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Rise of the Secular Society

Europe in the Dark Ages:

Throughout the Middle Ages Europe was ruled by a ruthless feudal system, which was upheld by the Monarch, Nobility and the Church. The principle philosophy was that man's position in this life was pre-destined by God, so a blacksmith was born as a blacksmith and a king was born as a king, their destiny being fixed and decided. This

only helped to maintain the status quo, and oppression over the mainly poor class prevailed at large. The situation naturally led to conflict between the subject and the state, and this struggle continued to gain momentum throughout the Middle Ages. Thus the term Middle Ages was often used synonymously with the Dark Ages because to a European this is the darkest period in their history. The Church continued to justify the feudal situation of the country, and through corruption, it became very powerful institution in terms of wealth and influence. It is well known just how wealthy the Catholic Church grew through `donations', a place in the heavens was sold by the Church in exchange for gold. This type of corruption led to dissatisfaction and eventually a revolt by Martin Luther, who later commented that the Pope was a glowing worm in a cowpat. It was this revolt that led to the reformation, which in turn led to the formation of the Protestant Church. This was a crippling blow to the Catholic institution.

The Renaissance and Industrial Revolution:

At the same time a period of discovery and science started to take place in Europe. This often led to confrontation with the Church's teachings, for example the discovery by Galileo that the earth revolved round the sun and not the reverse as proposed by the clergymen. Similarly the discovery of the fourth continent, namely Australia, caused friction as the Church taught that there are only three continents. One can continue to quote many more examples, but the Church and the Monarch did its best to suppress this knowledge to maintain its grip on society. The society on the other hand was moving away from the dogmas of the state, particularly the Church. This was the period of Renaissance, when Europe began to open its horizon. Scientific discoveries led to the Industrial Revolution, and the balance of power in the international arena shifted

towards Europe. The industrial revolution provided her with heavy industries, which provided powerful weapons and thus period of conquering and colonisation began.

The Spread of Secular Capitalist States:

The intellectuals also began to move against the Church. Niccolo Machiavelli, in his book The Prince, set out the cause for a nation state rather then a Christian state. Europe was turning away from the Christian state to the concept of a nation state. Due to the suppression by the ruling power the call for freedom became very strong, religion was beginning to be perceived as superstitious and backwards. Prominent thinkers and politicians like John Locke, Thomas Hubb, Montisque and Rousseau called for the

individuals to be free and not in chains. Jean Jacques Rousseau, in his book The Social Contract, stated "Man is born free but he is in chains everywhere". This _expression meant the man has the will to decide his own fate and it is not pre-determined by God, so man is free and man in essence is good. It is the state that has enslaved him, so that he is in chains and the state exists without man's consent. So there was a turning away from the feudal system and moved towards a more free society where all citizens could decide their destiny. It was Rousseau that eventually inspired the French revolution which led to the downfall of the oppressive Monarchy and the Church. The Parliamentary system was setup, the Monarch was simply reduced to figurehead, and the Church was stripped of its power. Thenceforth a secular society was formed. A similar process took place elsewhere in Europe and the Monarchs became only a figurehead and the role of Church was confined to atters relating to rituals of worship. The real power now laid in the hands of the Parliament which was mostly backed by big businesses. The Church now had very little to do with the state and its role was to concentrate within the sphere of personal worship and morality. Christianity was personalised, it was now a personal matter concerning individual morality and worship.

Moving away from Religion:

Thus religion took on a new meaning as it had been almost totally reduced of its influence over the state and society at large. The people started to adopt new values and gain inspiration from intellectuals, politicians, thinkers and writers. So this is precisely why if anybody mentions religion now, it is seen as a purely personal matter. Whereas it was only natural for the people to move away from the Church due to its collaboration with the Monarch and its upholding the feudal system of Europe. This movement away from the Church and the feudal system was further enhanced by two other factors.

1. As mentioned earlier the scientific discoveries led to direct conflict with the teachings of the Church, this put grave doubt on the authenticity of the Bible. As a result people began to lose confidence with the Church.

2. A new from of secular government, coupled with the new scientific discoveries and the Industrial Revolution, led to a stronger and a richer Europe. Consequently a period of ruthless colonialism started which meant that Europe became very rich and powerful at the expense of the other nations.. The case for secular society was now well established.

This experience meant that Europeans in general adopted a very hostile attitude towards Christianity and religion. The Church not only upheld the oppressive feudal system but also kept Europe back from progress due to its religious dogmas, which by now were proven to be based on conjecture and superstition.

The West's Outlook on Religion

So this is how the modern mind of the Europeans took shape. The question that now arises is whether it is reasonable to judge all religions merely based on the experiences of Christianity. Unfortunately, this is exactly what the West did. Should they have looked for a better alternative rather then simply abandoning Christianity and coming to a compromise solution? Compromise, because the existence of the Creator was not categorically denied, merely the religious institutions put a side from life's affairs.

The Church, representing religion, was given a limited role within the society and the government given its role separate from the Church. So the political role became distinct from the role of the Church, and politics became separate from religion.


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