In the first volume of the magazine Strannik in 1901 appeared an extensive article by B. Titlinov devoted to the decline of religion and morality, a phenomenon we observe today – the beginning of the 21st century of the third millennium.
The end of the Middle Ages was also the end of the age of faith. Mankind has entered a new phase of its development; religiously, there was a turn in consciousness. Human thought awoke from long sleep, and man seemed to be born into a new life, into a new adolescence. Italy, shrouded in the halo of a glorious past, still stands at the forefront of the movement. The famous epoch, known as the epoch of the revival of sciences and arts, has begun. The ancient world seemed to have risen from the ashes of the ages, and the powerful genius of Phidias and Apelles, of Plato and Aristotle, seemed to give the world again the most beautiful works of art and creative thought.
They usually consider the heyday of the classical sciences in Italy only to reflect the brilliance of their noblest performances. The dark sides of Italian humanism must not be forgotten either. And the darkest of these is precisely this frivolous attitude towards the Church and religion, which characterized the society at that time.
They usually consider the heyday of the classical sciences in Italy only to reflect the brilliance of their noblest performances. The dark sides of Italian humanism must not be forgotten either. And including the darkest is precisely this frivolous attitude towards the Church and religion, which characterized the society at that time. Along with the sciences and the arts, skepticism, buried more than a millennium ago, has clearly risen. In Italy, disbelief spread, which manifested itself in the circles of educated society as philosophical disbelief, and among the lower strata of the people manifested itself as complete indifference. His nurseries were universities and scientific academies; thus the University of Padua was accused of being the center of atheism for a long time, and the scientific academies of Modena and Venice were closed several times for heresy (cf. Dreper, History of the Mental Development of Europe, vol. II, p. 185).
The Platonic Academy in Florence replaced Plato’s philosophy with Christianity. Savonarola zealously fought against pagan immorality and pagan unbelief, which were practiced even among the highest prelates. “Here one speaks to the other: What do you think of our Christian faith? How do you look at her? And the latter answers: faith, in my opinion, is only a dream, a subject for sensitive women and monks. ” This is how not only the preachers of repentance saw it in practice, but Machiavelli also openly said: “We Italians are mostly without religious and evil.” And to this he adds: “because the Church, in the person of her representatives, sets the worst example.” Along with ancient pagan education, both ancient pagan unbelief and ancient pagan vices resumed. It is not possible to describe the situation of the clergy of that time. Even papal dignitaries, such as Guichardini, speak on this occasion with the sharpest words. In the Roman court much attention was paid to the fine arts, but very little to theology and Christianity. It has come to the point that the head of Western Christianity has been credited with the sentence: “how much the tale of Christ has brought us is well known to all,” as well as another expression that it is “better not to believe in the immortality of the soul ”. From Italy, the spirit of humanism spread to other European countries, and at the same time, religious skepticism began to spread. By the way, the resulting Reformation, with its serious orientation, mastered it from the very beginning. For Europe, a time of faith came again for a period of time with religious enthusiasm and theological controversy. This mood was not stable. Skeptical rationalism did not disappear and continued its destructive work. The consequences were not long in coming.
From the second half of the eighteenth century began a marked decline in religious feeling in European society, and at a much larger scale than in the era of the Italian Renaissance. The anti-religious movement began in England with deism, which intended to replace Christianity with natural religion, but reached its full development in France. Here deism became a perfect negation of the Deity. Voltaire, the idol of his time, set himself the most important task of life, the struggle against the Church and revelation. Christianity seemed to him an inadmissible superstition, and his favorite expression was, “Destroy wickedness.” He asked for the hope that in a few decades his wish would come true.
The ideas of this century are expressed in the famous encyclopedia of Diderot and D’Alembert, which has long dominated the minds. The acquaintance with some thoughts from this work, as well as from other famous writers of that time, reveals to us the general mood of European thought. How open religion was viewed then, we understand from the following words of Diderot, with which he tries to prove that man has enough natural religion: “The law of revelation does not contain any moral rules that have not been prescribed and not be practiced under the influence of natural laws, so that he does not teach us anything new about morality. The law of revelation does not introduce us to any new truths, because truth is nothing but a definition of an object that expresses such ideas that are clear to me and the connection between which is also clear. But outright religion does not give us such definitions. Everything she added to the natural law is contained in five or six propositions, which to me are so incomprehensible as if they were written in an ancient Carthaginian dialect, that the ideas expressed through these propositions and the interrelation between them are incomprehensible to me. the ideas themselves”.
