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Tom Holland: Why I was wrong about Christianity

Cyrillic

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Today, even as belief in God fades across the West, the countries that were once collectively known as Christendom continue to bear the stamp of the two-millennia-old revolution that Christianity represents. It is the principal reason why, by and large, most of us who live in post-Christian societies still take for granted that it is nobler to suffer than to inflict suffering. It is why we generally assume that every human life is of equal value. In my morals and ethics, I have learned to accept that I am not Greek or Roman at all, but thoroughly and proudly Christian.

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/religion/2016/09/tom-holland-why-i-was-wrong-about-christianity
Read it. Good stuff.
 

Hinterlander

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Has anyone read his history books?  They look right up my alley.

Non-fiction

    Athelstan: The Making of England. Allen Lane. 2016. ISBN 978-0-241-18781-4.
    Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar. New York: Random House. 2015. ISBN 978-0-385-53784-1.
    In the Shadow of the Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World. New York: Random House. 2012. ISBN 978-1-408-70007-5.
    The Forge of Christendom: The End of Days and the Epic Rise of the West. New York: Random House. 2008. ISBN 978-0-307-27870-8.
    Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West. New York: Random House. 2005. ISBN 978-0-307-27948-4.
    Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic. New York: Random House. 2003. ISBN 978-1-400-07897-4.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Holland_(author)
 

William T

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Hinterlander said:
Has anyone read his history books?  They look right up my alley.

Non-fiction

    Athelstan: The Making of England. Allen Lane. 2016. ISBN 978-0-241-18781-4.
    Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar. New York: Random House. 2015. ISBN 978-0-385-53784-1.
    In the Shadow of the Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World. New York: Random House. 2012. ISBN 978-1-408-70007-5.
    The Forge of Christendom: The End of Days and the Epic Rise of the West. New York: Random House. 2008. ISBN 978-0-307-27870-8.
    Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West. New York: Random House. 2005. ISBN 978-0-307-27948-4.
    Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic. New York: Random House. 2003. ISBN 978-1-400-07897-4.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Holland_(author)
What kind of history are you looking to read?  I would highly suggest reading other material.
 

Hinterlander

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William T said:
Hinterlander said:
Has anyone read his history books?  They look right up my alley.

Non-fiction

    Athelstan: The Making of England. Allen Lane. 2016. ISBN 978-0-241-18781-4.
    Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar. New York: Random House. 2015. ISBN 978-0-385-53784-1.
    In the Shadow of the Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World. New York: Random House. 2012. ISBN 978-1-408-70007-5.
    The Forge of Christendom: The End of Days and the Epic Rise of the West. New York: Random House. 2008. ISBN 978-0-307-27870-8.
    Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West. New York: Random House. 2005. ISBN 978-0-307-27948-4.
    Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic. New York: Random House. 2003. ISBN 978-1-400-07897-4.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Holland_(author)
What kind of history are you looking to read?  I would highly suggest reading other material.
I'm looking to read engaging and entertaining nonfiction that I can read from a comfortable armchair.  I'm especially interested in the classical era.
 

William T

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Hinterlander said:
William T said:
Hinterlander said:
Has anyone read his history books?  They look right up my alley.

Non-fiction

    Athelstan: The Making of England. Allen Lane. 2016. ISBN 978-0-241-18781-4.
    Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar. New York: Random House. 2015. ISBN 978-0-385-53784-1.
    In the Shadow of the Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World. New York: Random House. 2012. ISBN 978-1-408-70007-5.
    The Forge of Christendom: The End of Days and the Epic Rise of the West. New York: Random House. 2008. ISBN 978-0-307-27870-8.
    Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West. New York: Random House. 2005. ISBN 978-0-307-27948-4.
    Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic. New York: Random House. 2003. ISBN 978-1-400-07897-4.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Holland_(author)
What kind of history are you looking to read?  I would highly suggest reading other material.
I'm looking to read engaging and entertaining nonfiction that I can read from a comfortable armchair.  I'm especially interested in the classical era.
Herodotus is pretty fun and rollicking, there are even some laugh out loud moments in him.  Plutarch and Tacitus are lively as well if you want to read those older historians.  Of the books Tom Holland wrote Rubicon might be a good entertaining "lay person" history read.  I was mostly thinking about Persian Fire and Shadow of the Sword which don't really do good history, though they are written well.

