Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Age of Reason Begins

The Age of Reason Begins
© 1961 Will and Aerial Durant
729 pages

"We are all citizens of one world, we are all of one blood. To hate a man because he was born in another county, because he speaks a different language, or because he takes a different view on this subject or that, is a great folly. Desist, I implore you, for we are all equally human...Let us have but one end in view, the welfare of humanity; and let us put aside all selfishness in considerations of language, nationalism, or religion." - p. John Comenius, b. 1592

After struggling through two centuries of Catholics and Protestants screaming at each other in The Reformation,  The Age of Reason Begins promised deliverance:  bring on the Enlightenment!  The opening chapters encouraged those newfound feelings of belief: enter Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare!  Look, in the table of contents -- there's Montaigne! An a full section devoted to science. Glory, hallelujah. And yet,  The Age of Reason Begins is just as dominated by religion as The Reformation; almost moreso, because its contents are almost wholly devoted to religious wars and interdenominational persecution.  England and France's wars are followed by the Thirty Years' War, to the point that I began to look forward to sections on architecture and literature because they promised some relief from the constant bloodletting. And yet, as Durant points out, these conflicts helped clear the way for the Enlightenment. The utter savageness and prolonged nature of these conflicts  --  and the fact that there were no good guys, only a multitude of opinionated, bloodthirsty cretins who caused me to yell "A plague on ALL YOUR HOUSES!" at least once while reading --   sapped faith's credibility in the minds of Europeans. In desperation to escape the insanity, they turned intstead to philosophy and science.  Thus a grisly read offers relief by ending on a happier note.

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