes an important history, aside from anything else that he might have done, he gave europe an inkling of the potential that colonial americans had to produce intellectuals. to contribute meaningfully to world culture and scientific progress. and as we know, as we all know something about historical benjamin franklin, to get his message across, the humanist message across, he applied
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humor. that is how he carried the day. that is why he is remembered. so franklin at the age of 16 was a servant in effect, an apprentice to his older brother james's newspaper, a controversial newspaper called the new england current. he didn't want to just be sweeping the floors. he had a belief in himself that he would make something of himself. bysecretly submitted slipping it under the door of the newspapers office at night. these letters, written by one silence dogood. the letters were published in
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his brother's newspaper and his younger brother was the author. silence dogood is interesting because more than once in his career, franklin adopts a female persona. he is playful on the printed page. part of his unheralded success. silence dogood describes herself as a widow with three children. who was married to the minister who took her in as a benevolent
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man. she had come over from england. franklin invented this whole legend for her. her father died on the way. so she had a hard life. but the minister allowed her to use his library. she became something of a pop philosopher. she was ben. in the papers, franklin writes -- without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom. without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as winston -- as wisdom.
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so the humanism message is there in the 16-year-olds writings. next, in his career, benjamin franklin adopted another pseudonym. that of richard saunders. bit by bit he became a successful printer. he didn't just create the pennsylvania gazette.
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after becoming a runaway servant and leaving his brothers employ. he moved penniless to philadelphia. where he achieved national right now. nown.k he explains the struggle that he undertook in order to become a successful printer. further to our humanist agenda we look at poor richard's almanac. almanacs were popular. they claimed to predict the weather. season by season of the year ahead. they gave the phases of the moon. farmers needed this information. they contained space in which people who didn't have a lot of paper to keep a diary.
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franklin did something very new. in this existing genre. he built into the simple almanac a voice. a character. for richard. -- if you cannot read this, i will read part of it for you. -- courteous reader. i write for no other purpose than the public good. the plain truth of the matter is i am excessively for and my wife is excessively --
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she has threatened more than if i doburn my books not make some profitable use of my instruments for the good of my family. the printer, and now he is referring to benjamin franklin, the printer has offered me a considerable share of the profits. in order to make something of ksy guy, this is a fol that ordinary americans can relate to. becomeshard almanac extremely popular. selling tens of thousands a year. this is why benjamin franklin became a millionaire, america's first. he was able to retire to a gentleman's life, performing scientific experiments, when he was only 40 years old.
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let us investigate poor richard a little bit. for entertainment and knowledge toonce, and with apologies david letterman, i have a top 10 list. of my 10 favorite poor richard axioms. he is a fool that makes his heir. his hair -- his doctors were notoriously bad back then. beware the young doctor and the old barber. neither of them were very good with a scalpel back them. has tooight, the rich much. his humor is often laced with a moral message. a socially responsible message.
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he is a humanist. seven, distrust and caution are the parents of security. number six, by what thou has no need of and before long, you will fulfill your necessaries. this was before credit cards existed. if one has wit and learning, add to it wisdom and modesty. there is some universal wisdom in this. you do not find this humorous yet, wait until number three. the ages tell us what is best but we must learn from the moderns what is fittest. he was different from many among the elites in colonial america because he did not believe the
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seven-year-old should study greek and latin necessarily. which was the standard for the well-to-do and their offspring. instead he suggested that we , learn modern languages so that we can communicate with living people. this was one of his innovative ideas. are you ready? number three. three make -- three may keep a secret number two are dead. got a rise out of you finally. i have to be a professor part of the time. a serious number one. forgotten,d not be as soon as you are dead and rotten, either right things worth reading or do things worth the writing. now we have a much better sense
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of who poor richard was and who ben franklin was. the next iteration is franklin as the organization man. he brought to bear his ideas to improve the community. caring about others. this was not without self-interest. remember, the scottish philosophes. he starts out in 1727 by establishing the junto. a young men's improvement club. they would hand out questions in advance of a meeting and they would get together and discuss. these were about improving the community. about individual morals. they would read books and share ideas.
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these were young men like himself who were not born to wealth but who believed that it was possible to rely on oneself, study, and get ahead in society. in 1730, he is only 23 years old, when he founds the pennsylvania gazette. which continues publication until the american revolution. he establishes the library company of pennsylvania. this is a photograph of the facility. it is a major research facility in philadelphia it was founded franklin in as the 1731 first public lending library.
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he also, because buildings were built with wood and they did not have electric lights. i know this comes as a shock to some. an electric shock. but buildings caught fire all , the time. he had a way of organizing the community of volunteers to establish effective fighting forces. the same year that thomas jefferson was born, 1743, benjamin franklin founded the american philosophical society that jefferson as vice president of the united states would be president of. it was a clearinghouse for discoveries and ideas and science and political philosophy
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-- political philosophy. they would write an extension of what the junto was on a very small local level. it became a clearinghouse for the important ideas that are being discussed across colonial boundaries. members from all of the colonies who were the intellectuals the day became members and were voted as members it -- as members of the american philosophical society. it shows the progressive spirit of benjamin franklin at his heyday. we must recognize that benjamin franklin was a man of his time. so when it comes to theories of race and ethnicity, he is an 18th-century man with 18th-century ideas.
