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Christian philosophy brought peace to Europe and America

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Celebaelin
1242653.  Mon Jul 17, 2017 5:34 am Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
9 1667-05-27 "There come also Richardson, the bookbinder, with one of Ogilby’s Bibles in quires for me to see and buy, it being Mr. Cade’s, my stationer’s; but it is like to be so big that I shall not use it, it being too great to stir up and down without much trouble, which I shall not like nor do intend it for. " (Considering a purchase and turning it down because of its bulk.)

This is an oddity; not even one reference a year to his reading the Bible and yet in a private journal he notes that he's not buying yet another Bible because it would be too cumbersome to read easily. If you're not reading your Bibles what difference does it make how awkward the pages are to turn? Maybe he's just thinking about it but it does seem strange to me.


Last edited by Celebaelin on Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:14 am; edited 1 time in total

 
Jenny
1242674.  Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:10 am Reply with quote

I think there was a lot of routine use of the Bible - for example, it would have been very common for a household, including servants, to gather for prayers, which might involve a Bible reading, in the evening before bed. Church going was not quite mandatory but heading that way, and lack of attendance would be noted and suspicious (especially in the 17th and 18th century because of fears of Popish plots). But that isn't necessarily meaningful in terms of absorption of Christian philosophy. Pepys, a pretty standard Christian of his day, is more concerned with his financial standing and his work than anything else, and is open in his diaries about his adulteries (though he doesn't want his wife to know). The conflicts with the Dutch in that period don't seem to be impacted by any concerns about war based on Christian pacifism.

I do hear you on the principle that there is a drip-drip-drip effect. We see the same with civil rights to the extent that many things that were unacceptable in my childhood are now acceptable. But whether those could be ascribed to the impact of Christianity is a different matter. Some civil rights have been achieved in the teeth of strong opposition from the church - LGBTQ rights for example.

 
suze
1242687.  Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:59 am Reply with quote

Attendance at church actually was compulsory for a time. If I may quote Justin Pollard - which seems like a reasonable thing to do in these here forums:

Quote:
Church attendance was nominally compulsory after the reformation and particuarly after the bull deposing Elizabeth Regnans in Excelsis but was only really aimed at identifying Catholics. Even they only had to take (Anglican) communion twice a year and failure to turn up at church was only punishable by recusancy fines (although these increased somewhat alarmingly in the early years of the 17th century).

What was compulsory, by Act of Parliament, was celebrating Guy Fawkes day (until 1851).


Now, I wouild normally take the word of a proper historian such as Justin on such a matter, but then I stumbled across a Hansard report from 1842.

Richard Monckton Milnes MP (Whig, Pontefract) sounds like an interesting character. He was at Cambridge with Tennyson, went on the Grand Tour as a gentleman did in those days, and wrote poetry and a biography of Keats. He also had a vast collection of pornography, which was bequeathed to the British Library on his death, and fancied Florence Nightingale who turned him down.

Mr Monckton Milnes stated in Parliament in 1842 that at least twelve persons had been imprisoned for non-attendance at church in the last fifteen months, and that one of these had been in jail ten weeks before the fine of 15/- which the prisoner had no hope of being able to pay was struck out. He did not think that people ought to be imprisoned for this reason, and no one spoke to the contrary.

He stated the offence as being "did neglect to attend a church, or at some other place of religious worship, on the said day, he not having any reasonable excuse to be absent, and adjudged to forfeit and pay 1s., together with 14s. costs, and, in default, to be kept in prison until the said sums shall be paid".

Now, it may be that this particular non-attender was an all around pain in the arse but the authorities couldn't actually find anything else to charge him with. But whatever the circumstances, this suggests to me that attendance at church was - at least in theory - still compulsory as of 1842. I've found another source which reckons it was nominally compulsory until as late as 1969, but it doesn't show its working and I'm not sure that I believe it.


Last edited by suze on Mon Jul 17, 2017 5:41 pm; edited 1 time in total

 
bobwilson
1242734.  Mon Jul 17, 2017 5:30 pm Reply with quote

Celebaelin wrote:
bobwilson wrote:
Oh hang on – I’ve just had an epiphany. You’re saying that BECAUSE the factional infighting was around the issue of what Christian Philosophy actually is, that the predicate cause of the literacy ultimately arising from this factional infighting is Christian Philosophy.

Is that what you mean?

Essentially, yes; but I wouldn’t have used the word 'predicate' because it wasn’t in my active vocabulary at that point!

Seeking a superior argument about the interpretation of the Bible of itself moved the debate on to new positions of mature understanding. In order to participate in this ‘armchair pontification’ you needed to be able to cite scripture so you needed to be able to read and to have a Bible. My understanding is that many regarded this as a suitable, cheap* and proper way to pass the hours of rest.