“The Catholic religion,” he wrote in one of his letters, “represents to me the most ridiculous and cruel in its dogmas, the most incomprehensible and obscure, the most metaphysical, the most confused, and therefore leading to strife, to the emergence of sects, schisms and heretical teachings, the most harmful to public peace, the most dangerous to monarchs, due to its hierarchical structure, its tasks and its discipline; the most tasteless, the darkest, the most gothic and the most unattractive in its church rites, the most petty and uncommunicative in its moral rules, which have nothing to do with the ubiquitous rules of morality, but represent only to it the belonging evangelical, apostolic and Catholic morality – of all the most prone to intolerance. Having removed some absurdities, the Lutheran faith is better than the Catholic faith, socialism is better than Protestantism, and deism with temples and church rituals is better than socialism. If a person prone to superstition needs an idol, it is preferable for that idol to be the most ordinary and harmless.” This is what the thoughts of one of the most famous leaders of public opinion look like. We can imagine the impact on religious consciousness of such thoughts as the ideas with which the famous encyclopedia is imbued, although in the latter there is some respect for religion. The Enlightenment movement was proud of the ideas it raised about humanity, tolerance of individual freedom, and so on, and this pride of the human mind played a significant role in maintaining anti-religious tendencies. How far this exaltation of man has come is evident in the above-mentioned Diderot in the conclusion of his treatise The Interpretation of Nature: “I began with nature, which they call Your creation, and I will end with You, whose name on earth is God. Oh God, I don’t know if you exist, but I think as if You could see my soul and I will act as if I am standing before You. I am not asking You for anything in this world, because the course of events follows itself, provided that You do not exist, or by Your will, if You exist. I hope to receive from You a reward in the other world, if it exists; although everything I do in this world I do only for myself. And if I do good, it is without any thought even for You. Such is I, a necessary organized particle of eternal and necessary matter, or, perhaps, Your creation. ”
The above words reveal to you the true mood of the philosopher and his time. He was a materialist, like the others of the century. As for the expressions concerning the conditional existence of the Deity, they are used rather for decency, as they are not at all in unison with materialism. The indisputable materialism of Diderot’s views is also proved by the following passage from D’Alembert’s dream: “There is only one substance in the world. The marble of the statue can be turned into a human body and vice versa. Turn the piece of marble into a fine powder, mix it with chernozem or other land suitable for growing vegetation; mix them well, pour this mixture with water and let it rot for a year, two years, a whole century – here time does not matter. From here will sprout a plant that will feed man and in this way will be the transformation of marble into a human body and so on.
By the way, materialism did not fully develop in Diderot. Holbach’s System of Nature was an expression of this trend, a book that made a great noise in its time and became a dogma for its followers. It is not surprising that the eighteenth century eventually came to materialism; this was a natural result of the whole anti-religious movement in the Enlightenment. Once the thought deviated from the Christian worldview, there was nothing left but to immerse itself in matter. The new deity of humanity, the mind, has decided for itself that there is no God, that the universe is nothing but moving matter, and that what people call a soul dies with the body, just as when music stops when the strings break. All these ideas were systematically developed in the “System of Nature”. There is only eternal matter, which has received motion by itself, because it is a great whole, encompassing everything. All nature is in motion and all its phenomena are only a combination of this same matter. Beginning with the stone in the bowels of the earth and ending with the sun, beginning with the petrified conch and ending with man, everything is a continuous movement, an endless chain of movements from which beings differ only in the variety and size of the original elements. The soul is a sum of bodily functions, thinking and will – chemical processes in the brain, there is no freedom, no immortality, no virtues and conscience; egoism is the only principle of human action. Everything is sensory, no sensory experience; faith in God is based on the false distinction between spirit and matter. “Let man cease,” says the author of the System, “his search outside this world in which he lives, for such beings as would bring him that prosperity which nature does not give him; let him study this nature, become acquainted with its laws, and understand the energy and unchanging permanence, with which it acts; let him take advantage of his discoveries for his own well-being and silently obey the laws from the action of which nothing can save him; let him resign himself to the thought that the reasons for what he is will forever remain unknown to him, for to him they are veiled with an impenetrable veil; let him relentlessly obey the orders of the ever-increasing power.