On the Enlightenment as a “Religion of Progress”

The French Revolution is still ongoing

This is part 5 of my notes on the thoughts and ideas of Christopher Dawson. (In brackets the page numbers of each quote from TRBRAC, unless another book mentioned. “PwG” refers to my own thoughts.)     

Out of this rationalistic current of ideas [the Enlightenment in France and Deism in England] developed the idea of Progress or human perfectibility that became the religion of many of the intellectuals of Europe during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. (p. 208)

Dawson: “while the God of the Deists was but a pale abstraction, a mere deus ex machina, the belief in Progress was an ideal capable of stirring men’s emotions and arousing a genuine religious enthusiasm. Nor was it limited to the followers of the French philosophic rationalism. It played an equally important part in the formation of German Idealism and English Utilitarian Liberalism.” (p. 209)

Dawson: “the French Revolution was not so much a revolt against misgovernment and oppression, as an attempt to restore the unity of European society on the foundation of new ideas.” (p. 210)

(PwG:) That last comment is interesting in the modern context, for this attempt is still ongoing.