<E> * Well now... ultimately cheap. Cheap once you have a Bible. Cheap once Bibles became affordable. Cheap compared to something that requires that you continue to spend money on it. Cheap compared to something that, erm, costs more money than it does.


Quote:
Seeking a superior argument about the interpretation of the Bible of itself moved the debate on to new positions of mature understanding.


I would agree with that

Quote:
In order to participate in this ‘armchair pontification’ you needed to be able to cite scripture so you needed to be able to read and to have a Bible.


And I would agree with that too.

But that doesn’t make Christian Philosophy the predicate cause. The cause was a debate about which vision of the way the world should work should rule (ie who should hold the reins of effective power). In terms of classical dialectical Marxism, there are two forces at work – the established power (ie the Catholic church allied in an unofficial concordat with the secular power); and the (ever present) masses who yearn to be free.

What we might today call “Liberation Theologians” preached a version of Christianity which variously: hailed back to an earlier idyllic period; called for a return to strict Godliness; held that men are all created equal etc.

But the fact that Christian Philosophy is involved at all is incidental – the local religion being Islam, or Buddhism would have worked just as well. In fact it doesn’t even need to be a religion at all – it can be something more secular like Platonism. Or even a debate about which end to open a boiled egg. What matters is the ability to refer back to a “respected authoritative source” which is open to interpretation.

By reference to such a source these various factions could claim to be the Real Thing (ie the legitimate power holders). It's that factional infighting that drives literacy - not the philosophy itself.

 
ali
1242741.  Tue Jul 18, 2017 12:56 am Reply with quote

Celebaelin wrote:
Jenny wrote:
9 1667-05-27 "There come also Richardson, the bookbinder, with one of Ogilby’s Bibles in quires for me to see and buy, it being Mr. Cade’s, my stationer’s; but it is like to be so big that I shall not use it, it being too great to stir up and down without much trouble, which I shall not like nor do intend it for. " (Considering a purchase and turning it down because of its bulk.)

This is an oddity; not even one reference a year to his reading the Bible and yet in a private journal he notes that he's not buying yet another Bible because it would be too cumbersome to read easily. If you're not reading your Bibles what difference does it make how awkward the pages are to turn? Maybe he's just thinking about it but it does seem strange to me.


This is a copy of the Bible in question. It is 17"x12" and looks to be about 4 inches thick. It's certainly not a book I would want to lug about much.

 
Celebaelin
1242771.  Tue Jul 18, 2017 8:12 am Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
I do hear you on the principle that there is a drip-drip-drip effect. We see the same with civil rights to the extent that many things that were unacceptable in my childhood are now acceptable. But whether those could be ascribed to the impact of Christianity is a different matter. Some civil rights have been achieved in the teeth of strong opposition from the church - LGBTQ rights for example.

I'm pretty sure that I haven't at any point claimed that the church has been a positive influence as regards equal rights. What I have said is that organised religions are by their very nature conservative.

 
Celebaelin
1242775.  Tue Jul 18, 2017 9:19 am Reply with quote

bobwilson wrote:
But that doesn’t make Christian Philosophy the predicate cause. The cause was a debate about which vision of the way the world should work should rule (ie who should hold the reins of effective power)

I’ve already said I wouldn’t have used the word ‘predicate’.

Quote:
predicate noun
1 Grammar
The part of a sentence or clause containing a verb and stating something about the subject (e.g. went home in John went home).
2 Logic
Something which is affirmed or denied concerning an argument of a proposition.

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/predicate

So the distinction between one interpretation of Christian philosophy and another is the subject of the debate and both those interpretations (assuming a duologue) are predicates in that their affirmation or denial is the subject of the debate.

bobwilson wrote:
In terms of classical dialectical Marxism, there are two forces at work – the established power (ie the Catholic church allied in an unofficial concordat with the secular power); and the (ever present) masses who yearn to be free.

For much of history it would not have been interpreted in this way but from a post 19th century perspective – yes, that debate was occurring. However at and since the time of the reformation it occurred alongside the debate between

bobwilson wrote:
... – the established power (ie the Catholic church allied in an unofficial concordat with the secular power)

and
bobwilson wrote:
What we might today call “Liberation Theologians”...

i.e. the reforming/reformed Protestant churches of various flavours.

bobwilson wrote:
But the fact that Christian Philosophy is involved at all is incidental – the local religion being Islam, or Buddhism would have worked just as well. In fact it doesn’t even need to be a religion at all – it can be something more secular like Platonism. Or even a debate about which end to open a boiled egg. What matters is the ability to refer back to a “respected authoritative source” which is open to interpretation.

