PART IV. MODERN
RELIGIOUSNESS AND BEYOND
The word "modern" is often used to
describe the last four hundred years of Western civilization. In
these times, religions have become more patient with earthly imperfection
and hopeful of improvement. This new religiousness has also included
an increased freedom and flexibility, a respect for individual human
rights and responsibility, and a skepticism about miracles.
The Modern Era Begins
Early Modern Science
Galileo and the Beginnings of Modern Science
Deism as a Religious Humanism
Evolution and Agnosticism
Atheists and Agnostics
Agnosticism and Social Darwinism
Secular Evolutionary Humanisms
A Substitute for Religion
Huxley's Earthly Religion
The Hidden Forms of Salvation
The End of Easy Optimism
Modern religion has tended to have confidence in the intrinsic
importance of earthly life. This new mood can be traced in part to
the fifteenth-century Renaissance in Europe, during which a sense of
optimism and fascination with earthly life flourished. This period
also marked the beginning of modern science.
EARLY MODERN SCIENCE
Modern science-- a system of thought based on belief in an orderly
universe-- developed in Europe and America after the Renaissance.
One of the most important early innovators in science was the philosopher
Galileo Galilei. He sought to explain the universe using empirical
testing and mathematical models.
The natural theology known as deism likened God to a master
clockmaker who had constructed the universe to function in an orderly,
One of the most basic precepts of
science is "naturalism"-- the idea that every event can be fully explained
by natural causes. This type of thinking can exclude belief in God,
or be indifferent to the existence of God, or claim that these natural
causes are planned, created, and sustained by God from the beginning.
Respect for other religious traditions is common to "modern"
religion. The roots of religious tolerance in the West began with the rational
reflections of deists. Religious tolerance is not always found in
historic universalist religions.
EVOLUTION AND AGNOSTICISM
In the 18th and 19th centuries
deism began to fade in the face of various kinds of evolutionary theories.
These ideas reflected findings in astronomy, geology, and biology, including the
1859 publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species.
As scientific study cast doubt on some long-held religious beliefs many people became atheists or
agnostics. Social Darwinism claimed
that social evolution
would make society better and better, without any need for divine guidance.
SECULAR EVOLUTIONARY HUMANISMS
Movements that are both secular and
celebrate the human capacity for positive change are often called "secular
humanist." Humanism in any form is a basic-value morality system
that seeks a humane, loving, free, and creative existence for all people.
The ideas of Karl Marx and Julian Huxley are good examples of secular
humanisms. These secular humanisms offer a quasi-religious salvation
by claiming that there will one day be a utopian earthly existence.
The optimism of secular humanism was shattered by the experience of the
First World War.
End of notes to Chapter 12
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Tuesday May 20, 2003