Was the Age of Enlightenment/Reason the birth of atheism or unbelief in God?

I’m doing research and really like to know history on how we humans were led to the modern world we live in now? I think the Reformation also helped in the process with the various different Christian denominations.

Is there any books that I can read to study or read up about this period in human history?

Because if it wasn’t for the age of reason or enlightenment we wouldn’t be where we we are right now, correct?

Thanks in advance!


Are you interested in just Western Europe or in the world generally?

There were atheist materialists in Ancient India, see Cārvāka.

For the Greeks try Anaxagoras, Epicurus and Democritus.


I would say the whole world. I know how the western world decided to switch from faith in God to reason. But where was the East or what was the East doing the whole time? All I know about the East is nothing other than the Great Schism.

It’s a very big topic. It is true that our political traditions of democratic government in the West is deeply rooted in Enlightenment philosophy. The relationship to religion is more complex than atheism vs piety. Deists did believe in a God, but one that didn’t tinker in day to day affairs but rather set the whole thing in motion and let it unfold. Your approach to understanding that God or belief in his existence came through reason, not divine revelation etc. I think atheism, or at least doubt, has been around as long as humanity. It’s just that in many earlier times, admitting it made you a social outcast or got you an invitation to be burned in the public square. True atheism is still a distinct minority, although lots of nominally religious people in the West are basically secular and practice their religion mostly in the context of baptisms, weddings and funerals.

This topic is very technical and complex. Although it can be said that the enlightenment was a religous movement in the sense that they tried to acheive what Christianity could, despite its manmade sinful faults, from a point of view that did not take the one true God into account. This is the myth of neutrality that Seculerism assumes. They assumed that reason could arbritrate any and all questions. It is this beleif that Postmodern thinkers reacted against in their overblown criticisms of Modernism. Reason can’t even tell you what is right or wrong.

I think several of the Enlightenment thinkers, even Voltaire who is thought of as an atheist, may have in fact been deists or perhaps agnostics. They were simply regarded by the Church as atheists since they did not believe in a personal or loving G-d, let alone Christ as Savior. Of course, it didn’t help that Voltaire would write in the corner of his letters: Ecrasez (ECR L’INFAME), “Crush the infamous one,” referring to the Church.

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