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Benjamin Franklin And His Views On Religion

Essay, Research Paper Benjamin Franklin, the most important figure among the anti-mystics who, more than any other man, represents the spirit of the Enlightenment movement in America. These ideas and attitudes are not harmonious, simple and unified,or totally new, but they do share a determination to break from dogmatic religion, feudal social relationships, and political absolutism.

Essay, Research Paper

Benjamin Franklin, the most important figure among the anti-mystics who, more than any other man, represents the spirit of the Enlightenment movement in America. These ideas and attitudes are not harmonious, simple and unified,or totally new, but they do share a determination to break from dogmatic religion, feudal social relationships, and political absolutism. Intellectually, this movement was influenced by the new science associated with Galileo and Newton; culturally, by a turn from religion to interest in nature, especially human nature; politically, by the development of liberal thought associated with the bourgeois revolution; and socio-economically, by the growing importance of the commercial middle class and entrepreneurial capitalismThough born in Boston of Puritan parents Benjamin Franklin, while retaining all of his Puritan faith in the standard virtues, nevertheless had no patience with the Calvinistic attitude that the earth was a vale of tears and suffering so constituted to try men’s spirits for the wrath to come. Rather he believed that this life should be dedicated to the pursuit of human happiness, which is attained only through a constant cultivation of the art of getting along with one’s fellow man. For Benjamin Franklin, the act of worship was carried out most sincerely when it was directed toward the betterment of man in his practical, every-day human relationships. He borrowed from the Puritan teachings to produce his famous Thirteen Virtues (temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility). He urged others to follow these beliefs, not for their Calvinistic value of “justifying the ways of God to man” but for their practical usefulness in what he recognized and approved as the fundamental motive of existence–the desire to Get On. In a sense, his attitude was simply a modernization of the Puritan concept of fruitful industry. But whereas the Calvinist regarded prosperity as a mark of God’s favor and a possible sign of heavenly reward, He looked upon it as a means of establishing the earthly happiness of mankind.

It was this go-getting “tradesman’s attitude” of measuring man’s worth through a material success resulting from honesty and hard work that makes Benjamin Franklin so typical of his day and so popular with future generations. Growing up at a time when economic and political power was being taken from outmoded aristocracy by a dynamic and commercial-minded middle class, He became a ready spokesman for the new order. Lacking great wealth, historical fame, education, traditional distinction, the man of the middle class found his self-justification in the one quality in which he excelled: material advancement. He found nothing wrong in the worship of success so long as that success was honestly obtained. He believed that the desire for social and financial security could be a powerful force in the dynamics of soci???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? Felicity of Life…Revelation had indeed no weight with me as such; but I entertained an Opinion, that though’ certain Actions might not be bad because they were forbidden…yet probably those Actions might be forbidden because they were bad for us.” He sums up his whole ethical attitude under the frank statement that “Nothing is so likely to make a man’s fortune as virtue.”

It is this common-sense side of Benjamin Franklin that was most heeded in his own time and is popularly regarded as being the most characteristic of him today. People who never suspected the political, philosophical, and scientific stature of the man quoted and believed his Poor Richard, (”Waste not, want not,” “A penny saved is a penny earned,” “Diligence is the mother of good luck,” “One today is worth two tomorrows”) seemed to them to measure the wisdom of the day.

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