Natural Religion and the Sons of Noah

Travis Glasson

in Mastering Christianity

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199773961
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919017 | DOI:
Natural Religion and the Sons of Noah

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This chapter considers how SPG supporters engaged in British and circum-Atlantic debates about the nature of human difference and slavery in the eighteenth century. Building on scholarship stressing religion’s important place in the British Enlightenment and intellectual life, it explores how Society members were affected by and contributed to wider trends in intellectual history. Many SPG associates were motivated to convert enslaved people by a belief in the essential unity of humankind based on shared descent from Adam and Eve. Other Society supporters were inspired by the desire to reconcile new forms of knowledge with Christian orthodoxy and embraced the idea of natural religion. Both groups supported converting slaves, but Scriptural literalism often entailed an acceptance of slavery as permitted by the Bible, while an emphasis on natural religion could produce doubts about the nature of human difference when heathen peoples would not convert to Christianity.

Keywords: natural religion; Enlightenment; human difference; race; Noah; Ham; Morgan Godwyn; Thomas Newton; William Warburton

Chapter.  13953 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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