Comparing and Contrasting the Enlightenment, Transcendentalism, and Puritan Theology

Essay by awesomeangel0521High School, 11th gradeA+, December 2006

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Enlightenment, transcendentalism, and puritan theology: 3 philosophies that shaped 3 centuries in America. Since the time periods of each philosophy overlapped with the others, all 3 had similarities as well as differences. From these philosophies came different writers with different views, shaping American prose.

A major Enlightenment author was Thomas Paine. Thomas Paine wrote a piece called "The Age of Reason." In this piece he fully encompassed the ideologies of the Enlightenment. These included the belief in the perfectibility of a human being, universal benevolence, faith in natural goodness, and the sovereignty of reason. He talked about the flaws in religion and the idea that "his own mind is his own church." In his piece he said that everything can be explained through science and that nothing was made in vein. This piece completely outlined what people believed during the Enlightenment. During the enlightenment there was a major focus on science and finding rational and scientific explanations for everything.

What Thomas Paine said went against the beliefs of Puritans. He believed that religious duties included doing justice, loving mercy, and trying to make others happy. He claimed that all religions were based on hearsay revelations, and he was not obliged to believe that those revelations took place. He said that a revelation is a revelation only to the person who had it, and that he will not believe hearsay evidence of something. This goes against the Puritan ideas with their claims that one will burn in hell if one does not believe in Christ. The Puritans based their ideas not on scientific evidence, but rather on "God's will" and following the bible. Jonathon Edwards, an important Puritan writer, explained exactly what would happen to one if one did not believe in Christ or do as God wished. He argued...