The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Bauer is a very readable intro book that anyone can read.  From wha I remember it's purely a political history, but it's a good read.

 

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Modern secularism is more an attempt to grapple with and speciously reject the great power of Christianity than an admiring extension of it. So, yes, he is right that were there not Christianity there would not be the (ostensible) Western ethic -- but the same could be said about other historic cultural avalanches, so to speak. Nothing remained the same, but neither is everything now good.
 

scamandrius

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William T said:
Herodotus is pretty fun and rollicking, there are even some laugh out loud moments in him.  Plutarch and Tacitus are lively as well if you want to read those older historians.  Of the books Tom Holland wrote Rubicon might be a good entertaining "lay person" history read.  I
Rubicon is required reading for my third year students.  It does a good job.

ALso, any history by Philip Mastyzak and recent biographies of Marcus Agrippa and Drusus Nero by Lindsay Powell are also good for "lay persons" interested in almost forgotten and newly resurrected characters of the late Roman Republic and early Empire.
 

William T

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scamandrius said:
William T said:
Herodotus is pretty fun and rollicking, there are even some laugh out loud moments in him.  Plutarch and Tacitus are lively as well if you want to read those older historians.  Of the books Tom Holland wrote Rubicon might be a good entertaining "lay person" history read.  I
Rubicon is required reading for my third year students.  It does a good job.

ALso, any history by Philip Mastyzak and recent biographies of Marcus Agrippa and Drusus Nero by Lindsay Powell are also good for "lay persons" interested in almost forgotten and newly resurrected characters of the late Roman Republic and early Empire.
I have a half formed thought here:

As long as one thinks they have a "general picture" of the "big picture of history " (be it of the world, a specific culture, or whatever), it is probably best to focus on specific people and events rather than "big picture" history, that may be best for a "layperson". 

The other thing is to consciously avoid a "history book" that is presenting a "big idea theory" (guns germs steel, how Chester A Arthur forged the modern "western" mind, how there was a "swerve", Gibbons history book, etc), that's best for everyone. This point is a conviction I will  take to the grave with me.  I'm going down with the ship on this point, I don't care how many silly little philosophers want to enter fields they have no business entering and ramble on about.... whatever it is they ramble on about.  It's always a dangerous game to cross those pompous ones, but there you have it.
 

Daedelus1138

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We live in a Christ-haunted world.  A lot of young people now are very much interested in things like social justice, and I believe this is directly due to western Christianity even inculcating this ethos (in this way Nietzsche was a prophet -  we are living in the era of the Last Man even more than he was, finally it has trickled down from intellectuals to the masses).  But from a Lutheran perspective, this is all so much works-righteousness.  These people pride themselves on their social activism (I'm always shocked by how many young white faces there are at angry BLM protests) but their own lives are often marked by lovelessness, resentment, immaturity and narcissism.  Often hidden even from themselves.
 

William T

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Daedelus1138 said:
We live in a Christ-haunted world.  A lot of young people now are very much interested in things like social justice, and I believe this is directly due to western Christianity even inculcating this ethos (in this way Nietzsche was a prophet -  we are living in the era of the Last Man even more than he was, finally it has trickled down from intellectuals to the masses).  But from a Lutheran perspective, this is all so much works-righteousness.  These people pride themselves on their social activism (I'm always shocked by how many young white faces there are at angry BLM protests) but their own lives are often marked by lovelessness, resentment, immaturity and narcissism.  Often hidden even from themselves.
Christ haunted is a funny quip by Flannery O'Conner. Christ haunted yes, seems like someone who read too many German philosophers (like Hulga) and does dialogue with Flannery O'Connor. 

