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Tangent: historical secular culture

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MadArchitect

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Tangent: historical secular culture

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Having hashed it out to no end in the "European Witch-Crazes of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century" thread, I've grown rather interested in an assumption that we all seem to make. Just about any time we discuss religion and secularity in medieval Europe, we seem prone to recite the trusim that the medievals didn't make a sharp distinction between secular and religious. So what I want to raise here is a two part question.First, how do we know that medieval Europeans didn't make a firm distinction between secular and religious society? Can anyone cite some sources for that information? And how did the authors of those sources arrive at that conclusion? Are we (good Freethinkers that we are) to take them at their word, and would we draw the same conclusions if we looked at the evidence they looked at in the first place?These are not, by the way, rhetorical questions. To be honest, I'm not even sure where I first encountered the idea, and I'm wondering if my source was all that reputable. I'm hoping that everyone who can chip in even a little information will contribute here.Second, how are we to interpret the claim? What occurred to me during the conversation is that Frank and I seemed to be using the same premise in very different ways. I had raised it to note that sometimes medieval religious institutions were given tasks that would have seemed more natural of a secular institution, but at times (and I'm not saying that he tried to make this point explicit, or even that he believes it himself) it seemed that Frank's arguments implied that medieval Europeans simply weren't capable of fully distinguishing between religious and secular social forms. And I would imagine that other interpretations are possible as well. If we don't have a clear idea of what the premise entails, then I worry that we're prone to misuse it and obstruct our search for the truth whenever we use it.
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Re: Tangent: historical secular culture

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I am starting to look into sources for this, but it would be helpful, Mad, if you listed some of yours, as I am sure you have some!I came across this NON-academic article about the topic and one section got me thinking (This may lead to another sidebar...but...):Religious Origins of Secularism: Secularism is Not an Atheist ConspiracyQuote:Faith and revelation were long the traditional provinces of Church doctrine and teaching; over time, however, a number of theologians began to argue for the existence of a separate domain of knowledge characterized by human reason. In this manner they developed the idea of natural theology, according to which knowledge of God could be obtained not simply through revelation and faith but also through human reason while observing and thinking about Nature and the universe. So was it the Church and theology that started the whole idea of proving or disproving god by natural or 'scientific' (quotes because at that time, science as we know it was not developed) means? So today when atheists try to disprove god by using real, scientific methods, theologians and those who would protect faith from that realm of inquiry have no on to blame but their own faith? Interesting.And we should define the terms of secular & religious, as they apply today and as they may have applied back then. Does secular, especially, mean the same thing to us as it did then?Mr. P. But atheism is no more a religion than not playing chess is a hobby. - Robert Sawyer - Sci Fi AuthorI'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - Asana Boditharta (former booktalk troll)"The Sentient may percieve and love the universe, but the universe cannot percieve and love the sentient. The universe sees no distinction between the multitude of creatures and elements which comprise it. All are equal. None is favored...It cannot control what it creates and it cannot, it seems, be controlled by its creations (though a few might decieve themselves otherwise)Those who curse the workings of the universe curse that which is deaf. Those who strike out at those workings fight that which is inviolate. Those who shake their fists, shake their fists at blind stars." - Michael Moorcock in the "Queen of the Swords"Edited by: misterpessimistic at: 6/10/07 11:27 am
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Re: Tangent: historical secular culture

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misterpessimistic: ...it would be helpful, Mad, if you listed some of yours, as I am sure you have some!I don't have any right now, although I'm keeping my eye peeled. I don't remember how I first got the idea, to be honest, but it seems to be a widely held opinion. I'm definitely keeping my eyes peeled for any definite statements to that end.So was it the Church and theology that started the whole idea of proving or disproving god by natural or 'scientific' (quotes because at that time, science as we know it was not developed) means?No, arguments along those lines preceded the birth of Christianity. Take a look at Cicero's "De Natura Deorum", written 60-odd years before the birth of Christ. It was probably the Greeks who started applying philosophy to questions of theology, which is really what we're talking about here. The Catholic Church certainly picked up on the old tradition, but from what I've read, the idea wasn't to definitively prove the existence of God. Rather, by depending on one "proof" or another, the theologians were inclining support to certain arguments concerning the nature of God and Creation. Until the Enlightenment there was not, so far as I know, any real systematic attempt to prove the existence of the Christian God.Does secular, especially, mean the same thing to us as it did then?I will say this: in reading H.C. Lea's "The Inquisition of the Middle Ages", it's clear to me that there was, at least, some form of sharp theoretical distinction between the secular and the clerical in society. As early as the 12th century writers were already talking about "secular" institutions as though they were a given in society. And the Church didn't want that line to get too blurry -- whenever laymen started taking on the tasks of the clergy, it tended to lead to heretical reformulations of orthodox Church doctrine. On the opposite side of the coin, the Church had to use some restraint in engaging in certain kinds of activity that were normally reserved for secular institutions, and one of the major complaints brought against the Inquisition during its own day was that it too often encroached on the territory marked out for the secular courts.
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Re: Tangent: historical secular culture

