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Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Civilisational development occurred despite religion

"Here there be monsters." This is the warning they should put up on a banner in Twitter when you first register your details with your email address, name and password. Like a Boschean nightmare you occasionally come across some unregenerate conservative who points to Western development and shouts "Judeo-Christian" as if that explained everything. Because of course the point is that civilisational development in the West occurred despite religion, not because of it.

From the invention of the printing press in Germany to the publication of the first humanist book it took about 80 years. Montaigne's Essaies appeared about 60 years after that, in 1580. And it was another 40 years before the publication, in England, of the manifesto of the scientific movement. That all these things occurred at the same time that Europe was a Christian territory is beside the point. The Church was shocked by the new and tried to suppress it at every turn. The new, young Humanist scholars who jumped on the Protestant bandwagon were actively rejecting over 1000 years of Church teaching, and were eagerly translating the secular works of Roman and Greek writers into the vernacular, and publishing them.

The Church tried to counter this shift and in Spain they came up with the Jesuits, a religious order devoted to employing the scholastic techniques of the Humanists, but rather with the goal of restoring people's faith in the Church, not in order to advance learning. The good stuff was being done in northern Europe, which rapidly pulled away in the developmental stakes. The European south has never caught up.

In fact the use of the term "Judeo-Christian" in discussions of Western technological and political supremacy is a Jesuitical piece of nonsense merely aimed at scaring children. The term only appeared as a product of the American far-right in the past few decades, and has no historical legitimacy beyond the realm of the wingnut loons who like to use it. People like me who are actually on the progressive side of politics, in a social sense, know that it is code for a whole basket of loaded terms that have been devised by the religious right in order to protect its privileges. As if they needed protecting.

When I hear the term "Judeo-Christian" I reach for my gun, and this blogpost is a salvo exiting its mouth in the direction of all the fools who would use pseudo-knowledge to silence legitimate criticism. You guys didn't come up with the cool stuff. You guys did everything you could for centuries and centuries to put the genie back in the bottle and stop the advancement of learning because it threatened you and your cosseted lives. You guys are just jetsam on the highway of life, so get out of the way and let the smart guys through.

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