Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Most Violent Century in History

'At the meridian of the 'Enlightenment', the hope of many was that a world freed from the burden of 'superstition' and 'priestcraft' would evolve into a rational society, capable of ordering itself peacefully, harmoniously and wisely.  Even in the 19th century, when unbelief was often prompted by a somewhat darker view of human nature, the 'progressive' view was still that a secular society, purged of the pernicious influences of religion by the cleansing gales of scientific reason, would by its nature prove to be more just, peaceful and humane that the 'Age of Faith' had been.

And yet, by the end of the 20th century, wars had been waged on a scale never before imagined, and a number of Utopian, strictly secularist ideologies - each in its own way
the inheritor both of the Enlightenment project to remake society on a more rational model and of the late 19th-century project to 'correct' human nature through the mechanisms of a provident state - had together managed to kill perhaps 150 million persons.  Over three centuries, the worst abuse of ecclesial authority in Christian history - the Spanish Crown's Inquisition - caused the deaths of maybe 30,000, and even then only after a legal process that produced far more acquittals than convictions; the Soviet Union or the People's Republic of China, by contrast, often killed that many of its own citizens in three days, without any trial at all.  By the century's end, all certainties had been shattered: the power of 'organized religion' in the West had been largely subdued, but organized irreligion had proved a far more despotic, capricious and murderous historical force.'

David Bentley Hart, The Story of Christianity pp 329-330

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