The Modern "Age of Reason" and the Evangelical Revival

November 2004

J. Hardwick

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The other day I was reading an essay about the history of Deism. The article mentioned that each time Deism (or more appropriately Deistic thought) and Reason have become popular there has been an Evangelical Revival. Then in a discussion regarding this subject it was mentioned that we might be seeing a new revival as many Evangelical/Fundamentalist religious sects in the world and America are gaining momentum.

As I was thinking about all this I began to look at the past. Reason tends to come in vogue and then be overturned by religious revival. Just looking at the history of the world shows this to be the case. Each time in the past that has seen an Age of Reason, it has been followed by an Evangelical/Fundamentalist (Christian and Non-Christian) Revival.

We can look at the Middle East and see how Fundamentalism and the Revival movement (take over is more appropriate) occurred there. In India, there has recently been a movement to recognize the country as a Hindu Nation (sound familiar?). Of course, each time an Age of Reason movement occurred in Europe there has been a revival movement

In America, we have been no different. Reason laid the way for the Constitution and the government and seemed destined (at the time) to continue and prosper. However, by the mid-1800s an Evangelical revival started and pushed Reason to the side again only to be found among the few. Luckily, the few were in charge during the times when it really counted.

Looking back at the past century has led me to believe that a Modern Age of Reason has occurred. Of course, this is not the 1700s and with our lives surrounded in science it was harder to notice, but for me it was an Age of Reason.

I believe it started before WWII and really began to go from there. It was a protracted movement that took time and had some speed bumps on the way with the Cold War, the Red Scare, the Vietnam War, the 60s and the 70s. While it did not stop during this time, it was severely limited by these wars and movements.

The "Age" regained momentum in the 80s and reached its zenith in the 90s. Looking back, the 80s and 90s were a time of scientific advancement and the intention of the Founders regarding religion was pushed forth. How did this movement occur? Simple, it was Apathy and Denial on the part of the Evangelicals/Fundamentalists.

The Evangelicals/Fundamentalists had power is their small circles, money was coming in and the numbers were good. However, plenty of scandals and Reason began to open many eyes to alternatives. The Deism movement grew by 717% in 10 years. The Fundamentalists finally realized this and as history shows another Evangelical revival movement was started.

In the late 80s as the height of Reason was approaching, the Evangelicals/Fundamentalists mobilized and got involved in politics and law. They rewrote history to show that their viewpoint was correct and this was always meant to be a "Christian Nation." They wanted to overturn all that was accomplished in the years proceeding and they organized.

Despite popular opinion, they are smart, educated, well organized, and well funded. They know what they want to accomplish and how to do so. How did they accomplish this goal? Those who value Reason let Apathy and Denial guide them. Many of us simply believed it would be a passing trend and they could not do what they wanted, so we turned away.

For many, they saw this movement as limited and small. Some believed it was simply a Christian movement to gain new members. Certainly, there were moderate Christian groups who simply wanted to expand church membership and get back those Christians who no longer attended. In fact, many moderate Christian groups allowed Reason to enter their halls of worship and learned about the new advances in biblical scholarship, evolution and science in general while maintaining the essence of traditional Christianity.

The movement started small and over time gained more power. They worked through their churches and television shows and by involvement in the political process. They attacked other religions as created by the Devil, attacked other Christian viewpoints as heretical and coined the term "spiritual relativism." Slowly but methodically they worked. While the modern Age of Reason was at its zenith they were working relatively unnoticed to begin the new revival.

What does the movement want? They want science that does not agree with their literal biblical worldview to be eliminated from schools and the public in general. They want to make the USA a Christian Nation that is based on the Bible and Godís will. They want the Constitution amended to their viewpoint. For those in the Bible belt all of this has been brewing for many years.

There are degrees of Fundamentalism as is witnessed by the Islamic terrorists and their drive to destroy all the infidels. The Christian Evangelical/Fundamentalist movement in the USA is not a terrorist movement but desires similar goals in that they want a Christian Nation and the entire world to be Christian. Furthermore, they want their specific view of Christianity to be upheld and all others swept away and eradicated which makes traditional Christianity equally vulnerable as all other Faiths.

The modern Age of Reason movement is still alive and will not simply go away but the modern Evangelical revival has set it back. As Deists, we must not let his movement push Reason aside. They have every right to go out and gain new members. However, they have no right to rewrite history in their favor and to force their religious views upon us. Support those who support Reason over Dogma. Support those who want the intention of the Founders upheld. Support those who want religion as a positive and personal aspect of peoples lives rather than a negative and forced perspective.

The modern Age of Reason saw incredible advancements in science and Reason. During this period Religion in general flourished and many viewpoints were accepted and understood. People overlooked such subjective differences and prospered. Reason and rational thought became important in all aspects of life and America as a whole prospered.

I am saddened as I write this as the modern Evangelical/Fundamentalist movement has gained much power and is pushing forward with its agenda. Hopefully, Reason and alternative religions such as Deism along with traditional Christianity will have had and will continue to have a powerful impact on society. This is much more than a political issue as I believe it transcends politics and makes its way into our lives and homes. I believe the modern Age of Reason to still be alive and it can outlast and survive the Evangelical/Fundamentalist movement.