Monday, July 18, 2016

Nature's God the Origins of the American Revolution

"Locke and Spinoza are the chalk and cheese of the early Enlightenment..."  -- Nature's God by Matthew Stewart

The origins of  America, the United States of America as she is formally known, is set down and cast. Generations have studied her beginnings and precepts in schools and universities across this nation. Yet here comes author Matthew Stewart with his new book, Nature's God, to upset the status quo. Not only did the process of establishing a Republic form in the minds of Colonial America, but in European capitals as well where it found fertile soils. The Enlightenment brought a firm change in the usual order of intellectual life. Creation once separated from a divinity and re-assigned to science, now allowed for minds to range freely.

Stewart argues that along with those individuals traditionally credited for the founding of the American Republic, there were a few others. He writes that along with a nation, a civil religion also ensued. He further credits men such as Ethan Allen, Thomas Young, instigator of the 1773 Boston Tea Party, also Dutchman and philosopher Benedict de Spinoza as among those most fervent to liberate themselves and all minds from not the tyranny of one king but from the tyranny of the ultimate, the supernatural religions.

They returned to the fertile imaginings of the earlier Republics, both Roman and Greek, to philosophers such as Aristotle and Lucretius; the widely influential mind of Englishman John Locke. John Locke, who was a student of Frenchman Descartes in his early years, and mentored by the scientist Robert Boyle in close association with Issac Newton.
John Locke developed and promulgated his ideas on freedom of religion and the rights of a citizen which did not go well for him under the English monarchy; he was forced to flee England preferring Holland.
The Dutch received him well enough and he apparently made good contacts there, most importantly Benedict de Spinoza. Author Stewart charges that it was the conflagration between two unlikely minds, German Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibinitz and Englishman John Locke that produced the ground upon which the American experiment came to rest. For the remainder of the book he lays out his case for both the establishment of a land in which those ideas most rank and most fertile would develop into a Republic, and a national sort of religion based on science and reason.

In the evolving nationhood, America came to regard
the supernatural in ways known since the much earlier eras of heterodox Rome. While Rome held forth for religion and spiritual practice, it was to nature they gave the most delight. These men of Enlightenment were in their day, deists, those for whom religion was, as Stewart writes, "a watery expression of the Christian religion," arising in England and transported to the American Colonies. He further charges that these same men stirred up a sweeping deism, an atheism that allowed for the simplicity of nature to overshadow and endow the American Declaration of Independence and likewise, the Constitution with so much of its radical force.

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