As a man who has no patientce for this kind of thing all I have is empiricism and aesthetics and it sounds and looks something like this:

I can see some wide eyed 20 yr old philosopher with an ax to grind treating "philosopher" (not artist) O'Conner as someone who tries to bring about comuuuunion in "late capitalistic post-modernity" when they are trying to sound nice about their ax to grind.  When they finally get "confident" enough, those long vowel sounds on the "u" in "communion" start turning into more short choppy sounds and it's more of a "manifesto voice" as the 22 year old philosopher starts progressively proclaiming the much shorter sounding word "union".  In any case watch out!  We are all condemned to our philosophers universal salvation...he doesn't even have the common decency to condemn us to hell or annihilation in spite his cartoonish heremtically sealed world inverting allegories, symbols, vilifications, and proclamations.


Anyway, what does this have to do with history other than the fact that philosophers can crash the party of any subject in the humanities?
 

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The human rights exist in the Bible but they were not implemented as applicable by Christian rulers but by enlightement, and later socialist, circles. Christian society had no interest in Christian morality whatsoever. I agree some of these reformers based their beliefs on religion but I cannot agree that was the main driving force for them. Paradoxically, atheists rediscovered Christianity for Christians.

I know that evolution didnot happened in the areas not changed by Christianity like East Asia (that treats human rights with a completely different attitude whatsoever) so these changes have their origins in Christian faith. But they happened in spite of lay and clerical Christian authorities, not thanks to them.
 

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Paradoxically, atheists rediscovered Christianity for Christians.

Maybe in the same way Pharaoh, Assyrians, Babylonians, King Herod, Caligula, Nestorius, Simon Magus, Mani, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, and the Turks helped.
 

Second Chance

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Hinterlander said:
William T said:
Hinterlander said:
Has anyone read his history books?  They look right up my alley.

Non-fiction

    Athelstan: The Making of England. Allen Lane. 2016. ISBN 978-0-241-18781-4.
    Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar. New York: Random House. 2015. ISBN 978-0-385-53784-1.
    In the Shadow of the Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World. New York: Random House. 2012. ISBN 978-1-408-70007-5.
    The Forge of Christendom: The End of Days and the Epic Rise of the West. New York: Random House. 2008. ISBN 978-0-307-27870-8.
    Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West. New York: Random House. 2005. ISBN 978-0-307-27948-4.
    Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic. New York: Random House. 2003. ISBN 978-1-400-07897-4.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Holland_(author)
What kind of history are you looking to read?  I would highly suggest reading other material.
I'm looking to read engaging and entertaining nonfiction that I can read from a comfortable armchair.  I'm especially interested in the classical era.
These fall into the "unlikely" authors category, but here we go:

Orson Scott Card, Women of Genesis series (Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah, etc.)

Anne Rice, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana.
 

Cognomen

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mike said:
The human rights exist in the Bible but they were not implemented as applicable by Christian rulers but by enlightement, and later socialist, circles. Christian society had no interest in Christian morality whatsoever. I agree some of these reformers based their beliefs on religion but I cannot agree that was the main driving force for them. Paradoxically, atheists rediscovered Christianity for Christians.

I know that evolution didnot happened in the areas not changed by Christianity like East Asia (that treats human rights with a completely different attitude whatsoever) so these changes have their origins in Christian faith. But they happened in spite of lay and clerical Christian authorities, not thanks to them.
While I don't wholly disagree, I think Fr. Meyendorff's Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions presents a somewhat more balanced look at the effect Christianity had on the Roman Empire(s), and argues that certain Christian moral principles were advanced in the civic arena. Still, a tad underwhelming, considering...
 

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mike said:
The human rights exist in the Bible but they were not implemented as applicable by Christian rulers but by enlightement, and later socialist, circles. Christian society had no interest in Christian morality whatsoever. I agree some of these reformers based their beliefs on religion but I cannot agree that was the main driving force for them. Paradoxically, atheists rediscovered Christianity for Christians.
Whili I generally speaking agree with this, I don't think Socialists and Enlightenment should be given that much credit. They had their violent sides too and due to living in the former USSR you should be aware of that.
 

