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How History Influences Texts. Rationalists and Deists Optimistic World View. Rationalism. Challenges the beliefs of the Puritans. This period is often called: The Age of Reason or The Enlightenment

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how history influences texts

How History Influences Texts

Rationalists and Deists

Optimistic World View

  • Challenges the beliefs of the Puritans.
  • This period is often called: The Age of Reason or The Enlightenment
  • Belief that humans can arrive at the truth by reason (thinking) rather than by relying on authority or the past, religion, or intuition.
new ideas
New Ideas
  • An epidemic of smallpox strikes Boston in 1721.
  • Nearly half the population becomes ill.
  • Cotton Mather, a Puritan, experiments with a possible cure for smallpox—inoculation.
  • This leads to a belief in practical approaches to social problems and in scientific inquiry.
rationalist view of god
Rationalist View of God
  • God does not interfere with the functioning of the natural world in any way.
  • God allows the world to run according to the laws of nature that he configured when he created all things.
  • Sir Isaac Newton (laws of gravity) compares God to a clockmaker--He created the universe but now does not interfere in its workings.
  • People, through reason, can discover God’s rules.
  • A form of Rationalism.
  • Characterized by a belief that all people can discover natural laws through their God-given power of reason.
  • Does not revolve around one church or religious denomination.
  • Based on what different religions have in common.
  • United in a belief in only one deity (God).
deism continued
Deism (continued)
  • Most importantly, Deists believe that the universe is orderly and good. (Optimistic)
  • Therefore, humanity is good and can work toward perfection.
  • To a deist, the best form of worship is to do good for others.
deism accepts many puritan beliefs rejects others
Deism accepts many Puritan beliefs, rejects others


  • God exists, created and governs the universe.
  • God wants human beings to behave morally.
  • God gave humans the ability to reason.
  • Human beings have souls that survive death; that is, there is an afterlife.
  • All religions based on books that claim to contain the revealed word of God
  • Reports of miracles, prophecies, and religious “mysteries”


benjamin franklin self made man
Benjamin Franklin: “Self-Made Man”
  • Benjamin Franklin writes his autobiography, the American masterpiece The Age of Reason.
  • Franklin uses the popular Puritan genre—autobiographical narrative.
  • Omits the constant references to God.
growing tension
Growing Tension
  • The Rationalist and Deist philosophical values lead to strong conflicts between England and the American Colonies.
  • Rationalists like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and many others write and speak to the people about these conflicts.
the american revolution
The American Revolution

The pride and self-confidence of the people of the Colonies, fueled by Rationalist views, finally leads to the American Revolution and the Colonies separating from English rule.

declaration of independence

Authors believe in Rationalism and Deism.

It is based in the authors’ assumptions about the relationships between God, people, and natural law.

rationalist influence today
Rationalist Influence Today

Rationalists and Deists believe that the universe is basically good and that doing good for others is the best way to worship God.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with this Rationalist view? Use specific examples to support your argument.