David Noonan, in Scientific American, surprisingly enough, has positive things to say about the influence of Christianity and the Church of Rome on Western Civilization.
Perhaps even more surprisingly, this article treats Individualism as a positive and implicitly acknowledges the inferiority of other cultures.
In what may come as a surprise to freethinkers and nonconformists happily defying social conventions these days in New York City, Paris, Sydney and other centers of Western culture, a new study traces the origins of contemporary individualism to the powerful influence of the Catholic Church in Europe more than 1,000 years ago, during the Middle Ages.
According to the researchers, strict church policies on marriage and family structure completely upended existing social norms and led to what they call â€œglobal psychological variation,â€ major changes in behavior and thinking that transformed the very nature of the European populations.
The study, published this week in Science, combines anthropology, psychology and history to track the evolution of the West, as we know it, from its roots in â€œkin-basedâ€ societies. The antecedents consisted of clans, derived from networks of tightly interconnected ties, that cultivated conformity, obedience and in-group loyaltyâ€”while displaying less trust and fairness with strangers and discouraging independence and analytic thinking.
The engine of that evolution, the authors propose, was the churchâ€™s obsession with incest and its determination to wipe out the marriages between cousins that those societies were built on. The result, the paper says, was the rise of â€œsmall, nuclear households, weak family ties, and residential mobility,â€ along with less conformity, more individuality, and, ultimately, a set of values and a psychological outlook that characterize the Western world. The impact of this change was clear: the longer a societyâ€™s exposure to the church, the greater the effect.
Around A.D. 500, explains Joseph Henrich, chair of Harvard Universityâ€™s department of human evolutionary biology and senior author of the study, â€œthe Western church, unlike other brands of Christianity and other religions, begins to implement this marriage and family program, which systematically breaks down these clans and kindreds of Europe into monogamous nuclear families. And we make the case that this then results in these psychological differences.â€
In their comparison of kin-based and church-influenced populations, Henrich and his colleagues identified significant differences in everything from the frequency of blood donations to the use of checks (instead of cash) and the results of classic psychology testsâ€”such as the passengerâ€™s dilemma scenario, which elicits attitudes about telling a lie to help a friend. They even looked at the number of unpaid parking tickets accumulated by delegates to the United Nations.
â€œWe really wanted to combine the kinds of measures that psychologists use, that give you some control in the lab, with real-world measures,â€ Henrich says. â€œWe really like the parking tickets. We get the U.N. diplomats from around the world all in New York City and see how they behave.â€
The policy has since changed, but for years diplomats who parked illegally were not required to pay the tickets the police wrote. In their analysis of those tickets, the researchers found that over the course of one year, diplomats from countries with higher levels of â€œkinship intensityâ€â€”the prevalence of clans and very tight families in a societyâ€”had many more unpaid parking tickets than those from countries without such history. Diplomats from Sweden and Canada, for example, had no outstanding tickets in the period studied, while unpaid parking tickets per diplomat were about 249 for Kuwait, 141 for Egypt and 126 for Chad. Henrich attributes this phenomenon to the insular mind-set that is characteristic of intense kinship.
While it builds a close and very cooperative group, that sense of cooperation does not carry beyond the group. â€œThe idea is that you are less concerned about strangers, people you donâ€™t know, outsiders,â€ he says.
The West itself is not uniform in kinship intensity. Working with cousin-marriage data from 92 provinces in Italy (derived from church records of requests for dispensations to allow the marriages), the researchers write, they found that â€œItalians from provinces with higher rates of cousin marriage take more loans from family and friends (instead of from banks), use fewer checks (preferring cash), and keep more of their wealth in cash instead of in banks, stocks, or other financial assets.â€ They were also observed to make fewer voluntary, unpaid blood donations.
In the course of their research, Henrich and his colleagues created a database and calculated â€œthe duration of exposureâ€ to the Western church for every country in the world, as well as 440 â€œsubnational European regions.â€ They then tested their predictions about the influence of the church at three levels: globally, at the national scale; regionally, within European countries; and among the adult children of immigrants in Europe from countries with varying degrees of exposure to the church.
The thesis of this study, unfortunately, is a classic case of mechanistic scientism. It would make much more sense to point out that Christianity fosters Individualism through ideas, that recognition of the value of the human individual is rooted in Christianity’s teaching that everyone has a soul and consequently possesses human dignity, and that each individual needs to pursue his soul’s salvation.
Taneer Greer, in the American Conservative, describes some research out of Harvard flying in the face of the conventional contemporary view of the Church of Rome as the enemy of Science, Liberalism, and Civilization, good for nothing but keeping rich cardinals equipped with mistresses and sending original thinkers to the stake.
Why did the West rise above the rest? Over the last two decades, academics and pundits have tried to answer this question. Most begin their search for the birth of the modern world somewhere over the last few centuries: the discovery of the Americas, the invention of the steam engine, perhaps the outbreak of the French Revolution.
