Compliance in the Name of Good
The enlightenment is most identified with rejection of clericalism, religious authority, schism, persecution in the name of good and, coercion spun as obedience.
Those who battled against the tyrannies of militant Dutch Calvinism and Catholic imperialism bore the brunt of violence in the name of good.
Whilst the annals of history might like to praise Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, each turned to replicate the very power they hated the moment they had it. Luther in less than 10 years from nailing his 99 theses to the door at Witenberg against the corruption of indulgences waged a war against Thomas Munster resulting in the death of 6000 peasants (The Peasants War). He was also infamous for drowning Anabaptists. Similarly Calvinism resulted in the most militant brutalism across Europe in the name of god. The dominant values across Europe in these centuries was compliance, intolerance and absolutism. Free thinkers were branded Heretics and Dissenters and didn’t live long.
It was in this climate of brutalism that Alexander Pope stated – ‘to err is human, and to forgive divine’.
At the heart of the enlightenment was a plea for tolerance. Nothing had so damaged the name of Love and Grace than the brutalism of organised religion.
And, it would be wrong to assume that those like Spinoza, Voltaire and Bayle who railed against organised religion were not theological. Most of the philosophers of the period were profoundly theological and spiritual and were called ‘Deists’. They didn’t reject theology but rather rejected the brutalism of compliance in the name of good, embodied in hyper-Calvinism and hyper-Catholicity.
The wave of brutalism in Europe led to a mass exodus of Dissenters to the colonies and the new world such as South Australia (read Pike The Paradise of Dissent). Even here when the Dissenters formed government and exercised power, intolerance was a seduction.
It seems that intolerance is an attraction to those who want to wield absolute power. It doesn’t matter what the rhetoric is, love, god or safety, when power is the dynamic, brutalism and anti-learning is the outcome. There is no greater intolerance to fallible humans than the doctrine of zero. Nothing is more destructive to safety than wrapping dogma up in the politicisation of zero.
The current integration of safety vested in political power, religious fervour, superstition (read Heinrich, risk matrix and TRIFR), soteriology and science as law, needs a new enlightenment.