If I may swiftly make an objection here I’m not convinced that the assertion that Christian Philosophy was not central and/or instrumental in the development of Europe and America is true. Indeed this is the crux of my initial assertion so I must perforce offer an alternative viewpoint.

In fact I thought we had agreed that because the debate was about Christian philosophy and interpretation of the Bible and the “Liberation Theologians” regarded as essential that everyone, high or low, should read and study the Bible that Christian philosophy was instrumental in the development of Western culture; it was universally considered a fitting subject for debate, all could have access to the source material and all were encouraged or even compelled to read it. Some countries did not embrace protestant values but eventually the technological advances that resulted from a population directed towards intellectual as well as physical labours were adopted universally.

bobwilson wrote:
It's that factional infighting that drives literacy - not the philosophy itself.

Nope, I don’t agree with you there. The belief of one faction was that religion was not to be delivered ‘top down’ but to be explored and discovered by individuals for themselves. Thus while it is a schism in belief that leads to this opinion arising it is that belief itself which encourages, even demands, that its adherents study the scriptures and this requires that they be literate. The ‘knock on’ consequences in an increasingly peaceful* and prosperous society shaped the modern world in general and Europe and North America in particular.

*the post with all the ridiculously big graphs points strongly to this conclusion although I’ve not found any further corroborative evidence or the raw data. It is however the best information presented on the subject so far in this debate.

 
Jenny
1242778.  Tue Jul 18, 2017 9:36 am Reply with quote

Celebaelin wrote:
Christian philosophy was instrumental in the development of Western culture


No disagreement from me there. In fact, heathen though I am I rather mourn its gradual disappearance in terms of mutually-known references to things like Bible stories and hymns. These, of course, were best known when a 'corporate act of worship' was mandatory in schools, and that corporate act of worship was of a largely Christian form in my youth, when the UK was a great deal less multicultural. I don't, of course, mourn the multiculturalism - on the whole it's a damn good thing. What I do notice is that references in literature which never used to have to be explained now have to be annotated.

Where I think your argument goes astray is in attributing 'bringing peace' to Europe and America to 'Christian philosophy', when I think far more is owed to the globalization of trade and the mutually assured destruction of nuclear weapons, and nowadays the need for unified action in the face of climate change.

 
Celebaelin
1242789.  Tue Jul 18, 2017 10:57 am Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
...if anything it is the spread of democracy and globalization, and in particular the enlightened self-interest of realizing that modern warfare is incredibly damaging to the people (who in a democracy are the ones who can elect the government), so that international structures such as the UN have arisen to deal with international conflict. Obviously this is not totally successful in this yet, but nonetheless they are an advance on the previous situation in terms of peace. And ironically religion seems to be a major stumbling block here.

I haven't addressed this bit yet have I? Can I convincingly refute this or subsume it within my general premise? I'll give it a go!

This appears to be the issue of individual and group rights which are clearly the product of a legal system - the law does not grant rights however it only declines to forbid certain behaviours. As Bentham put it rights are “the fruits of the law, and of the law alone. There are no rights without law—no rights contrary to the law—no rights anterior to the law.” As such the origins of rights go back to the Code of Hammurabi but in modern terms we must again look to the Corpus Juris Civilis of Justinian I and Tribonian as mentioned earlier. Its great influence on public international law, i.e. the legal business of states, must be considered in this. Why indeed is the law constructed from a non-aggressive standpoint? Wouldn't an acceptance of the needs and affairs of state be more practical? We have accepted in the course of this debate that political entities will seek gain through war from time to time so why are surprise attacks deemed to be 'illegal'? Surely they are simply practical? 'Oh by the way I'm going to be attacking you in a while so do try and be ready otherwise fewer of my men will be killed and we wouldn't want that would we?' Madness. Why is international law set out this way? Because it's written in the light of an underlying Christian perspective. The UN and its predecessor The League of Nations are attempts to construct a forum to discourage acts of war. Why do they exist if even here we theoretically accept that countries will periodically seek to increase their standing through war? Because it's the right thing to do, yes? But who says it's the right thing to do? Alexander the Great wouldn't agree; neither would Ghengis Khan, Napoleon, Cecil Rhodes or Hitler. It's the right thing to do because it conforms to Christian approaches to peace in the same way that increasing enfranchisement conforms to (largely protestant) Christian approaches to liberty and self-determination. China has been raised in this thread many times as a nation where Christian influence does not exactly abound - and how is that Chinese movement towards universal enfranchisement progressing? Not as well as one might hope I think you'll find!
https://psmag.com/news/hong-kong-democracy-is-at-a-low-point-after-blows-to-the-suffrage-movement

That religion is a stumbling block is precisely because the whole thing is formulated from a Christian perspective which not everyone agrees with. As with all laws this reinforces the status quo (first the Normans nick your country then they say it's illegal for you to nick it back). Then the fact that even self-professed Christian states (naming no names) occasionally ignore the UN completely and act out of self-interest doesn't play very well.


