Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the idea that God created the universe and then left it for humans to understand by reason not revelation. Edward Herbert, 1583-1648 (pictured above) held that there were five religious truths: belief in a Supreme Being, the need to worship him, the pursuit of a virtuous life as the best form of worship, repentance, and reward or punishment after death. Others developed these ideas in different ways, yet their opponents in England’s established Church collected them under the label of Deists, called Herbert the Father of Deism and attacked them as a movement, and Deist books were burned. Over time, reason and revelation found a new balance in the Church in England, while Voltaire and Thomas Paine explored the ideas further, leading to their re-emergence in the French and American Revolutions.

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  • Richard Serjeantson No other episodes
    Fellow and Lecturer in History at Trinity College, Cambridge
  • Katie East No other episodes
    Lecturer in History at Newcastle University
  • Thomas Ahnert No other episodes
    Professor of Intellectual History at the University of Edinburgh

Reading list

  • The Pillars of Priestcraft Shaken: The Church of England and its Enemies, 1660-1730
    Justin Champion (Cambridge University Press, 1992) Google Books →
  • Republican Learning: John Toland and the Crisis of Christian Culture, 1696-1722
    Justin Champion (Manchester University Press, 2003) Google Books →
  • 'Religion' and the Religions in the English Enlightenment
    Peter Harrison (Cambridge University Press, 1990) Google Books →
  • The English Deists: Studies in Early Enlightenment
    Wayne Hudson (Routledge, 2008) Google Books →
  • Enlightenment and Modernity: The English Deists and Reform
    Wayne Hudson (Routledge, 2009) Google Books →
  • Deism: An Anthology
    Peter Gay (ed.) (Van Nostrand, 1968) Google Books →
  • Collected Writings
    Thomas Paine (ed. Eric Foner) (Library of America, 1995) Google Books →
  • Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World
    Roy Porter (Allen Lane, 2000) Google Books →
  • The Religious Enlightenment: Protestants, Jews, and Catholics from London to Vienna
    David Sorkin (Princeton University Press, 2011) Google Books →
  • A Secular Age
    Charles Taylor (Harvard University Press, 2007) Google Books →
  • Christianity not Mysterious: Text, Associated Works and Critical Essays
    John Toland (eds. Philip McGuinness, Alan Harrison and Richard Kearney) (Lilliput Press, 1997) Google Books →
  • Voltaire and the English Deists
    N. L. Torrey (Yale University Press, 1930) Google Books →
  • The American Deists: Voices of Reason and Dissent in the Early Republic
    Kerry S. Walters (University Press of Kansas, 1992) Google Books →
  • Revolutionary Deists: Early America's Rational Infidels
    Kerry S. Walters (Prometheus Books, 2011) Google Books →
  • Deism in Enlightenment England: Theology, Politics, and Newtonian Public Science
    Jeffrey R. Wigelsworth (Manchester University Press, 2009) Google Books →

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Programme ID: m000n47b

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Auto-category: 210 (Philosophy of Religion)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In 17th century England, the public hangman would burn banned books.