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Alpo said:
Whili I generally speaking agree with this, I don't think Socialists and Enlightenment should be given that much credit. They had their violent sides too and
I am aware of that. You can add suffrage movement to that, without drawbacks this time.

due to living in the former USSR you should be aware of that.
And that's new.
 

Daedelus1138

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Alpo said:
Whili I generally speaking agree with this, I don't think Socialists and Enlightenment should be given that much credit. They had their violent sides too and due to living in the former USSR you should be aware of that.
Christians can't be violent? 




 

ialmisry

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Daedelus1138 said:
Alpo said:
Whili I generally speaking agree with this, I don't think Socialists and Enlightenment should be given that much credit. They had their violent sides too and due to living in the former USSR you should be aware of that.
Christians can't be violent?
your modernist post-Enlightenment types have convinced themselves (and yourself) that we are nothing but.
 

ialmisry

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mike said:
Alpo said:
Whili I generally speaking agree with this, I don't think Socialists and Enlightenment should be given that much credit. They had their violent sides too and
I am aware of that. You can add suffrage movement to that, without drawbacks this time.
Wrong yet again. Finland, at the stroke of the Czar's pen on The Parliament Act of 1906, achieved the goal of the suffrage movement.
 

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ialmisry said:
mike said:
Alpo said:
Whili I generally speaking agree with this, I don't think Socialists and Enlightenment should be given that much credit. They had their violent sides too and
I am aware of that. You can add suffrage movement to that, without drawbacks this time.
Wrong yet again. Finland, at the stroke of the Czar's pen on The Parliament Act of 1906, achieved the goal of the suffrage movement.
Thank you. Many seem to forget that.

Daedelus, I didn't say that. I was simply pointing out that Socialism and Enlightenment weren't as peaceful that mane people assume. IMO peace and civilization can be only achieved with pluralistic society. People don't really want human rights. They want their side to win.
 

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Are we seriously pretending that in 1906 the Czar was not influenced by the Enlightenment?
 

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Iconodule said:
Are we seriously pretending that in 1906 the Czar was not influenced by the Enlightenment?
Nope. We are just pointing out that no ideology is pure from violence. Enlightenment might have had really good ideas but Enlightenment led to guillotines too.
 

ialmisry

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scamandrius said:
William T said:
Herodotus is pretty fun and rollicking, there are even some laugh out loud moments in him.  Plutarch and Tacitus are lively as well if you want to read those older historians.  Of the books Tom Holland wrote Rubicon might be a good entertaining "lay person" history read.  I
Rubicon is required reading for my third year students.  It does a good job.

ALso, any history by Philip Mastyzak and recent biographies of Marcus Agrippa and Drusus Nero by Lindsay Powell are also good for "lay persons" interested in almost forgotten and newly resurrected characters of the late Roman Republic and early Empire.
a BIG "DUH!" on my part.

Until you mentioned Rubicon, I didn't recognize where I had seen this name before (btw, to those who doubt the Resurrection and argue from history, I demand that they prove that Caesar crossed the Rubicon-one of the most important and public acts of anyone in the ancient world). He did a video of Islam that is very thought provoking (full disclosure, it has my mentor Prof. Fred Donner in it).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J60AWCS-hfo
from his book on the same subject.
 

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Alpo said:
Iconodule said:
Are we seriously pretending that in 1906 the Czar was not influenced by the Enlightenment?
Nope. We are just pointing out that no ideology is pure from violence. Enlightenment might have had really good ideas but Enlightenment led to guillotines too.
Especially led to guillotines.

