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The Fringes of BeliefEnglish Literature, Ancient Heresy, and the Politics of Freethinking, 1660-1760$
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Sarah Ellenzweig

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780804758772

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804758772.001.0001

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Introduction: Literary Culture, the Classical Past, and the Rise of Restoration Freethinking

Introduction: Literary Culture, the Classical Past, and the Rise of Restoration Freethinking

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction: Literary Culture, the Classical Past, and the Rise of Restoration Freethinking
Source:
The Fringes of Belief
Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804758772.003.0001

This chapter introduces the main themes of the book, arguing that in the English imagination, it was possible to reject Christianity as divine truth while defending the necessary authority of the Anglican Church. It contends that this rapprochement between religious skepticism and the interests of the Protestant establishment represents a crucial and untold chapter in the larger history of secularization. It describes the way in which English freethinking's emphasis on the utility of religious observance looked back to the theological inheritance of the ancient pagan philosophers. This chapter also offers a broad contextual overview of English freethinking in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, one that considers didactic pamphlets, theological polemics, and philosophical writing as well as current historiography.

Keywords:   Anglican Church, Christianity, religious skepticism, English freethinking

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