Classical polytheism or “paganism” presented a challenge to the Philhellenes of the Enlightenment, who found it difficult to accept that the greatest minds of antiquity had been taken in by (vide Fontenelle) “a heap of chimeras, delusions, and absurdities.” Rejecting the claim that “paganism” was a deformation of the “natural religion” of the early Hebrew patriarchs, several Enlightenment thinkers developed theories of classical polytheism, presenting it as the apotheosis of the great kings and heroes of the first ages of man, a system of allegorical symbols that conveyed timeless truths, and the effort of a prescientific mentality to understand the hidden forces of nature. Although divergent in their interpretations of “paganism,” these theories converged by separating its origins from Judeo-Christian traditions and presenting religion as an essentially human creation. Thus, Enlightenment theories of classical mythology contributed to the emergence of the more cosmopolitan and tolerant spirit that characterized the age.
attempts to link them to the European or Christian discourse of natural religion, which was a major topic in nineteenth-century Christianity, as discussed through the example of John T. Pratt in the following paragraphs. Sayyid Ahmad can dismiss the
From the English Philosophical Context to the Greek-Speaking Regions of the Ottoman Empire
Eirini Goudarouli and Dimitris Petakos
, “Natural philosophy is subservient to purposes of a higher kind, and is chiefly to be valued as it lays a sure foundation for natural religion and moral philosophy.” 61 On the other hand, when Martin wonders about the design of natural philosophy, he says
Ethnocentrism and the Temple Mount
without ‘mystery’. In order to transform it into ‘natural religion’, early eighteenth-century theologians like John Toland and Matthew would strip Christianity of anything miraculous or magical, and of all supernatural folklore and dogma. What was left was