But there are those  ;)^ who like to pretend that what is euphemismized as the "excesses" of the "Enlightenment" were vestiges of the "unenlightened" past, and claim for the "Enlightenment" only what they see as good and pure. Hence the role of the Enlightenment in the creation and expansion of the slave trade, and the role of the Evangelicals in stopping and destroying the same, is hidden and forgotten. "Amazing Grace" seems fiction to them.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jdrz2TNCSOk
 

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ialmisry said:
Daedelus1138 said:
Alpo said:
Whili I generally speaking agree with this, I don't think Socialists and Enlightenment should be given that much credit. They had their violent sides too and due to living in the former USSR you should be aware of that.
Christians can't be violent?
your modernist post-Enlightenment types have convinced themselves (and yourself) that we are nothing but.
Don't put words in my mouth.

These things are more complicated than the black-and-white thinking I often seen.  But lets not pretend pre-enlightenment society was a Christian utopia full of charity and justice.
 

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Daedelus1138 said:
ialmisry said:
Daedelus1138 said:
Alpo said:
Whili I generally speaking agree with this, I don't think Socialists and Enlightenment should be given that much credit. They had their violent sides too and due to living in the former USSR you should be aware of that.
Christians can't be violent?
your modernist post-Enlightenment types have convinced themselves (and yourself) that we are nothing but.
Don't put words in my mouth.

These things are more complicated than the black-and-white thinking I often seen.  But lets not pretend pre-enlightenment society was a Christian utopia full of charity and justice.
Show me a Christian that claimed it was.

The "Enlightenment" invented utopia (the ideal, not the term), a denial of original sin.
 

Daedelus1138

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ialmisry said:
The "Enlightenment" invented utopia (the ideal, not the term), a denial of original sin.
If you look at the founding fathers of the US (who were heavily influenced by the Enlightenment), there seems to be a great deal of suspicion of human motivations.  It seems to me the spirit was pragmatism rather than idealism.


 

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Daedelus1138 said:
ialmisry said:
The "Enlightenment" invented utopia (the ideal, not the term), a denial of original sin.
If you look at the founding fathers of the US (who were heavily influenced by the Enlightenment), there seems to be a great deal of suspicion of human motivations.  It seems to me the spirit was pragmatism rather than idealism.
Interesting. Any sources for this? Not that I'd disagree but being non-American I have practically zero knowledge on the issue.
 

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Alpo said:
Daedelus1138 said:
ialmisry said:
The "Enlightenment" invented utopia (the ideal, not the term), a denial of original sin.
If you look at the founding fathers of the US (who were heavily influenced by the Enlightenment), there seems to be a great deal of suspicion of human motivations.  It seems to me the spirit was pragmatism rather than idealism.
Interesting. Any sources for this? Not that I'd disagree but being non-American I have practically zero knowledge on the issue.
In America it is mentioned in our basic history and government books that the American founders took inspiration from the Scottish Enlightenment figures such as Adam Smith and John Locke.  I don't know if I'd  call it outright pragmatism and suspicion on these people though America famously did later develop pragmatic philosophy, so it is something that easily lends itself to pragmatism; but there is definitely an acknowledgment of limitations, checks and balances.
 

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William T said:
Alpo said:
Daedelus1138 said:
ialmisry said:
The "Enlightenment" invented utopia (the ideal, not the term), a denial of original sin.
If you look at the founding fathers of the US (who were heavily influenced by the Enlightenment), there seems to be a great deal of suspicion of human motivations.  It seems to me the spirit was pragmatism rather than idealism.
Interesting. Any sources for this? Not that I'd disagree but being non-American I have practically zero knowledge on the issue.
In America it is mentioned in our basic history and government books that the American founders took inspiration from the Scottish Enlightenment figures such as Adam Smith and John Locke.  I don't know if I'd  call it outright pragmatism and suspicion on these people though America famously did later develop pragmatic philosophy, so it is something that easily lends itself to pragmatism; but there is definitely an acknowledgment of limitations, checks and balances.
Well, Scotland was Presbyterian, so I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't some line from Calvinist total depravity to the Scottish Enlightenment. I, too, remember reading that the idea behind checks and balances was influenced by Calvinism (i. e., by pitting "totally depraved" people's egos against one another rather than letting them collude, one could minimize the total harm done). Support for economic systems based around competition could also be linked to Calvinism for similar reasons.
 

