Enlightenment values 8

Christian values (as described in the post immediately below) are alien to human nature. Human beings do not, cannot, love all other human beings. (Many find it hard to love a few. Some find it impossible to love any.) A thirst for vengeance is common among us. Normal people do not prefer poverty to riches.

Christian values do not underlie our civilization. What values do?

Freedom, justice, reason.

None of which are of any interest to the Christian religion – though millions of individuals who are Christian benefit from them and, to their credit and reward, consciously defend them.

The rewards of reason are, most importantly, scientific knowledge, technological progress, innovation. “Measurement began our might,” wrote W. B. Yeats, referring to ancient civilizations.

To live in freedom, to make justice attainable, to reap the rewards of reason, we need government by Law.

In its beginning, Christianity rejected Law. The author of the Christian religion, St.Paul, contended that the sacrifice of Christ marked a new era and the Law was no longer needed. Christianity was instead of the Law. Later the Church found it necessary to retrieve the moral law of Judaism, and to compile its own canon law. The period of Christian antinomianism was short-lived, but Catholic rule failed spectacularly through the centuries of the Church’s power to provide justice to the peoples of Christendom. It punished heresy, blasphemy, innovation, mere disagreement. It opposed scientific discovery. The Church of Rome was a totalitarian tyranny. So were the Protestant regimes of the Reformation.

The greatness of our civilization began with the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, the recovery of ancient thought, the launch of the Age of Reason. Europe measured again. Our age of science dawned.

And on the principles of reason, freedom, rule of law, the United States of America was founded.

Yes, some of the Founders were Christians. (And some were deists. And some, though pre-Darwin, were probably quietly atheist.) Yes, the Declaration of Independence mentions a Creator. It designates this Creator as “Nature’s God” – a bold statement of an Enlightenment perception. (Spinoza’s god was nature, the laws of physics.) This god, the Framers said, “endowed” human beings with certain rights. In other words, they saw them as natural rights. There is barely a trace of Christian doctrine in the founding documents, but just enough for those to discern it who want it to be there.

 

Jillian Becker    October 22, 2019

Western civilization and Christian values 25

It is often claimed that Western civilization owes its success to Christian values.

Does it? Is our civilization a product of Christian morality?

What are Christian values?

Wikipedia tells us and I summarize:

Love of God and unconditional love of all people, including enemies; fidelity in marriage; renunciation of worldly goods; forgiveness of sins and offenses, renunciation of vengeance.

We don’t know how many Western Europeans, during the last two millennia, loved the Christian god, nor can we assess to what extent such a love inspired great deeds. Perhaps that particular value has contributed significantly to the triumph of the West. 

But it would be hard to argue that any of the others are features of Western history.  

Christians have been warring with other Christians since even before Rome itself became Christian. Mutual violent hatred, relentless intolerance, unquenchable thirst for revenge in the parched souls of multitudes who bore the Cross into battle – these are the recurring themes of the ages dominated by the Church of Rome. So much for universal love, love of enemies, and renunciation of vengeance.

Was there ever a single anno domini, even a single hour in a single year in a Christian land, when the vows of marriage were not being broken by a multitude of impious wretches? Is there not divorce in our time? Are the civil courts not kept busy by the unforgiving?

Do we not gather worldly goods?

Ladies and gentlemen and transgenders of the jury, I ask you to find Western civilization not guilty of ever implementing Christian values.

 

Jillian Becker   October 20, 2019

Posted under Articles, Christianity, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Sunday, October 20, 2019

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