Teaching Enlightenment Religious Views in Public Schools

When my son told me that his class was studying The Enlightenment in Global History, I immediately thought, "Oh-oh."

So I popped open his textbook, and found that while it was not completely blatant pro-Enlightenment propaganda, it still was biased as I had expected: The Enlightenment was about "Reason," while earlier people had not looked for "rational" explanations of the world, and so on, as though Medieval philosophers had not been the supreme rationalists! The actual change that took place during the Scientific Revolution was an elevation of prediction over understanding, so that Newton is only mildly worried that he has no rational explanation of gravity, so long as his laws fit the movements of the planets and the behavior of falling objects. (Once Newton triumphed over the mechanical philosophers, it is only with Einstein that we actually return to attempts to rationally explain gravity, rather than just accept its workings.)

And then I found this: "During the Middle Ages, most Europeans had accepted without question a society based on divine-right rule..."

But the idea of divine-right rule really only is articulated in the 1500s, well after the Middle Ages had ended, by any common reckoning. And, in fact, it was formulated in response to the breakdown of the Medieval social order, and was an attempted solution to the problem of political legitimacy in the new world of sovereign nation-states free of Church authority.

But so long as some proposition discredits the Middle Ages, who cares about facts!

15 comments:

  1. Gene, you are in a unique position to swat down such foolishness with your kiddo. You should come in there like the Terminator and correct those fools!

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  2. Ken, commentsfromnincompoops.com is down. so I couldn't verify that last obnoxious turd dropping was actually from you, so I did not post it.

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  3. Do you really consider these to be religious views?

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    1. Yes Samson. I think the historical evidence on this is overwhelming: the enlightenment was a new religious movement.

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    2. Because it was a major change in the way people thought?

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    3. No, because it was quite literally put forward as man's salvation, as delivering the kingdom of heaven to earth, etc. Are you unaware of things like Jefferson making his own New Testament, or The Religion of Humanity? Of Hegel anointing himself as the new Christ?

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    4. I am aware of that Thomas Jefferson took an X-Acto knife to the Bible to create what he believed to be a more accurate version of it (I presume that is what you are talking about). That used to be (and still sometimes is) one of my talking points. I am aware of the existence of the "Religion of Humanity", but it's founder, Auguste Comte, was in no way a liberal! As for Hegel, I don't know that much about him other than some hearsay and what you've said about him on this blog. The Religion of Humanity is screwy, but I never read into Jefferson's editing of the Bible as being religious in nature.

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    5. " I am aware of the existence of the "Religion of Humanity", but it's founder, Auguste Comte, was in no way a liberal!"

      Say what?! He was a liberal HERO, one of JS Mill's favorites, until he made the religious aspects of the project too explicit.

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    6. And someone produces a new, corrected Bible, but you don't think that is a religious project?!

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    7. Auguste Comte wrote "Positivism never admits anything but duties, of all to all. For its persistently social point of view cannot tolerate the notion of rights, constantly based on individualism.". That absolutely does not sound like a liberal to me.

      As for what TJ did with the Bible, I never considered it to be a religious project because it seemed much more like an act of criticizing the notion of what he saw as impossibilities in religion (in this case Christianity).

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    8. "And someone produces a new, corrected Bible, but you don't think that is a religious project?!"

      Not really… That is one way to look at it, but I think it takes some straining to do so. A much kore immediate conclusion is that it is a form or anti-clericalism or anti-"superstition".

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    9. Samson, Bentham and Mises, both stars in the liberal pantheon, both thought rights were "nonsense." You simply don't know the history of liberalism very well!

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    10. And yes, Enlightenment religion is anti-clerical and anti "superstition"... well, except for the new clerics of the Enlightenment, like Diderot, Jefferson, d'Alembert, and so on, and their own superstitions, like the myth of Galileo.

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    11. That is an explicit rejection of individualism by Comte, though!

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  4. Samson, Gene has a PhD for a damned *reason*. What is on this blog is not just 'hearsay'!

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