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Again...no texts to peruse yet, but here is some items, starting with a definition from the dictionary:Quote:Main Entry: 1sec·u·lar Pronunciation: 'se-ky&-l&rFunction: adjectiveEtymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French seculer, from Late Latin saecularis, from saeculum the present world, from Latin, generation, age, century, world; akin to Welsh hoedl lifetime1 a : of or relating to the worldly or temporal b : not overtly or specifically religious c : not ecclesiastical or clerical 2 : not bound by monastic vows or rules; specifically : of, relating to, or forming clergy not belonging to a religious order or congregation 3 a : occurring once in an age or a century b : existing or continuing through ages or centuries c : of or relating to a long term of indefinite duration Here is a text I found after posting this originally. Look any good for this purpose Mad?Luther and Calvin on Secular Authority I have been reading many things regarding the witch hunts, and realted topics, and somewhere (I just CANNOT remember WHERE!!) I read that a secular church meant that certain monastic vows were not taken, but that there was still a religious foundation under such a thing. I am going to have to find that passage again, which means pouring through all the articles and books I have picked up in the past month! Ugh!I just wonder if secular, as I mentioned, while if not tied directly to the church, was nonetheless heavily influenced by the church or spiritual concerns in general.Quote:Until the Enlightenment there was not, so far as I know, any real systematic attempt to prove the existence of the Christian God.Well, the Enlightenment may have picked up where the church had left off then. But it is still interesting to see that the church applied a form of naturalistic evidence in examining itself, and nowadays people think it is an attempt to impose science and atheism on faith when it is done today.Quote:in reading H.C. Lea's "The Inquisition of the Middle Ages"I have to pick up some of Lea's work. His "Materials" are referenced EVERYWHERE in any witchcraft books! Quote:the Church had to use some restraint in engaging in certain kinds of activity that were normally reserved for secular institutions, and one of the major complaints brought against the Inquisition during its own day was that it too often encroached on the territory marked out for the secular courts. I have read that the church of the Middle Ages were actually looking to undermine any separate 'secular' institutions and thus establish more jurisdiction on the part of the church. This ties in with your mention of the Inquisition and it's attempted power grab.Again though, I cannot remember where I read this. I gotta try to do better remembering sources! Problem is I am skimming a few different books at this time.Mr. P. But atheism is no more a religion than not playing chess is a hobby. - Robert Sawyer - Sci Fi AuthorI'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - Asana Boditharta (former booktalk troll)"The Sentient may percieve and love the universe, but the universe cannot percieve and love the sentient. The universe sees no distinction between the multitude of creatures and elements which comprise it. All are equal. None is favored...It cannot control what it creates and it cannot, it seems, be controlled by its creations (though a few might decieve themselves otherwise). Those who curse the workings of the universe curse that which is deaf. Those who strike out at those workings fight that which is inviolate. Those who shake their fists, shake their fists at blind stars." - Michael Moorcock in the "Queen of the Swords"Edited by: misterpessimistic at: 6/10/07 8:35 pm
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Re: Tangent: historical secular culture

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If there were institutions separate from ecclesiastic control, would the people in those extra-ecclesial duties see themselves as acting outside of the Church? Would they see these secular duties as something outside the parameters of their faith and not subject to the laws of grace, forgiveness, penitence, etc.?The people who were engaged in secular duties: were they (in their eyes) still under the watchful gaze of God, under divine scrutiny, and ultimately their every act and deed within the holy jurisdiction of Christ's final judgement?Did they see themselves as the Church even when engaged in secular tasks and obligations? In other words, the Church was not only the Pope/Bishop/Priest leadership dynamic, but every baptised member. Thus, the Church was more than ecclesiatic decrees sent from on high?
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Re: Tangent: historical secular culture

