Social Revolutions Lead to Political Reform: How the Renaissance, Reformation, and Scientific Revolution Led to a more Secular and Democratic Political Atmosphere.
Since the beginning of time cultural views have influenced and shaped our society but never has more change occurred than during the Renaissance, Reformation, and Scientific Revolution. We leave the middle ages a society of Kings and feudal life and emerge with the beginnings of modern political theory. The Renaissance was a defining moment in history where old became new and ideas on science, nature, and education flowed like a rushing river. The impact on authority was great and lasting in its effect to the world. Great men began to ask questions about human nature, how humans were related to God, the best way to achieve human happiness and, an overall individual fulfillment became important. A liberal arts education over religion became, for the first time since Christianity took over in the 4th century, a reality (Matthews, Platt, 320). This new secular and zealous learning was the beginning of the liberal arts as we know it today. Petrarch, the first true poet of the Renaissance, studied Latin and is credited to have rediscovered Greek (Renaissance I.E.P.). This rediscovery led to textual criticism of the Church when forgeries were found which placed their power in question (Lecture, 1). Humanism dared artists like Leonardo da Vinci to defy the church and dissect cadavers to study the physical form. A more secular outlook can be seen in Raphael's The School of Athens (Lecture, 2), and men like Machiavelli put forth ideas that political discussions should not be religious or moral issues beginning the search for political science (Matthews, Platt, 331). The rise of sovereign states began to happen and power was taken away from feudal nobles and placed with the educated middle class who advised the King on religion and war, as well as running bureaucracies (Matthews, Platt, 324). This time period marked the beginning of a shift toward a balance of power for France, England and Spain (Civilization). The spirit of the Renaissance had left its mark in questioning authority, looking to the secular and individualism as well as indirectly leading to the exploration of the new world. The reformation crushed religious unity in the west by taking a hard look at the corruption of the Church and calling for reform. Martin Luther posted 95 theses to the church door to open a discussion for reform and instead opened the door to Protestantism. Martin Luther believed in prayer directly to God thus weakening the role of the Church and its bureaucracies. Luther also helped in developing state run schools paid for with taxes. Further religious division arose when John Calvin branched Puritanism and with it the work ethic of sobriety, thrift, industry, discipline and hard work (Reformation, 1). Writers, now unafraid of the church, began to attack the church and its abuses such as Francois Rabelais in his satire The Histories of Gargantua and Pantagruel and Erasmus in The Praise of Folly. Purely secular art was made popular by Pieter the Elder (Reformation). The reformation held fast the ideas of rationalism, idealism and the importance of science and nature but added the focus of a corrupt church and skepticism. A new more secular culture was evolving. The church clergy, lacking strong leadership from the pope, were part of many well-publicized scandals and anticlericalism mounted. The princes of Germany, where the reformation began, turned against Rome and could not be prevented from forming autonomous states outside papal control (Matthews, 365). England, France and Spain had already broken ties from the papacy and King Henry VIII founded the Church of England in the 1530's simply to allow for his divorce, further separating the religious community (English Reformation). "Protestantism served as a historically decisive prelude...
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