By Dr. Denise R. Ames
One of the most destructive things that’s happening in modern society is that we are losing our sense of the bonds that bind people together – which can lead to nightmares of social collapse. … Alexander McCall Smith
Why can’t we just get along? This is a question that I have been working on in my new book, Divided: Colliding Ways We See the World. In the next several posts in this blog series I am looking at the Modern Worldview. I would like to share with you some ideas that I have been exploring.
In the next several blogs, we are exploring the ideological, philosophical, scientific, religious, political, environmental and economic characteristics of the modern worldview.
Modern Thought, Part 1
The European Renaissance ushered in changes in European consciousness. Roughly encompassing the dates 1400-1600, a new spirit called the Renaissance swept across Europe among the educated, urban elite. Actually, there were two distinct Renaissances:
first, a change in political, economic, social and religious conditions, and second, an artistic and cultural movement. The Renaissance, meaning “rebirth,” began in Italy and was a renewal of Greco-Roman civilization. Above all, the Renaissance was an age of recovery from the disasters of fourteenth century Europe such as the effects of the Black Death, political disorder, and economic recession.
The Renaissance celebrated a new attitude: the individual was extolled. A high regard for human dignity and worth and a realization of individual potentiality created a new social ideal of the well-rounded or universal person who was capable of achievements in many areas of life. Renaissance enthusiasts despised the Christian tradition of humility and encouraged a new pride in human improvement. An individual’s thirst for fame and a strong desire to put his imprint upon the contemporary world were at the heart of the Renaissance.
Secularism and a focus on the here-and-now affected a person’s acts and thoughts. Early Christians upheld a simple and humble way of life in keeping with the life and the teachings of Jesus, but this view shifted to one in which wealth and the acquisition of riches was respectable. Increasingly, people viewed life as an opportunity for glory and pleasure rather than as a transitory stop on the way to eternal bliss or everlasting damnation.
Man was the measure of what life had to offer. Renaissance entrepreneurs endorsed new business techniques in banking, bookkeeping, trade, and commerce. Highly valued was the pursuit of profit, a departure from Christian values of the Middle Ages. Unlike in earlier Christianity, the merchant was elevated in status to reflect the growing impact of commerce. These Renaissance ideas would pave the way for further intellectual, scientific, political, economic and religious changes in the sixteenth century and beyond.
About the Author
Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator, grade 7-university, author of seven books, and president of an educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. CGA provides books, resources, and services with a holistic, global- focused, and perspective-taking approach for their three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, books and resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a self-organizing study and conversation program for adults focusing on seeing different perspectives of pressing global issues; and their most recent program Turn, Transformative Understanding and Reflection Network, which encourages lifelong and transformative learning to help us arrive at a place of personal and global well-being using a seven “path” approach.
For more about worldviews see Dr. Ames’ book Five Worldviews: How We See the World. $9.95