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Dissident:You are stating matters in a similar way to how I see things when I say that secular and religious matters were more intertwined than they are now. Back then, religion was pretty much THE way of things. At least compared to now, and at least as I see it. The "Church [absolutely] was more than ecclesiatic decrees sent from on high". (IMO)Even NOW there is such a pervasive influence of religion in our country, so I cannot imagine that it was not more widespread and prevalent way back then before the Enlightenment.There have been passages I have read that stated that the church would press the secular entities with matters the church wanted to play out a certain way, and that more often than not the church had its way. While there is still influence like this today, mostly in our country, I tend to think that the influence of the church is less today than what it was.That influence or lack thereof is what this thread will be all about trying to discover.Mr. P. But atheism is no more a religion than not playing chess is a hobby. - Robert Sawyer - Sci Fi AuthorI'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - Asana Boditharta (former booktalk troll)"The Sentient may percieve and love the universe, but the universe cannot percieve and love the sentient. The universe sees no distinction between the multitude of creatures and elements which comprise it. All are equal. None is favored...It cannot control what it creates and it cannot, it seems, be controlled by its creations (though a few might decieve themselves otherwise). Those who curse the workings of the universe curse that which is deaf. Those who strike out at those workings fight that which is inviolate. Those who shake their fists, shake their fists at blind stars." - Michael Moorcock in the "Queen of the Swords"Edited by: misterpessimistic at: 6/11/07 12:14 pm
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Potential Source:On the Medieval Origins of the Modern State This may, and I cannot say it definitely does, give a picture of show how secular institutions of the M.A. functioned and, of course, how they developed into the current secular states of today.Strayer has written a few books which, by the title, may be good...but unfortunately, I cannot find any descriptions or reviews of the books. I have his "Albigensian Crusades" on my shelf at this time.Mr. P. But atheism is no more a religion than not playing chess is a hobby. - Robert Sawyer - Sci Fi AuthorI'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - Asana Boditharta (former booktalk troll)"The Sentient may percieve and love the universe, but the universe cannot percieve and love the sentient. The universe sees no distinction between the multitude of creatures and elements which comprise it. All are equal. None is favored...It cannot control what it creates and it cannot, it seems, be controlled by its creations (though a few might decieve themselves otherwise). Those who curse the workings of the universe curse that which is deaf. Those who strike out at those workings fight that which is inviolate. Those who shake their fists, shake their fists at blind stars." - Michael Moorcock in the "Queen of the Swords"Edited by: misterpessimistic at: 6/11/07 2:48 pm
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Re: Tangent: historical secular culture

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Quote:So today when atheists try to disprove god by using real, scientific methods, theologians and those who would protect faith from that realm of inquiry have no on to blame but their own faith?Nope, they just have sloppy philosophy to blame.As for secularism, I think that even during the middle ages, a clear distinction was made between the morality of an action, and it's legality. This is best seen in attitudes toward prostitution, which was almost universally regarded as morally wrong, but also as permissible. In fact, some places had prostitution policies that would put most modern societies to shame. What is interesting is that even though we tend to regard modern societies as more secular, when it comes to certain matters, like prostitution, we aren't all that secular at all, in the sense that commonly held views on morality are imposed on individuals who do not agree with them. Full of Porn*http://plainofpillars.blogspot.com
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Re: Tangent: historical secular culture

