Chapter 7: Christianity and Modernity

               The term “humanistic” is mentioned in the text, and it is defined as a viewpoint that “attaches prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters” (according to the google definition). During the Enlightenment, science came into the picture and suddenly people had solutions and explanations to previously unexplainable occurrences, which they had linked to religion.  I think that the story of Denis Diderot is quite interesting because his entire life revolved around questioning religion, and as time went on he strayed away from the institutionalized church and viewed reason above faith up until he finally became atheist and focused merely on reason.  He decided in the end that he would rather lack a religious and spiritual life than have an extravagant church-life that he didn’t full-heartedly believe in and hold to be the truth. Although it took him a lot of questioning to get to this point, I think that he was more satisfied with no God in his life because he no longer had to put up a façade and he didn’t have to question the idea of “higher power” any more.

                Following the Reformation, leaders and Enlightenment thinkers looked to the past for advice of where they needed to go and what they needed to improve. This brings me back to a quote that I used in an earlier blog post: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Needless to say, things didn’t go so smoothly in the past and many people were killed trying to fight for religious freedom and equality. Christianity declined as more and more people began to accept the idea of reason. The New World allowed people to have religious and political freedom which was incredibly new to them. I mean, if you were coming from England where religion was basically required, why would you want to start a new settlement that mimicked the political/religious authority that you were escaping from? As time went on, more scientific discoveries and hypotheses came about which continued to convince people to question their true beliefs about the world.  Then, the Industrial Revolution changed all social aspects of life and the peoples’ day-to-day routines were no longer revolved around the same values and norms. All of these events and scientific statements further encouraged the movement towards secularization, so the church really had to think long and hard about ways to make them attractive to the general population again. The people were now satisfied with their lack of religion, so how could the church make them do a 180-degree turn and come back to God? Their attempts were shown through the Evangelical Pietism and Oxford movements.

                I think that Pius IX issuing the Syllabus of Errors once again displays the Catholic Church’s unwillingness to change and accept new ideals. They have always wanted to stay firm in their roots and resist any form of religious transformation or modification. They are very quick to condemn those who don’t believe what they do. I like Pope Leo XIII’s approach to “modernism” the most out of the three Popes’ described within this chapter.


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