Edward Ryan was born in Ireland, and died there in January 1819. He was admitted to Trinity College, Dublin, as a Scholar in 1767 (BA, 1769; MA, 1773; LL.B., 1779; BD, 1782; DD, 1789). In 1776 he became vicar of St Luke's, Dublin and in 1790, prebendary of St Patrick's. His principal work, The History of the Effects of Religion on Mankind, first published in 1788, is an enlargement of a prize dissertation written for the University of Dublin in 1775. It treats the effects of the doctrine and practices of ancient paganism, biblical Judaism, early Christianity and Islam on civil society. Two more volumes were projected which were supposed to bring Ryan's history of religion to the present, but they were never completed. In 1793, Ryan published a supplementary volume defending Christianity against charges of corruption and social dysfunction and carrying on a debate about the utility of Christianity with contemporary authors, among them Bayle, Gibbon, Hume, Rousseau, Shaftesbury and Voltaire. He characterized his book as a work of historical theology, being ‘conscious that a treatise, which elucidates theology by history, will be more read than dry dissertations on religion and morality’.
From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.