Last edited by Celebaelin on Tue Jul 18, 2017 11:12 am; edited 1 time in total

 
Celebaelin
1242790.  Tue Jul 18, 2017 11:07 am Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
Where I think your argument goes astray is in attributing 'bringing peace' to Europe and America to 'Christian philosophy', when I think far more is owed to the globalization of trade and the mutually assured destruction of nuclear weapons, and nowadays the need for unified action in the face of climate change.

OK, briefly so as to hopefully not over state my case.

Quote:
...globalization of trade...

Arose out of the industrial revolution which I'm asserting was itself a result of increased literacy as demanded by the protestant church for the individual's appreciation of the Bible.

Quote:
...mutually assured destruction of nuclear weapons...

Very recent but certainly a factor in the limitation of conflicts between those relatively few nations who possess atomic weapons.

Quote:
...need for unified action in the face of climate change...

Which sadly isn't happening, not in a concerted way.

 
brunel
1242818.  Tue Jul 18, 2017 2:56 pm Reply with quote

Celebaelin wrote:
Quote:
...globalization of trade...

Arose out of the industrial revolution which I'm asserting was itself a result of increased literacy as demanded by the protestant church for the individual's appreciation of the Bible.

That strikes me as picking just one out of many thousands of contributions towards globalization of trade - I mean, you can look to the thriving trade networks that developed during the Islamic Golden Age and the fact that many of the philosophical texts of the Ancient Greeks, which came to have such an impact on Western philosophy in later ages, mainly survived through the scholarship of the Islamic world in that period.

 
Celebaelin
1242893.  Wed Jul 19, 2017 8:33 am Reply with quote

I don't think so. We are talking about globalisation specifically and that dictates rapid impacts of the interconnectivity of world trading markets. That is necessarily dependent on technological advances rather than simple bi-partisan trade or even extended caravan routes such as the silk road. If you accept the assertion that the development of these advances was made possible by the progress of history as I have outlined it then the protestant reformation is a root cause that enabled the process.

I would even go so far as to argue that European (and therefore Christian) naval power and technology furthered the progress of trade in the preceding centuries although I have not heard any link suggested between Christian thought and the advancements in maritime technology – which is not to say that there is no connection just that I am currently unaware of any except in the broadest of terms.

As regards the preservation of knowledge

Quote:
For centuries, Greek ideas in Europe were all but non-existent, until the Eastern part of the Roman Empire – Byzantine – was sacked during the crusades unlocking numerous Greek texts. Within Western Europe, only a few monasteries had Greek works, and even fewer of them copied these works.

Burgess Laughlin The Aristotle Adventure: a Guide to the Greek, Arabic, and Latin Scholars Who Transmitted Aristotle's Logic to the Renaissance. Flagstaff Ariz.: Albert Hale Pub., 1995.

The Christian church preserved the knowledge but distrusted its pagan nature. Islamic scholars began to study the works after the sack of Byzantium in 1204 when they discovered the preserved knowledge. Later, during the Renaissance, Christian scholars started to rediscover the ancient texts too. Doubtless some of the Christians used Arabic translations of the texts because they would be more common, particularly in the early stages.

 
Jenny
1242896.  Wed Jul 19, 2017 9:43 am Reply with quote

Celebaelin wrote:
Why is international law set out this way? Because it's written in the light of an underlying Christian perspective. The UN and its predecessor The League of Nations are attempts to construct a forum to discourage acts of war. Why do they exist if even here we theoretically accept that countries will periodically seek to increase their standing through war? Because it's the right thing to do, yes? But who says it's the right thing to do? Alexander the Great wouldn't agree; neither would Ghengis Khan, Napoleon, Cecil Rhodes or Hitler. It's the right thing to do because it conforms to Christian approaches to peace in the same way that increasing enfranchisement conforms to (largely protestant) Christian approaches to liberty and self-determination.


This is an interesting set of points. When I first read them, my mind went immediately to the ideas set out in Richard Dawkins' book The Selfish Gene - summary here., in particular his idea of memes.

