1. Renaissance: Do you think that Western society has benefitted from this move away from a public sphere dominated by spiritual ideals and towards a more secular society?
-Secularism and individualism allows humans of all kinds to explore and embrace their interests. As a result, we’ve seen the expansion of human knowledge in areas ranging from political philosophy to microbiology and all of this is because people aren’t forced to study and accept unquestioningly one doctrine intended to discourage people from exploring their intellect. Western society has thrived due to the abandonment of the vita contemplativa simply because people have been free to pursue their passions and thus our understanding of the universe has expanded from individual and collective contributions (Richmond)
Yes, I do think that Western society has benefitted from secularism. A society that does not force religion or impose beliefs on its people encourages creativity and innovation. I do not think that God and the Bible’s teachings should dominate society, but religion should not fade completely. Religion encourages faith in oneself and morality of action, and should therefore play an integral role in influencing a society’s people. It is true that a person who does not believe in religion can be as moral as someone who has absolute faith in God, but that does not mean that we should abandon religion entirely. We cannot disregard something that has done so much in the past to shape the society in which we live today. (Mackenzie)
The transition from a society based solely on religion to one based on exploring new ideas and possibilities allowed society to advance intellectually. The new emphasis that the renaissance placed on studying a wide range of topics brought out a much more diverse intellectually community. Because of the amount of new books, letters, art, architecture, etc., people were able to learn from each other and advance intellectually in a way that never would have been possible when society was completely dominated by religious studies. (MARY)
Abandoning a society completely dominated by its spiritual ideas and moving towards a society that promotes freethinking improves motivation to progress intellectually. A more secularly based society allows the mind to expand into places it had not reached before, which can only advance the individual’s intellect. Advancing intellect is a key benefactor in pushing society in a positive direction. (Sarah Shea)
Moving towards a more secular environment gave the Western society a chance to grow in a way that cannot occur with only religion. Religion can only take a society so far, but by making room for education in the form of books or art can bring that society to a whole new level. As important as religion can be, without the chance to grow intellectually and form independent thoughts, it becomes hard for not only individuals but society as a whole to develop and improve. (Kavitha)
It depends on how you define 'benefitted'. Being from the twenty first century myself, an era in which society is almost completely secular, I do think the Western world has progressed because of this transformation. The most apparent growth from the religiously centered Middle Ages to a still Christian, yet more secular Renaissance period was in the intellectual advances. Art, writing, rhetoric, basically the liberal arts were virtually all rediscovered during the Renaissance, unearthing their importance from the Greek and Roman eras. The distancing from the Church and a heightened respect for intellectual aptitude allowed knowledge in general to expand beyond a single religious subject matter. However the knowledge was not necessarily as profound in the new areas as it had been in theology. Also, while there was apparent corruption in the system, the Church did successfully keep somewhat of a moral compass and an unselfish focus alive in Christendom that is unparalleled in history. So there were pros and cons to the new secularism of the Renaissance in Europe, but in the end there was more growth than decay in the modern intellectual that emerged from this period, with of course respect to the classics. (Becca)
Western culture has benefitted greatly from a more direct and focused society on reason, human thought, and intellect rather than religious or spiritual influence. This strong emphasis on secularism has opened doors in countless areas of society such as education, art, social status, personal wealth, and most importantly the human mind. Before, the religious dominance severely limited individuals. But with secularism came freedom of the mind and with out that, we would not have such a strong and modern Western world. (Sarah Tomlin)
Now that the modern world is directed by a secular society rather than a spiritual one, it has allowed for people to diverge from the traditional ways of thinking and break out of the box that was forced on those in the middle ages, where if one did not agree with the Church they were shunned. A more secular society tolerates new ways of thinking and pushes intellectuals to see the world in new ways and create something of their own. This discovery and reform can allow society to change in order to benfit their citizens and make progress, instead of being trapped within their own confines. (Hannah)
I would agree with the 8 other people above me, because I too believe that Western culture has benefited greatly from the shift away from a theological society to a secular one. Western culture has improved tremendously because of this amazing switch in a vast number of areas, because without the firm grip of the Church on many of the aspects of human life, humans have been able to push the boundaries in science, technology, literature, art, music, etc. If the Church were still holding the throat of Western society with such a formidable grip, many of the innovations we appreciate so much today would not be in existence because of the simple fact that the Church would most likely be opposed to advances that weren't in line with the traditional and theological views of the Church. (RICKY?)