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Mr. P: Here is a text I found after posting this originally. Look any good for this purpose Mad?Luther and Calvin on Secular AuthorityIt's published by Cambridge, so I'm sure it's a reputable text. For our purposes, it may be a little problematic, though, mostly because it seems to be geared towards explaining the understanding of two specific individuals rather than compassing the whole range of understandings within European society, and because Luther and Calvin are rather late on the scene -- in other words, what they believe isn't necessarily related to what was believed by anyone else in their age, and probably even less so of people living in the 600 years of the medieval period that preceded them. That isn't to say that it definitely wouldn't be of use, but we couldn't take it as definitive for the period we're discussing.But it is still interesting to see that the church applied a form of naturalistic evidence in examining itself, and nowadays people think it is an attempt to impose science and atheism on faith when it is done today.Isn't it? I don't think someone like Dawkins has quite the same end in mind, or is applying it in quite the same spirit, when he applies a naturalistic conception of the universe to religious claims. And besides, the notion of naturalism has changed a great deal since then.I have to pick up some of Lea's work. His "Materials" are referenced EVERYWHERE in any witchcraft books!With good reason. So far as I know, "Materials" is mostly just a really comprehensive collection of primary documents, interspersed with some of Lea's notes. He was planning of writing a history of the witch-crazes, but died before he got it off the ground, and all that's left of the project are these "Materials". Making use of his "Materials" greatly simplifies the historians job, so it's more expedient to simply reference the "Materials" than it is to comb all the archives and libraries in Europe.That said, I wouldn't be surprised if the ease of use to which the "Materials" lends itself doesn't have the indirect effect of making historians lazy about finding new evidence. For our purposes, the "Materials" is probably a bit too comprehensive, but for a professional historian, it might be worthwhile to do some groundwork on the assumption that even the indominatable Lea might have missed something important.I have read that the church of the Middle Ages were actually looking to undermine any separate 'secular' institutions and thus establish more jurisdiction on the part of the church. This ties in with your mention of the Inquisition and it's attempted power grab.It's complicated stuff. I don't think that the ultimate aim was to do away with secular institutions. The Church still recognized the limitations that it accepted in adopting certain doctrines. For example, one interesting thing about the Inquisition is that it kept execution at a rhetorical distance. The later you go in the Inquisition's history, the more direct involvement you'll see on the part of inquisitors in pressing for the execution of relapsed heretics, but even to the end they maintained that execution was a punishment levied not by the religious office but by secular courts. So they obviously saw execution as a necessary expedient, but never lost sight of their original abhorrence of execution. It's an off kind of baroque posture that maintains the old doctrine stance while simultaneously condoning (and even requiring) breaches of that doctrine. It wasn't so much a power grab as the levying of an influence in order to keep at arms length the sort of social activity that the inquisitors saw as necessary.Again though, I cannot remember where I read this. I gotta try to do better remembering sources!This is where keeping a really orderly reading journal comes in handy. The only problem with mine being that I haven't, until now, taken much interest in the question we're considering, so I haven't made any notes on the subject.DH: If there were institutions separate from ecclesiastic control, would the people in those extra-ecclesial duties see themselves as acting outside of the Church?In reading Lea's "The Inquisition of the Middle Ages", I today ran across a section that described an uprising in Toulousse which ended by expelling the city's entire population of clergy. They were expelled under orders of the cities civil authorities. This is, presumably, an instance of a specifically secular act -- we can demarcate it because it was levelled specifically against members of the religious institution. Or am I misinterpreting? They were certainly acting outside of the boundaries set by the Church.Mr. P: On the Medieval Origins of the Modern StateI've definitely seen this title. In a Harper Torchlight edition, I think. Hell, I may even own it. I'll have to make a quick scan of my book shelf (which is in disarray right now, as I'm already re-arranging my apartment -- it's a sickness).Which reminds me, I have another book called something like "Medieval Political Theory", which may present some arguments or evidence along these lines. I'll have to pick through it a little, but I'll get back to you.I have his "Albigensian Crusades" on my shelf at this time.Let me know what you think of it when you get around to reading it. I'm looking for a few solid texts on the Albigensian Crusades.
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Re: Tangent: historical secular culture

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It's important to understand what is meant by the term "the Church". If it is reduced to Pope/Bishop/Priest command delivered from places of worship and clerical residences...little more than the demands of clerics and ecclesiastic control...then it seems we can define secular as that which is outside of ecclesiastic jurisdiction. Still, this leaves out the Jewish, pagan, and complicated intermixing of local religious custom and imposed ecclesiastic decree...as well as the individual consciences of those intrepid dissidents who did not equate love of God with submission to ecclesiastic authorities, nor did they equate rejection of priestly command with atheism.If by "the Church" we mean the entire body of baptised Christians, then that would mean most secular deeds were done by the Church. Were these secular tasks motivated by secular or sacred values?Mr. P: Back then, religion was pretty much THE way of things.I think it still is today IMO. Interestingly, nowhere in the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament does the word religion arise. A defining issue in these texts is worship, and I think this is mostly about to who or what do you sacrifice your life, and the lives of your family, community, planet and future. I think worship is alive and well (and not so well) today.MA: an uprising in Toulousse which ended by expelling the city's entire population of clergy. They were expelled under orders of the cities civil authorities. This is, presumably, an instance of a specifically secular act -- we can demarcate it because it was levelled specifically against members of the religious institution. Or am I misinterpreting? They were certainly acting outside of the boundaries set by the Church.I would have to know why the clergy were expelled. Were the civil authorities simply enforcing already existing religious boundaries against an unruly, radical, potentially heretical and dangerous group of clergy? In other words, was the secular action a protection of the sacred? If the congregations became infected with the heretical notions of the priests: God knows what kind of hell might rain down on Toulousse from angry Bishops, Cardinals and Popes.Maybe these clergy were filling the heads of their congregation with dangerous ideas which the elite civil authorities found intolerable? Maybe the Bishop wanted to keep his hands clean of the mess and utilized the secular agencies to do his dirty work?Again, are the secular agents acting from sacred values when doing their civil duty?
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