Yet the research of two pathbreaking economists suggests that these answers are misplaced. In separate works, they argue that the invention of capitalism and liberalism in Western Europe should be traced to one surprising source: the medieval Catholic Church.
The research program of Jonathan Schultz, an economist currently attached to the Culture, Cognition, and Coevolution research group at Harvard, is built on a simple observation: Western Europeansâ€”and their cultural descendants in places like North America and Australiaâ€”think differently from people raised in other cultures. This is not a unique observation. Over the last two decades, psychologists have asked questions like â€œDo you think most people can be trusted?â€ and â€œIs it important to think up ideas and be creative, to do things oneâ€™s own way?â€ Theyâ€™ve complimented these questionnaires with games cleverly designed to test how willing subjects are to trust strangers, punish rule breakers, break rules themselves, and treat friends and family impartially.
Schultz and his team drew on 20 of these cross-cultural experiments (including several â€œnaturalâ€ experiments, such as the likelihood that a diplomat at the U.N. from a given country would call on diplomatic immunity to get out of a parking ticket) to sketch a psychological profile of the Western mind. They found that on average, Westerners are more individualistic, more trusting of strangers and public institutions, more likely to donate anonymously, less concerned with the opinions and judgments of their peers, less likely to cheat or bend rules (especially for the sake of friends and relatives), and far less tolerant of nepotism than those from other parts of the world.
This will come as little surprise to anyone who has lived both in and outside the West. It also wonâ€™t shock psychologists, who have even invented an acronym to label this unique psychological type: â€œW.E.I.R.D.â€â€”Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, and Developed. But in contrast to past research, which tended to emphasize the gap between Europe and the rest of the globe, Schultz and his team have focused their attention on differences within Europe itself. They have found that WEIRDness is not uniform across Europe. Some European populations are far WEIRDer than others. What explains this variation in WEIRD psychology? Schultz provides a simple answer: the date at which a region first fell under the influence of the Catholic Church. To predict how civic-minded, individualist, and trusting a population is today, you need only check whether a Catholic bishopric had been established there by the 7th century AD.
It is obviously true, if you think about it for a moment, that all of us descendants of Northern European peoples owe the gift of literacy and our membership in Western Civilization to the conversion to Christianity of our barbarian pagan ancestors by the Roman Catholic Church.
On March 24, a meeting of Pope Francis held a celebration with 27 leaders of the world on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, in which this “curious” shot of Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, a well-known pro-sodomy activist, along with his “husband”, was taken.
Attentive to this least “strange” event in the Vatican itself, is the leftist Secretary General of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias who has been quick to point it out with a complain about how Cardinal CaÃ±izares is supposed to hate sodomites
Only slightly modified from HuffPo quotation of Reuters’ story:
In a dramatic shift in tone, a Vatican document said on Monday that fallen angels had “gifts and qualities to offer” and asked if Catholicism could accept demons and recognize positive aspects of spirits damned to Hell throughout Eternity.
The document, prepared after a week of discussions at an assembly of 200 bishops, said the Church should challenge itself to find “a fraternal space” for fallen angels without compromising Catholic doctrine on theology and the afterlife.
While the text did not signal any change in the Church’s condemnation of rebellion in Heaven or its opposition to the overthrow of God, it used language that was less judgmental and more compassionate than past Vatican statements under previous popes.
The document will be the basis for discussion for the second and final week of the assembly, known as a synod, which was called by Pope Francis and focuses on the theme of the angelic.
It will also serve for further reflection among Catholics around the world ahead of another, definitive synod next year.
“Fallen angels have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these spirits, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home,” said the document, known by its Latin name “relatio”.
“Are our communities capable of proving that, accepting and valuing their political orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on theology and the afterlife?” it asked.
John Thavis, Vatican expert and author of the bestselling 2013 book “The Vatican Diaries”, called the document “an earthquake” in the Church’s attitude towards damned spirits.
“The document clearly reflects Pope Francis’ desire to adopt a more merciful pastoral approach on theology and the afterlife,” he said.
A number of participants at the closed-door synod have said the Church should tone down its condemnatory language when referring to fallen angels and avoid phrases such as “devils” and “tempters” when speaking of former angels.
A rather effective Lutheran satire of soi disant Catholics who feel no obligation to accept the teachings of the Church. This phenomenon, though, is far from limited to young, blonde and female members of the uneducated public. Professional public intellectuals like Gary Wills and Andrew Sullivan notoriously combine self-identification as members of the Church of Rome with a penchant for demanding that the Magisteria renounce its pretensions to divine inspiration and immediately conform itself to the consensus of the left-wing community of fashion, which alone, as we all know, is infallible on matters of faith and morals.
Michael Pacher, Der Heilige Wolfgang und der Teufel [St. Wolfgang and the Devil], c. 1473, Alte Pinakothek, Munich
Paul Rahe explains that the American Roman Catholic hierarchy ought not to be surprised to find Barack Obama’s Leviathan state now demanding the surrender of the church’s conscience and soul. They made a deal with Statist Socialism decades ago and ultimately in these kinds of deals payment does come due.
