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By Ann Thomson

Interpreting the advance of an earthly, merely fabric notion of people within the early Enlightenment, our bodies of idea offers a clean viewpoint at the highbrow tradition of this era, and demanding situations yes influential interpretations of irreligious idea and the "Radical Enlightenment."

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For the complete text, see The Thirty-Nine Articles and the Constitutions and Canons of the Church of England, 120–1. Hayton notes the disappearance of the reference to ‘debauchery’ but not atheism: ‘Moral Reform and Country Politics’, 58–9. ⁵² Berman, A History of Atheism in Britain, 35–6, 48–9. ⁵³ In the Lords’ bill exclusion from office for a first offence, and three months’ imprisonment was only envisaged for a third offence; in the Act a second offence was punished by three years’ imprisonment.

As the writings of Henry Layton and William Coward, at the centre of this controversy, are hardly known at all today despite Coward being one of the freethinkers named by Jonathan Swift, this chapter devotes quite a lot of space to them, studying their possible motivations and implications of their works in the charged atmosphere of the day. The refutations Coward attracted and the polemic around his books are also discussed, as is the involvement of John Toland, Henry Dodwell, Samuel Clarke, and Anthony Collins.

It may also have been part of an attempt to heal internal division by uniting the Church against external enemies. This does not mean that the anxiety among churchmen about the rise of irreligion and the undermining of certain Christian doctrines was not real. It was reinforced by the ‘moral panic’³² caused by the perceived decline in morality, but it took different forms in the different wings of the Church. The campaign against toleration went hand in hand with attacks on ‘irreligious books’.

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