Humanism and Christianity
The Renaissance was a time period which originated in the city-states of Italy that marked the starting point of the modern era. The Renaissance was characterized by a rebirth of interest in the humanistic culture and outlook of classical Greece and Rome. During this time period, a secular attitude was achieved, thus causing Western Civilization to deviate from the strict religious atmosphere of the Middle Ages. Although religion was not forgotten, it was no longer the sole influence of scholasticism and the like. This secular attitude eventually paved the way for things such as the Scientific Revolution. Despite this secular humanism, Christianity still influenced the humanists of the Renaissance, including the "father of humanism" Petrarch.
Humanists believed that a refined person must know the literature of Greece and Rome. They strove to imitate the styles of the ancients, to speak and write as eloquently as the Greeks and Romans. Toward these ends, they "sought to read, print, and restore to circulation every scrap of ancient literature that could still be found." (Perry 18) This literary humanism was central to the early Renaissance. The trend, which originated in northern Italy during the fourteenth century, represented a shift in focus from other worldly concerns and people as religious beings, which was typical of the Middle Ages, to the problems of people and nature in this world. In a 1362 letter to Boccaccio, Petrarch wrote: "Neither exhortations to virtue nor the argument of approaching death should divert us from literature; for in a good mind it excites the love of virtue, and dissipates, or at least diminishes, the fear of death." Humanists strongly believed that only good could come of the wisdom they acquired through the manuscripts of the ancients, and they were keen to share it with the rest of the world.
"Christianity during the Renaissance presents a contradiction: although the institution of...
Cited: Colton, Joel and R. R. Palmer. A History of the Modern World. New York: McGraw
Hill, Inc., 1995.
Perry, Marvin, et all. Sources of the Western Tradition Volume II: From the Renaissance to the Present. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995.
Sherman, Dennis. Western Civilization: Images and Interpretation Volume I. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983.
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