This is most definitely a complete rehash of everybody to already answer the question since nobody has yet seen the secularism of the modern world as a drawback, but I also believe that good has come from the increased secularization of the modern world. Without the overbearing presence of the Church in Modern life, thinkers have had the freedom to experiment, accomodate different points of view and make new discoveries that push the boundaries of what is known further. These discoveries and ideas enabled by the intellectual environment of the present have had life altering applications that have transformed the manner of human existence over the past few hundred years. Instead of an economy based on labor and the production of goods, we now rely on a system the emphasizes knowledge and creativity as quality paramount to success. David I challenge you to disagree with everybody else to make it more lively. (Shredder)
I think it would have been better to have stayed completely encapsulated by spiritual ideas and embrace a complete religious community. The early communities of the Dark Ages were loyal enough to the church that if Europe and the rest of the Western World had stayed in religious based communes, life would be much simpler and easier. Isolated from the outside world we would advance internally only in need for protection and through this we would live a simple life free from the problems that come with advancing societies. Extremes rarely work, but in this case during a time when it seemed that religious zeal and commitment was extreme if the Western World had continued to grow in the fashion, I believe we would live much simpler, happier lives. (Mdog)
I’m going to have to agree with (most) everybody else. The move from a quasi-theocracy to a secular society did benefit the Western world in the long run. A theocracy is constricting because the Church or some other government body is telling you what you must think and believe. To paraphrase Karl Marx, “religion is the opiate of the masses”. In a theocracy, thinking is ultimately limited, and thus, progress is retarded. We simply could not have made the scientific discoveries that we have in the past centuries if we were constantly worried about how our secular endeavors might interfere with our spiritual piety. We can consider the 21st century “modern” because we are free of these spiritual shackles. This period of medieval history seems so distant largely because we simply cannot comprehend living in a society where spirituality plays such a large role in all areas of life. That is not to say, however, that religion is unnecessary. While we cannot say that everybody in the Middle Ages lived a life of piety and virtue, we can say that many were more conscious of morality and their duty to be civil towards others. In our modern world of reality television and first-person-shooter videogames, we are desensitized to many of those essential values that played such an important role in European Christendom. Though we may not be quite as conscious of those values, it would be inaccurate to suggest that they have altogether disappeared, and therefore, society is still better off with the liberality of secularism than the rigidity of spirituality. (Chuma)
I agree with the intellectual benefits of moving away from such a religious society that everyone before me has discussed. I also think secularizing befitted western society in other ways. Moving away from religion meant moving the focus away from striving for a good life in heaven to improving life on earth. This not only encouraged intellectual development but also was the beginning to an improved standard of living as well as initiating the quest for a more representative government. From a religious perspective though, this is a negative change because the focus should always be on God. (Laura)
The move towards a more secular society that occurred in the Renaissance has led to a society filled with corruption, greed, and the glorification of those who are spoiled by the luxuries that have formed from secular pursuits. Had society remained centered around religion and spiritual pursuits, the modern western world would be free from many of it's superfluous luxuries and instead ripe with people dedicated through faith to a higher cause and the personification of Christian values. Man would not only be free of the secular worries that plague the modern world, but instead be solely focused, and therefore unified, on obeying the church, and living life in such a way dedicated to the ideals of the church in order to reach eternal heavenly paradise.(Jordan)
2. Reformation: Which of the Big Three of the Reformation (Luther, Calvin, Loyola) can you personally connect with the most? Why?