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About The Christian Roots of the Enlightenment

As then-Cardinal Ratzinger once said, “The affirmation [about] the Christian roots of Europe […] relates, first of all, to an historical fact that no one can seriously deny“.

And obviously not just of Europe, but of pretty much everything European, including of course all that has been born from European minds. Including, that is, the Enlightenment.

Why can’t anybody seriously deny that? Because philosophical movements cannot appear out of thin air. Of course, Locke, Hume, Voltaire, Rousseau and the others could not use Shinto or Zoroastrian ways of thinking, but Christian ones, because they were educated by, were thinking like and had to always confront themselves with Christian culture(s).

There are six sections dedicated to The Soul in Voltair’s Philosophical Dictionary. None to the Buddhist concept of Nirvana. QED.

Check the answers to my series of blogs on Atheism. All too often, all too tellingly people nominally “without-a-god” reply with a frame of mind that actually implies a personal, omnipotent God.

That is, the Christian God.


One thing I don’t understand is why something as obvious as the above should be controversial. Or perhaps I do understand: simply, the people that will shout the most against Christianity are bound to be the ones that despite claiming Atheism are actually Christian through and through, and they hate themselves for that.

Little hope to have a serious discussion with them.

But what does the above mean? Have we discovered the Last Stand for the Children of the Enlightenment? Should they be forced to honestly admit their roots are Christian?

I’m afraid not: because if Europe has Christian roots, those are not the only roots (Jewish and Islamic roots should be added of course, and that’s mentioning only the religious side…).

And if everybody should accept that the Enlightenment has (also) Christian roots, then everybody should accept that Christianity has (also) Pagan roots.

An enormous amount of time has been dedicated by people in the Church(es) to reconcile Jesus’ thoughts with Greek Philosophy, from the Gospel of St John onwards. Just as for the Enlightenment, the “new message” of Christianity had to be communicated by people to people.

The only way to do that was and is by using contemporary imagery, ways of thinking, categories of thought and historical philosophical arguments. Many of these were (“Pagan”) Greek at the time of Jesus, and so in our part of the world Christianity had to be built from Pagan Greek roots. QED once again…

3 replies on “About The Christian Roots of the Enlightenment”

Perhaps it’s because the people making the arguments are policy-makers; and policy is less a matter of nuances and more of categorical choices: either this or that, with stark consequences on either side.

That said, I do agree with your stance against a one-sided interpretation of Europe’s history. I fear, however, that present social conditions compel policy to put the old inclusivism to the backburner, and focus on salvaging what can be salvaged…


I wish the arguments had been put like that, instead of trying just to shove in the word “Christian” in the EU Constitution to keep the Turks out

No one seriously denies the pagan heritage of Christianity, or the Islamic and Jewish roots of Europe; but I think the point of affirming Europe’s (fundamentally) Christian origin is to give it a basis for a sense of identity. Liberalism is too amorphous a rallying-point by comparison.

Academic discussions of each other’s sources are of course good, but the question is one of policy and, perhaps, cultural survival.

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