Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, + Western Success - Rodney Stark

Without Christianity there is no modern world, no freedom, and likely only slavery for the mass.

by Ferdinand III



Stark: “Europeans, as it turned out, were the only civilization to develop reliable clocks, chimneys, musical notation, spectacles and heavy cavalry. The West’s technological superiority would allow it to far surpass the rest of the world economically, culturally and militarily."


All true. By 1000 AD it was pretty clear that the West would dominate the Rest. Christianity is the reason why. This fact is manifested in the outpouring of creation, both large and small, during the Medieval period.


There are quite literally hundreds of inventions in every sphere imaginable, from 500 AD to 1500 AD, that one will find only in Christian Europe. As Stark so eloquently writes, it was Western Europe and in particular the Christian tradition, which formed the revolutions and creative stimuli, which built the modern world. Modern day philosophers, overwhelmed as they are with theologies of fish-to-professor evolution; or the cult of science, or natural trace chemicals relabelled as toxins which cause 'warming'; might like to spend a few moments and ponder the anti-Christian, secular, god-less world which has metastasized like a cancer since 1960. If culture is king, where then goes modern society and will it be 'progress' ?


The greatest benefit according to Stark, bequeathed by the Medieval period was the elaboration and establishment of modern capitalism, including accounting and institutions to manage long-distance trade.

    ..most significant was the “invention” of capitalism. Contrary to perceived wisdom, capitalism was “not invented in a Venetian countinghouse, let alone a Protestant bank in Holland.” Rather, it evolved, beginning in the 9th century, thanks to Catholic monks working to improve the economic security of their monastic estates.”


Capitalism is a direct outgrowth of the Catholic Church's insistence on work, trade, productivity and earning one's way in the world. These ideals are often-quoted in the Bible. If you want to receive charity, make yourself useful. Monks created all manner of agricultural and technological improvements from brewing to water-mills. European long-distance trade was also based around Church-inspired and protected trade fairs.


Augustine argued, for instance, that economic activity was not inherently wicked and that, as with any vocation, it was up to the individual to live according to God’s teachings. Further, Augustine made a decisive argument: that the price of an object was not simply the function of a seller’s costs, but also included the buyer’s desire for the object being sold. This justified the idea that an object could be sold at a profit.”

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The Church supported and funded 'research' and economically valuable additions. Thanks to Medieval genius in understanding machinery, building and natural physical laws, all sorts of enormously important additions greatly improved the quality of life leading to longer-life spans, an increasing population and labour specialization which leads to more free-time

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    Watermills (along with windmills), however, became a ubiquitous feature in the Middle Ages, leading to dramatic improvements in production capacities and techniques. Indeed, the so-called Dark Ages gave rise to a whole host of innovative inventions including eyeglasses, chimneys and mechanical clocks. Interestingly, although several clocks had been built in China as early as the 12th century, it appears they were destroyed by Chinese elites opposed to mechanical contrivances. Similarly, public clocks were rejected by Islamic cultures on the grounds that they would secularize time.

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Economic advancement is an outgrowth of cultural and philosophical world-views. Only in Christian Europe did people believe that they were special, had free-will, that life had a purpose, that time was linear not circular, and that our native intellects which are gifts from God, should be used to understand the real world. Further, every person had the responsibility to try to live a life compatible with the best adjurations of the Gospel. Freedom and free-will are Christian, and Christian-only inventions.


    ...outside of Christianity, there is not even a word for freedom within the languages in which other scriptures are written – including Hebrew.

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    Christianity promoted egalitarianism and tolerance.”

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    ...reason is a gift from God to comprehend and improve the world.”


    Christian theology is unique in its conclusion that slavery is immoral.”

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    "Christian commitment to rational theology paved the way for capitalism and ultimately economic and political freedom."


Without capitalism there is no freedom. Without freedom there is no capitalism.


Christianity developed and protected the cultural artifacts to develop both freedom and capitalism. These included, the abolition of slavery [accomplished by 800 AD]; contract law [premised on Justinian's codex and then Roman law]; canon law; regulations around trade and products [pricing, quality, honesty in sales]; accounting, terms of credit, mortgages [invented to finance the Crusades], international banking [invented by the Templars]. The cultural factors around honesty, tolerance, compassion and charity were just as important as the physical factors of capital, investment, technology, machinery and intelligence.


Christianity is the only world-view which has developed the modern world.