What Effect Did the Religious Wars Have on French Intellectuals?

French intellectuals, leaders of Enlightenment, saw the religious wars as proof and condemnation of the irrational worldview based on religion rather than reason and of the negative effects of churches' involvement in civic affairs. French Enlightenment thinkers called for the rule of reason in society and elimination of the churches' authority.

Enlightenment was an intellectual movement flourishing in Europe and the U.S. in the 18th century. It proclaimed the principles of rule of reason and of an individual's independence. Enlightenment aimed for building a better society by the efforts of enlightened citizens. The idols it sought to overthrow were church, monarchy and aristocracy.

In the 17th century, Europe was torn by religious wars between Catholic and Protestants, which were followed by conflicts between different Protestant churches. In addition, church and state joined their efforts in suppressing independent thinking by citizens. A movement of intellectuals arose in France, England and the U.S., drawing on the heritage of scientific discoveries of the 17th centuries, the works of Renaissance Humanists and the philosophy of Ancient Greece. Thinkers such as Rousseau, Voltaire, Locke, Hume and leaders of the American Revolution put forward the ideas of Enlightenment.

According to these, religious and racial conflicts can be avoided if human affairs are decided based on evidence and rational deliberation rather than based on tradition, superstition or authority granted by birth.