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Alpo said:
Iconodule said:
Are we seriously pretending that in 1906 the Czar was not influenced by the Enlightenment?
Nope. We are just pointing out that no ideology is pure from violence. Enlightenment might have had really good ideas but Enlightenment led to guillotines too.
Indeed, as the decapitated heads of hundreds of thousands of French citizens of all classes would attest, could they speak.
 

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Minnesotan said:
William T said:
Alpo said:
Daedelus1138 said:
ialmisry said:
The "Enlightenment" invented utopia (the ideal, not the term), a denial of original sin.
If you look at the founding fathers of the US (who were heavily influenced by the Enlightenment), there seems to be a great deal of suspicion of human motivations.  It seems to me the spirit was pragmatism rather than idealism.
Interesting. Any sources for this? Not that I'd disagree but being non-American I have practically zero knowledge on the issue.
In America it is mentioned in our basic history and government books that the American founders took inspiration from the Scottish Enlightenment figures such as Adam Smith and John Locke.  I don't know if I'd  call it outright pragmatism and suspicion on these people though America famously did later develop pragmatic philosophy, so it is something that easily lends itself to pragmatism; but there is definitely an acknowledgment of limitations, checks and balances.


Well, Scotland was Presbyterian, so I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't some line from Calvinist total depravity to the Scottish Enlightenment. I, too, remember reading that the idea behind checks and balances was influenced by Calvinism (i. e., by pitting "totally depraved" people's egos against one another rather than letting them collude, one could minimize the total harm done). Support for economic systems based around competition could also be linked to Calvinism for similar reasons.
Good point.

England also was predominantly Calvinist, even in Anglicanism, and Puritan churches of the early colonists had become either Congregationalist Calvinist or Unitarian.
 

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Daedelus1138 said:
We live in a Christ-haunted world.  A lot of young people now are very much interested in things like social justice, and I believe this is directly due to western Christianity even inculcating this ethos (in this way Nietzsche was a prophet -  we are living in the era of the Last Man even more than he was, finally it has trickled down from intellectuals to the masses).  But from a Lutheran perspective, this is all so much works-righteousness.  These people pride themselves on their social activism (I'm always shocked by how many young white faces there are at angry BLM protests) but their own lives are often marked by lovelessness, resentment, immaturity and narcissism.  Often hidden even from themselves.
There is no such thing as works-righteousness.  We either live by the commandments of our Lord, wittingly or unwittingly in the case of non-Christians, or we do not, and instead resort to moral hypocrisy of the sort characterized by "Christians" who refuse to give alms for fear of engaging in "works righteousness."

Also, Minnesotan, I have wondered if the filty permissive culture of Amsterdam, with its brothels, "coffeeshop" , drugs scene and the towering pink phallus memorial to homosexuals, is ultimately the product of a Calvinist mentality of total depravity run amok.

The idea being, the people who would go to brothels are reprobates and thus foreordained to damnation, so who are we to stop them?  Or, alternately, and more odioisly, "I am saved, and nothing can make me not be a member of the Elect, so I might as well have live it up."

This view might also account for Apartheid.  "It's the destiny of the blacks to suffer for our benefit; they were foreordained to a life of inferiority, but might be saved anyway in the next life, so who are we to change things and treat them as equals?"

I believe the Calvinist work ethic was wrongly credited with the success of Northern Europe economically by the sociologist Max Webber.  Especially since most of Northern Europe was Lutheran, and had he been alive today, I think he would be at pains to explain the considerable economic success of the Armenian diaspora, which is completely non-Calvinist, or indeed other Orthodox Christian populations.

But perhaps it might be fair to blame the social problems that have plagued much of the West on Calvinism.  Just as Tom Holland has realized that it was Christianity in its non heretical form which accounts for our social virtue.
 