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we don't like them. he believes that africans were properly suited for servant like work because he thought they had a natural inferiority. two whites. whites. why did he think that? in his mind africa had not produced art and literature. to his mind, slaves in america, or service in america who originated in africa, before they were chained and put on ships and brought to the caribbean. some of these were brought to america. --.re all of that, we should not be surprised that with few qualms he printed
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runaway ads to capture, a slave owner would print ads in the pennsylvania gazette offering a reward for the return of the runaway slave who was physically described in the body of the advertisement. franklin can do this without evidencing any sympathy for slaves. he also had considerable interaction with the indians in western pennsylvania. he was a diplomat on the pennsylvania frontier before you -- before he became a diplomat for the american colonies in england. he listened intently to the cultural logic of the indians he dealt with. he looked upon them with a humane curiosity. he did not expect them to become civilized. he did not expect them to gravitate toward european-style civilizations.
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and like many mainstream thinkers of the 18th and 19th centuries, he believed that they would probably go extinct because they could not adapt to modern civilization. here's a really good example of how that 18th-century sensibility is when it comes to non-english white people in pennsylvania. tolerant pennsylvania. benjamin franklin did not like the germans. he saw them as a difficult immigrant group. because they printed their own newspaper in their own languages and they did not want to learn english. they kept to their own society. they did not assimilate readily. they didn't anglicized. it was that called for pride -- it was that cultural pride among the germans that he
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couldn't stomach. vote to put benjamin franklin american currency, you have to know these things. oh, wait a minute. you've probably never seen a $100 bill. there is science and then there is religion. take your pick. solar eclipse or the devil hovered over the church. we move now to the reaction to the enlightenment and that is the burst of enthusiasm in colonial american history that goes by the name of the great awakening. it is heralded by most historians as an extended moment
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roughly late 1730's to the 1750's. when a cross colonial movement arose a popular movement that , was religious more than political. but the enthusiasm generated was sufficient to suggest further cross colonial cooperation at a time when the mother country and the colonies were having arguments. this is next week's lecture. one historian has noted that the puritan patriarch john winthrop founded a community of the spirit and his grandchildren invested in connecticut real estate. this somehow sums up the complaint of the moment by 1740.
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material aspirations, he was a -- nothing if not an advertisement for material --. the idea of becoming successful. leeas a philanthropic inspired individual -- p hilanthropically inspired individual because his inventions like the franklin stove or his experiments and electricity, he did not try to capitalize on them. instead of taking a patent, he gave them to society at large the betterment of humanity. he did become a millionaire. he knew what he was doing. across the colonies who at this time, 1740's, some ministers noted that spiritual piety almost didn't exist anymore and
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that an awakening was necessary. and god had to come back into people's lives. so the great awakening was a more or less spontaneous movement counteracting the worship of wealth, greed, and selfishness. it was also a reaction against the scientific rationalization of the enlightenment. the great awakening if it had a slogan it was god hovers over you. god is present. itinerant preachers and the image here is of the reverend george whitfield who may have been the best known and the most popular came over from england
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at the end of the 1730's. he worked his way up from georgia to pennsylvania to new england. giving these barn burning and mesmerizing sermons. sometimes whitfield was invited into local churches. times, the local minister was suspicious of him. -- youknown to call out parishioners, you have to double. the more sedate and sober ministers did not like that kind of rabble rousing or ultra is or ultra them -- enthusiasm. if a minister refused to allow whitfield to preach, he preached outdoors. his personalization of god and his everyday presence in life. he was in the business of saving souls. the conflict that arose at this
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time was between those who worried about how their polite congregations were being disturbed by this excess of passion. those known as the old lights. and the new lights were the , dissenting sects. adherentsust gaining at this time. the older ones tended to be the congregationalists of new england. successors to the puritans. aside from this enthusiasm of this great awakening, one of the interesting up shots was the establishment of denominational colleges.
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you have presbyterians founding the college of new jersey which is known today as princeton university. the baptists in providence, rhode island founded brown university. the great awakening was not just a blip on the screen. many schools of thought contended as a result of this movement. great awakening did not change secular humanism as a model of behavior in late colonial america. it did provide thoroughgoing competition to that model. those, like franklin
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and most of those we know as the founding fathers, were known as deists. they stood in opposition to the enthusiasm of the evangelicals. again the definition that i gave , at the beginning, these deists considered god is the watchmaker -- god as the watchmaker god who started the mechanism in motion and then rested" the views -- and let the earth take its course. god who could best be explained through the laws of nature. if it could not be scientifically proven to exist, then it was not real. secular humanism remained
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important and yet the evangelical groups, they were respected by the secular humanists because they stood in the way of the established church. in massachusetts the congregationalists' church. in virginia, the anglican church. by the revolution fully one third of virginians belong to the baptist church. close to two thirds belonging to the anglican church in but that -- the anglican church, but that does show a change underway. did runlar humanists
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counter to the ecstatic message of a george whitfield. they insisted that the power of nature and only in nature. only in the way that nature was on inspiring. desire tood had no exercise power over humankind. involved in the world in any direct way. god's power lay in nature not over humankind. where are we going with this? bring it up today. how widely is enlightenment
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thinking expressed today? scientists search for an evolutionary explanation for why believe in god exists, not whether god exists. some scientists speculate as to a biological explanation for belief in god. that the brain's architecture evolved so that it would help us to survive as a species amid hardships and loss of loved ones. just as it was in the 18th-century the jury is out.
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six out of 10 americans today believe that hell exists. seven out of 10 believe in angels. about half of you believe in angels and only 1% believe it's possible that bigfoot exists in nature. time magazine cnn poll in 2002 found that 25% of americans believe that the terrorist attack of 9/11 was predicted in the bible. 25%. that goes to something about human psychology. probably not part of this course. for next tuesday's class, i want you to suit up for the french and indian war. and here's your moment of zen. you are free to go. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
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