Rationalism In America Essay

703 words - 3 pages

Rationalism was a way of thinking that completely changed the ways of the eighteenth century. This period became known as the Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason. Out of this era came the spiritual view of Deism and the intellectual framework American and French Revolutions. The document that officially separated America from Britain was the Deceleration of independence, which was heavily influenced by the concepts of the Enlightenment and Rationalism. Through the analysis of the Deceleration of independence, one can conclude that America was shaped by the Rationalist ideas of Philosophe John Locke, Deism, and the writings of Thomas Paine.John Locke was a philosopher whose ideas heavily influenced the Enlightenment and the Declaration of independence. He developed important theories of social contracts and natural rights. Three of the most important rights were "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"(Preamble Jefferson). These rights became the ...view middle of the document...

The rights described in the Declaration were made possible by Deist beliefs.Deism is a spiritual system of beliefs that includes the belief in a creator or supreme being that created the universe but is not involved in it. These beliefs were held by many philosophers in the age of reason because they focused on using their intellect instead of being confined to the strict laws of organized religion. There is evidence of Deism in the Declaration of Independence. According to the document people are "endowed, by their creator, with certain unalienable rights"(Preamble Jefferson). The use of the word "creator" instead of God or Lord shows the deist influence. A major characteristic of Rationalist thinking is not being influenced by a religion. Therefore by using the Deist way of thinking Jefferson could encompass all people of any religion with their rights. This also allows America to have freedom of religion, because Deists, although they did not believe in them, accepted other religions. Because of the lack of a being which humans must obey, Deist thinkers observed natural law.Thomas Paine was a Rationalist philosopher that wrote many treatises dismissing monarchies and advocating republicanism. In his pamphlet Common Sense, Paine describes how absurd it is for Britain to rule over America. The Declaration agrees with this when it says "The History of the Present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States" (Indictment Jefferson). Thomas Paine used the Rationalist ideas of natural law to describe why Britain could not rule America, then Jefferson incorporated these ideas into the Declaration. This is another instance of Rationalism in the document. If not for these Rationalist ideas the Declaration may not have had material to base the split from Britain.The Deceleration of Independence was heavily influenced by Rationalism, and was very important in shaping America. Rationalism allowed people to think for themselves rather than let their religion think for them. Out of this came the end of British oppression and the establishment of the United States. Not just America, but the world, would not be the way it is today if not for the Rationalist thinkers of the Age of Reason.

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