Dawkins wrote:
Dawkins discusses how ideas could spread in the same way that natural selection takes place. His term “memes” refers to ideas, and suggests that many ideas have a tendency to replicate, last, and spread. It is the desire of the author that as thinking beings we can think more deeply about ideas in an altruistic manner. Memes carry ideas and cultural practices from mind to mind through various means of communication including writing, gestures, and speech. Memes are like genes in that they replicate and are responsive to pressures of selection. They spread through the behavior of the hosts in whom they reside, and those that replicate less than others can become extinct. Memes that serve to increase the life spans of their hosts will survive longer than those that do not. Memes also thrive on retention: the longer the period of time a meme stays in its host, the greater its chances of replicating. When a meme is used by its host, its (the meme’s) life continues.


Now on that basis - rather than on the basis that there is some supernatural truth embodied in the Christian story - I could go along with you. The meme that we all do better in a peaceful world is a powerful one.


Celebaelin wrote:
China has been raised in this thread many times as a nation where Christian influence does not exactly abound - and how is that Chinese movement towards universal enfranchisement progressing? Not as well as one might hope I think you'll find!
https://psmag.com/news/hong-kong-democracy-is-at-a-low-point-after-blows-to-the-suffrage-movement


I wouldn't disagree with you there. China is not exactly a hotbed of democracy and never has been (and by the way if you haven't seen Michael Wood's excellent History of China series, treat yourself because it's worth watching). However, one reason for that is precisely because the Confucian thought that has dominated China for so many centuries emphasises the collective over the individual, which is the reverse of most Western philosophy and hard for westerners to wrap their head around (although the idea of communautaire has become more prevalent in recent years, which begins to approach that thinking). And yet China has been on the whole less inclined to be war ravaged than Europe - obviously not totally peaceful but somewhat less. What does that have to say about the drive for peace arising from the two different philosophies?

 
Celebaelin
1242906.  Wed Jul 19, 2017 11:29 am Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
Now on that basis - rather than on the basis that there is some supernatural truth embodied in the Christian story - I could go along with you. The meme that we all do better in a peaceful world is a powerful one.

At no point have I argued from a point of view of the veracity of the claims of the Christian church - 'I have no need of that hypothesis' as Laplace would put it. What I'm suggesting is that the influence of Christian thought has had a radical impact on societal and intellectual development in ways which were unforeseen by those proposing the initial approaches.

Jenny wrote:
Celebaelin wrote:
China has been raised in this thread many times as a nation where Christian influence does not exactly abound - and how is that Chinese movement towards universal enfranchisement progressing? Not as well as one might hope I think you'll find!
https://psmag.com/news/hong-kong-democracy-is-at-a-low-point-after-blows-to-the-suffrage-movement

I wouldn't disagree with you there. China is not exactly a hotbed of democracy and never has been (and by the way if you haven't seen Michael Wood's excellent History of China series, treat yourself because it's worth watching). However, one reason for that is precisely because the Confucian thought that has dominated China for so many centuries emphasises the collective over the individual, which is the reverse of most Western philosophy and hard for westerners to wrap their head around (although the idea of communautaire has become more prevalent in recent years, which begins to approach that thinking). And yet China has been on the whole less inclined to be war ravaged than Europe - obviously not totally peaceful but somewhat less. What does that have to say about the drive for peace arising from the two different philosophies?

China is less sub-divided than Europe and that is likely attributable to Confucian thought which was first proposed in the 5th and 4th centuries BCE; the predominance of this earlier school of thought may well explain Chinese reticence as regards the spread of Christianity - the peaceful co-existence element simply wasn't a new idea to them. With 1200 years of Confucian-inspired peace behind them before Christianity reached China during the Tang dynasty we can certainly say that China was a more mature society in terms of this element of societal co-operation and probably did benefit from a 'peace dividend'. Historic sub-divisions between the inherently warlike Northern Europeans perpetuated conflicts by maintaining linguistic boundaries and creating geographical ones. As an aside Confucian scholars actually opposed Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE) legalist centralisation in China being in favour of a more feudal structure but this would have left Confucianism as a more pervasive force than the state so the idea was rejected and many Confucian scholars executed.

If we accept that China had a 700 year head start as regards peace philosophically speaking then I think Europe has done rather well! I should re-emphasise that the absence of war is not the sole criterion by which Christianity's contribution to the progress of Western society should be judged although the impact of the absence of a constant state of tribal warfare must be acknowledged as significant.

 
AlmondFacialBar
1242907.  Wed Jul 19, 2017 12:24 pm Reply with quote

Um... Global trade is not exactly a new thing, is it? Rice as a species originates in Australia, has been cultivated in the Middle East since pre-Christian times, and reached Europe in the high middle ages. Ditto the Silk Road etc. Just saying...

:-)

AlmondFacialBar

 

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