The principle articulated in canon law — the only law common to all of Western Europe… was lifted from the Roman law dealing with the governance of waterways: “Quod omnes tangit,â€ it read, â€œab omnibus tractari debeat: That which touches all should be dealt with by all.â€ In pagan antiquity, this meant that those upstream could not take all of the water and that those downstream had a say in its allocation. It was this principle that the clergymen who served as royal admnistrators insinuated into the laws of the kingdoms and petty republics of Europe. It was used to justify communal self-government. It was used to justify the calling of parliaments. And it was used to justify the provisions for self-governance contained within the corporate charters issued to cities, boroughs, and, in time, colonies. …
The quod omnes tangit principle was not the foundation of modern liberty, but it was its antecedent. And had there been no such antecedent, had kings not been hemmed in by the Church and its allies in this fashion, I very much doubt that there ever would have been a regime of limited government. In fact, had there not been a distinction both in theory and in fact between the secular and the spiritual authority, limited government would have been inconceivable.
The Reformation weakened the Church. In Protestant lands, it tended to strengthen the secular power and to promote a monarchical absolutism unknown to the Middle Ages. Lutheranism and Anglicanism were, in effect, Caesaro-Papist. In Catholic lands, it caused the spiritual power to shelter itself behind the secular power and become, in many cases, an appendage of that power. But the Reformation and the religious strife to which it gave rise also posed to the secular power an almost insuperable problem â€“ how to secure peace and domestic tranquility in a world marked by sectarian competition. Limited government â€“ i. e., a government limited in its scope â€“ was the solution ultimately found, and John Locke was its proponent.
In the nascent American republic, this principle was codified in its purest form in the First Amendment to the Constitution. But it had additional ramifications as well â€“ for the governmentâ€™s scope was limited also in other ways. There were other amendments that made up what we now call the Bill of Rights, and many of the states prefaced their constitutions with bills of rights or added them as appendices. These were all intended to limit the scope of the government. They were all designed to protect the right of individuals to life, liberty, the acquisition and possession of property, and the pursuit of happiness as these individuals understood happiness. Put simply, liberty of conscience was part of a larger package.
This is what the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church forgot. In the 1930s, the majority of the bishops, priests, and nuns sold their souls to the devil, and they did so with the best of intentions. In their concern for the suffering of those out of work and destitute, they wholeheartedly embraced the New Deal. They gloried in the fact that Franklin Delano Roosevelt made Frances Perkins â€“ a devout Anglo-Catholic laywoman who belonged to the Episcopalian Church but retreated on occasion to a Catholic convent â€“ Secretary of Labor and the first member of her sex to be awarded a cabinet post. And they welcomed Social Security â€“ which was her handiwork. They did not stop to ponder whether public provision in this regard would subvert the moral principle that children are responsible for the well-being of their parents. They did not stop to consider whether this measure would reduce the incentives for procreation and nourish the temptation to think of sexual intercourse as an indoor sport. They did not stop to think.
In the process, the leaders of the American Catholic Church fell prey to a conceit that had long before ensnared a great many mainstream Protestants in the United States â€“ the notion that public provision is somehow akin to charity â€“ and so they fostered state paternalism and undermined what they professed to teach: that charity is an individual responsibility and that it is appropriate that the laity join together under the leadership of the Church to alleviate the suffering of the poor. In its place, they helped establish the Machiavellian principle that underpins modern liberalism â€“ the notion that it is our Christian duty to confiscate other peopleâ€™s money and redistribute it.
At every turn in American politics since that time, you will find the hierarchy assisting the Democratic Party and promoting the growth of the administrative entitlements state. At no point have its members evidenced any concern for sustaining limited government and protecting the rights of individuals. It did not cross the minds of these prelates that the liberty of conscience which they had grown to cherish is part of a larger package â€“ that the paternalistic state, which recognizes no legitimate limits on its power and scope, that they had embraced would someday turn on the Church and seek to dictate whom it chose to teach its doctrines and how, more generally, it would conduct its affairs.
I would submit that the bishops, nuns, and priests now screaming bloody murder have gotten what they asked for. The weapon that Barack Obama has directed at the Church was fashioned to a considerable degree by Catholic churchmen. They welcomed Obamacare. They encouraged Senators and Congressmen who professed to be Catholics to vote for it.
After all, whoever heard of religious freedom surviving under Socialism?
Walter Olson notes the introduction on March 5th of S.B.1098 in the Connecticut legislature, a measure that would by law remove control of Roman Catholic parishes from bishops and place them instead in the hands of lay panels of not less than seven nor more than 13 members, who would be legally assured full control over most aspects of church management other than religious doctrine itself.
SB1098 was a “raised bill,” meaning no individual member took the responsibility for sponsoring it, but rather a legislative committee (in this case the Judiciary Committee) discussed the idea and the committee then voted in favor of drafting a bill.