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View Full Version : Did We Go Backwards From The Age Of Enlightenment?



Silverbackman
25-05-07, 03:09
Remember the good ol' Age of Enlightenment of Europe? It followed the triumph of science over religion when science proved absolutely that the Earth is not the center of the universe and the Sun is the center of the Solar System.
Reason dominated this era, at least among the intellectuals of the upper class (which later spread to the lower classes to a certain extent). It taught us that we don't need religion and government to run our lives and that man's reason and liberty should replace it instead. The "Divine Right of Kings" was shown to be irrational.
From the emphasis on reason and liberty came the political philosophy of liberalism (today referred to as classical liberalism or its more radical forms of libertarianism and individualist anarchism) and the religious philosophy of deism (a transitional religious philosophy largely superseded by atheism). Thomas Paine wrote extensively on Reason is the way to go while criticizing the religious dogma. John Locke applied this reasoning to politics and found that human action based on liberty is more productive and practical than human action based on the authoritarian decrees of a king or ruler.
If one lived at that time and knew nothing of the future, one would think that deism and classical liberalism would evolve into atheism and liberal anarchism. Instead it seems that religion and government are as strong as ever. Over 5 billion people still cling onto religion and faith, and even more people cling towards statism. Meaning 5/6 of the world still believes in faith over reason, or thinks science and religion can somehow find a compromise.
It's no wonder that countries like the US even bothers to have creationism/religion vs evolution/science debates, and that around 50% of the population richest country in the world deny evolution/science in preference towards creationism/religion.
And it's also no wonder that hundreds of millions of people have died in the 20th century as a result of government warfare or genocide. People want the state to take care of them from cradle to grave and be there super daddy similar to how religious people look at god as their super daddy. Even though the laws of economics shows that state-intervention is almost always counter-productive and the free people acting in their own self interest tends to produce the most prosperous society. If anyone has taken a look at the Index of Economic Freedom anyone would see this. And anyone seeing how miserably drug prohibition has failed will see why liberty is the best way to go.
So why don't we live in a 21st century world of non-religious liberalism, something we discovered during an Age of Reason? Why do we continue to make the same mistakes and not learn from history?

Kinsao
25-05-07, 11:34
... the triumph of science over religion [...] 5/6 of the world still believes in faith over reason, or thinks science and religion can somehow find a compromise.

I don't think that science and religion are incompatible. In the sense that science does not preclude the existence of 'god' / 'a god' or 'gods'. What is the need for someone who believes in god(s) to deny facts that are proven to them by science? For instance, everything wasn't created in 7 days, rather, evolved over a long time... why should it mean that someone couldn't still believe in a god?

No, I don't think it's incompatible, but rather that people can use religion to 'explain' or even 'make a hypothesis' about things which aren't yet explained by science.... but maybe I'm getting myself a bit confused here, because belief in god(s) isn't the same as 'organised religion' of course... clearly it is stupid to believe in something taught by a 'religious' organisation if it goes against what is proved by science... because with science you can see/figure out the proof yourself :p...

Somebody once expressed it that science answers the question 'how?' and religion answers the question 'why?'. I'm not sure I agree completely with that way of expressing things but it does go some way towards outlining the sense of differences in the roles of science and religion. I see no reason why someone rational might not believe in 'a god / gods' as the underlying cause behind the scientific laws of nature as we discover them, without having need to deny the ways in which those laws operate. :relief:


human action based on liberty is more productive and practical than human action based on the authoritarian decrees of a king or ruler.

I think the problems come when people make laws and rules based on insufficient, flawed knowledge, and try to use religion to justify it... if people in general don't know any better I can understand it (trying to explain what isn't otherwise explained), but if there is already a scientific explanation, it's crazy to deny it... :souka:


Over 5 billion people still cling onto religion and faith,

I have heard this used as an argument 'for' religion... or in other words the 'there must be something in it' school of thought... based on the argument (which is similar to yours in fact) that people en masse have had a lot of time, historically speaking, to be 'deconvinced', or enlightened, and really the whole of people is only as 'stupid' as its component parts who are ordinary people like you and me, and with enough 'thinking people'... which makes me think that religion 'fills the gap' for people for things that haven't yet been explained by science... :?


around 50% of the population richest country in the world deny evolution/science in preference towards creationism/religion.

^ ... although creationism and religion are not synonymous... it's only certain religions that believe in creationism, and by no means the majority.


People want the state to take care of them from cradle to grave and be there super daddy similar to how religious people look at god as their super daddy. Even though the laws of economics shows that state-intervention is almost always counter-productive and the free people acting in their own self interest tends to produce the most prosperous society.

Although I can kind of see what you're driving at, I a bit fail to see the link in your argument... I mean, I don't see that a 'stronger religiousness' among the population necessarily means they are generally more favourable to a more 'strict' government or more state intervention. I can see that it seems like people who follow organised religion are more 'amenable to authority', but that's not necessarily the same as the state/government... especially in countries such as the UK where the government is secular and in some cases contradictory to the 'rules' of some organised religions... I suppose it's almost like a state of 'civil war' with 2 factions following different authorities. :souka:

Maciamo
25-05-07, 12:19
Good post, Silverbackman ! I am with you on this. I am not sure we actually went backwards, because as you said, it was mostly the educated elite that was deist/atheist and liberal in the 18th century, and only in Europe (especially France and Germany, as well as Britain for liberalism) and the young USA.

Whereas the USA has become much more religious and a bit less liberal sin ce the middle of the 20th century, things haven't changed in such a negative way in Europe.

Regarding religion, the 19th century as well as the first half of the 20th century were markedly more religious than the 18th, so there was a backwards movement for a time. But deism, atheism, and new forms of beliefs like universalism (mixing whatever elements you like from various religions, without any organisation or dogma) have now become the norm rather than the exception in most of Europe (with exception like Ireland, Poland, Portugal or Malta). France is still the leader in separating religion from the state, the British monarchy still heads the Anglican Church, the German state still finance the state's religion, and the Vatican still has its say in Italian politics, which proves that things haven't changed so much in 200 years.

Politically, I believe that people in most of Europe are more free now than they ever were before, eventhough governments do protect us with laws, regulations, social security, and so on. What we can deplore is the excessive bureaucracy and the slowness of the judicial system in many countries (Belgium is probably towards the top of the inefficiency list in the Western world). Education (anywhere in the world) is also not nearly as good as it ought to be. We could hope that the Internet will foster self-learning to remedy to that.

Economically, thanks to the Single European Market, the Internet, airplanes, and globalisation in general, people can trade more freely and quickly all over the world than ever before in the history of mankind.