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Gamliel said:
Who is Tom Holland?
A writer, who specializes in non-fiction history
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Holland_(author)
 

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Alpo said:
Daedelus1138 said:
ialmisry said:
The "Enlightenment" invented utopia (the ideal, not the term), a denial of original sin.
If you look at the founding fathers of the US (who were heavily influenced by the Enlightenment), there seems to be a great deal of suspicion of human motivations.  It seems to me the spirit was pragmatism rather than idealism.
Interesting. Any sources for this? Not that I'd disagree but being non-American I have practically zero knowledge on the issue.
Off the top of my head, there's James Madison writing about the need to protect the "minority of the opulent against the majority", and that the senate should be constituted to make it very difficult for sweeping reforms to pass. The whole idea of checks and balances was that no one could be trusted to wield absolute power. A fear of tyrants and power monopolies was more important to them than any ideals about democracy, common people, etc. Power should still be in the hands of qualified (wealthy, educated, etc) people. Liberalism in any form has this paternalistic, if not technocratic, dimension.
 

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Minnesotan said:
William T said:
Alpo said:
Daedelus1138 said:
ialmisry said:
The "Enlightenment" invented utopia (the ideal, not the term), a denial of original sin.
If you look at the founding fathers of the US (who were heavily influenced by the Enlightenment), there seems to be a great deal of suspicion of human motivations.  It seems to me the spirit was pragmatism rather than idealism.
Interesting. Any sources for this? Not that I'd disagree but being non-American I have practically zero knowledge on the issue.
In America it is mentioned in our basic history and government books that the American founders took inspiration from the Scottish Enlightenment figures such as Adam Smith and John Locke.  I don't know if I'd  call it outright pragmatism and suspicion on these people though America famously did later develop pragmatic philosophy, so it is something that easily lends itself to pragmatism; but there is definitely an acknowledgment of limitations, checks and balances.
Well, Scotland was Presbyterian, so I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't some line from Calvinist total depravity to the Scottish Enlightenment. I, too, remember reading that the idea behind checks and balances was influenced by Calvinism (i. e., by pitting "totally depraved" people's egos against one another rather than letting them collude, one could minimize the total harm done). Support for economic systems based around competition could also be linked to Calvinism for similar reasons.
That's a good observation*, and no doubt there is some truth to it, I just don't think it's a good introductory remark.  It goes a bit too far back in genealogy and speculation to not be problematic.  I think it's just best to mention Locke and Smith who are obvious philosophical influences in the way the government was thought about and not sort of a historical cultural practice which was never mentioned, and as far as I know, never thought about when the framing of the government came about.

Here is an off the top of my head example why it's not a great idea to start with talking about things like that right away to an inquirer:

Lassiez Faire was a term that I think was coined by a school called "Physiocracy", which was French and Cartesian. I'm not sure if the physiocrats were Enlightenment Deists (or worse), Hugeonots, Catholics, or all of the above, if they were mostly Heugonots I may have to rethink my point.  Either way,  this was a proto-economic school and it was agrarian based in the way it thought about political economy.  This in turn influenced Smith.  Moreover, these people didn't really know what "economic systems" or "capitalism" was, this line of thinking came about much because of a debate on the mercantilism that was happening at the time.  Even more, America didn't really identify themselves as having the same economic system as the Brits, the two economies functioned differently after mercantilism went in decline.

And while someone like Locke is no doubt influenced by Protestantism, and even in his tolerance he shows anti-Catholic trends, he no doubt is also a product of getting fed up with religious wars and other shake ups of the era.  It also has to be mentioned that the Founders were influenced by things like French Salons, International Enlightenment societies like the Masons (read Jefferson's Bible, it is almost identical to Tolstoy's), etc.

Either way, the major point is that while it's OK to do these kind of genealogies, they aren't the most reliable method, and I would only suggest them when there is enough common ground on the subject (such as between me and you, as we were educated in the USA) to do them.

*One of the most famous sociology works ever written is Max Webers "The Protestant Work Ethic" which covers your point.  While I think I disagree with much of Webers point, it is certainly a very respectable and defensible position to have, and no doubt has some truth to it.
 
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