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On Religion and the Fall of Civilization

Quotes from Will Durant

Will Durant saw the decline of a civilization as a culmination of strife between religion and secular intellectualism, thus toppling the precarious institutions of convention and morality.

The rule of law is being undermined by those that have lost touch with our god-given morality. Relativism and secular philosophy have replaced common sense traditions. To quote Durant:

"Hence a certain tension between religion and society marks the higher stages of every civilization. Religion begins by offering magical aid to harassed and bewildered men; it culminates by giving to a people that unity of morals and belief which seems so favorable to statesmanship and art; it ends by fighting suicidally in the lost cause of the past.

For as knowledge grows or alters continually, it clashes with mythology and theology, which change with geological leisureliness. Priestly control of arts and letters is then felt as a galling shackle or hateful barrier, and intellectual history takes on the character of a "conflict between science and religion."

Institutions which were at first in the hands of the clergy, like law and punishment, education and morals, marriage and divorce, tend to escape from ecclesiastical control, and become secular, perhaps profane. The intellectual classes abandon the ancient theology and-after some hesitation-the moral code allied with it; literature and philosophy become anticlerical. The movement of liberation rises to an exuberant worship of reason, and falls to a paralyzing disillusionment with every dogma and every idea.

Conduct, deprived of its religious supports, deteriorates into Epicurean chaos; and life itself, shorn of consoling faith, becomes a burden alike to conscious poverty and to weary wealth. In the end a society and its religion tend to fall together, like body and soul, in a harmonious death. Meanwhile among the oppressed another myth arises, gives new form to human hope, new courage to human effort, and after centuries of chaos builds another civilization."

Ref. 7 The Story of Civilization, V.1., 71. Please think of the fate of the Jews in earlier times when they demanded kings, then they mixed the Faith into government. This gives rise to an often selfish and power-hungry priest class more interested in power than God. The self-destructive tendencies of governments that put personal power before God (if they still believe) lead to the downfall. The Old Testament gave an example after example of this.

When the Christian Church also got into bed with the government (Rome), it acted more like Rome, and nothing Jesus would ever have believed or even Paul would approve of. Now the Church is fighting its corrupt tendencies and has to face another foe it simply doesn't understand. In an article in 1927, Durant wrote his thoughts about reconciling religion and Darwinism. In an excerpt from Popular Science, Oct. 1927:

"As to harmonizing the theory of evolution with the Biblical account of creation, I do not believe it can be done, and I do not see why it should be. The story of Genesis is beautiful, and profoundly significant as symbolism: there is no good reason to torture it into conformity with modern theory."

On Religion and the Fall of Civilization by Will Durant

An Overview of Manichaeism. Its influence on Protestantism through St. Augustine.


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