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religious practices Enlightenment Ideas And Politcal Figuers Of The Era

Intro to European History
3-3-99
Enlightenment Ideas and
Political Figures of
The  Enlightenment Era


The Enlightenment of the 18th century was an exciting period of history.  For the first time since ancient Grecian times, reason and logic became center in the thoughts of most of elite society.  The urge to discover and to understand replaced religion as the major motivational ideal of the age, and the upper class social scene all over Europe was alive with livid debate on these new ideas.
A French playwright who went by the pseudonym Voltaire is the most recognized and controversial Enlightenment author.  Because of his trademark acidic wit, he was forced to flee the country after giving offence to a powerful nobleman.  He spent the next two years in England where he came in contact with the pivotal Enlightenment idea of religious freedom and the freedom of the press.  When he returned to France, he had some scathing things to say about the less than enlightened policies followed by the French monarchs, especially concerning religious intolerance.  Because his ideas were generally offensive to the ruler of his country, the need to be able to leave France quickly to avoid prosecution was a consideration when deciding where he should live, which eventually was on the Swiss boarder.  There he continued to treat on society and anything else that caught his imagination.
Along with Voltaire were many other Enlightened thinkers, or philosophes, as they came to be known.  A man by the name of Rousseau was also a very influential personality.  His essays mainly treated on social inequality and education.
An Italian by the name of Cesare Beccaria also discussed society, but more in terms of social control and matters of crime and punishment.  He was an opponent of torture, capital punishment, and of any punishment that was done to excess or didnt fit the crime that warranted it.  He arrived at his conclusions through the logic that was so popular of the day.  An excellent example of this logic is in this phrase concerning capitol punishment:  Is it not absurd, that the laws, which detest and punish homicide, should, in order to prevent murder, publicly commit murder themselves?  Rational arguments such as these permeated Enlightened conversations and didnt fail to be noticed by many of the great national rulers of the day.
One monarch who seemed to be particularly inclined to the Enlightenment philosophies was Emperor Joseph II of Austria.  After the less enlightened reign of his mother, Empress Maria Theresa, he was able to finally institutionalize many of the ideas he had been mulling over and thinking about for years.  His mother, being a staunch Catholic, saw little use for such trivial issues, but once Joseph finally attainted complete control over the empire, his reforms were widespread.  Possibly to spite his mother, one of the first thing he did as emperor was seize much of the land occupied by various monastic sects, which he accomplished through his Edict of Idle Institutions.  True to his Enlightened nature, he promptly turned the seized lands into schools and other institutions of learning.  He abolished the death penalty, made everybody equal in the eyes of the law, and ratified legislation that called for complete religious toleration.  He even attempted to make the Jews living in Austria more acceptable to society as a whole.  He had only limited success on this front, but the attempt itself was a drastic step for a monarch of any country to date.  He made great progress economically as well.   Joseph II ended the monopolies that had unnaturally influenced his economy for decades and eliminated stifling internal trade barriers.  After all was said and done, he had created around 11,000 laws in an attempt to transform his country into an embodiment of Enlightened ideals.  Has he himself put it once, I have made Philosophy the lawmaker of my empire, her logical applications are going to transform Austria.
Despite his hopes, the reforms set forth by Joseph II were not as successful as he had hoped.  He angered the nobles by releasing the peasants from serfdom, and the peasants were similarly distressed over the newfound freedoms which they had no experience dealing with.  His reforms were simply ... more

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Religion Effect On Politics


The belief systems of the modern world have helped determine the policies and
politics of nations around the world. For centuries before, and almost
definitely for decades after now, there will be disputed between people and
countries on account of their faith. Religions have started wars, ended them,
impacted, and persuaded people. Needless to say, beliefs are very influential on
the world today. People of different faiths dont only fight over their basic
beliefs and land but they end conflicts. Making amends between religious groups
greatly helps relieve the constant strain of division that we are all too aware
of these days. The Lutheran religion began 482 years ago when monk, Martin
Luther, attacked the practices of the Catholic Church. These who followed his
ideas eventually into what we call Lutherans today. For those 482 years,
Lutherans and Catholics have stayed divided on uneasy terms. Now the leaders of
the modern Lutheran and Catholic churches both signed a document that laid to
rest those many years of differences under the explanation that it was all a
misunderstanding. Sometimes different faiths just dont seem like they want to
even try to compromise on a conflict. The Jordanian Muslims and the Israeli Jews
fighting over which side of the Jordan River Jesus was baptized on is a perfect
example of this. The Muslims have invested over one million dollars t fix up the
site. The site will bring in expectantly millions of tourists and with them
billions of dollars that will be spent locally to boost the economy. Looking
past the irony of the Jews and Muslims disputing over a Christian site, the
focal point of the quarreling is that such a site will bring. The Pope and
Prince Charles have already scheduled a visit, but as of now, no resolve has
come about. These days its not always conflicts between two specific regions,
but between regions occupied by faiths who disagree on certain topics. The two
groups being the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the compromise on the rift
in the settler movement conflict arising in those countries. To the Jews the
West Bank is part of the greater Land of Israel, given by God to the Jews. To
cement their control over the land, the Jews built forty-two hilltop encampments
on the West Bank. They did this to prevent it from becoming a Palestinian state.
The Palestinian government claimed that some of the outposts didnt have the
necessary building papers and twelve of those sites were dismantled. This
disagreement is, for the time being, settled peacefully despite the denounced
accord from the Palestinians. In the future more outposts are likely to be taken
down. Whatever the rhyme or reason, religions and belief systems have tremendous
effects on the way things work in this world. Hopefully nations are learning
from their past mistakes what not to do if such an occasion arise again. Whether
the Lutherans and Catholics are putting years of disagreement behind them, the
Jews and Muslims are settling their dispute, or Jewish outposts are being taken
down, we are moving forward into a new and brighter future, and gaining
information as we go along. Maybe in the future, more of the religious spats
will be settled as the Lutheran/Catholic dispute was...peacefully.

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