Religion, democracy, and World War I

Some more historical claims that seem to have gotten established in the public mind that don’t make sense to me:

  1. “The great carnage of WWI discredited religion–particularly Christianity–in the minds of many of that generation.”  How could this be?  Since human beings have existed, war has been their constant state.  In primitive tribes, something like 1 in 7 men meet their death in intertribal war.  And during all of this time, human beings have universally embraced one religion or another.  Why should this one have triggered a wave of atheism?  Besides, if you’re going to present an argument from evil against God’s existence, wars are not a good place to start, because they obviously result from human free will.  However, suppose one does accept that bad times discredit religion in the eyes of sufferers.  Do good times make faith more plausible?  It would seem not, because the prosperity of the 20’s is also supposed to have eroded the faith.  So it would seem that any situation–good or bad–makes God implausible.  One wonders how religion could have ever survived up until the 20th century.  Allow me to present an alternative theory:  whoever controls the media gets to spin world events however they want.  When atheist liberals control the media, any event will be taken as an argument for atheist liberalism.  If Christians controled the media, we could spin prosperity as the sign of God’s generosity and adversity as teaching the futility of attachment to the world.
  2. “Democracies don’t fight.  WWI was a war between democracies and authoritarian states.”  Why don’t we count Germany as a democracy?  Everybody knows it had a deliberative body, the Reichstag, with multiple parties.  Did the king have some remaining powers?  Is that it?  Democrats are real absolutists, aren’t they?  It’s not enough to have a parliament; it must be all-powerful.  We monarchists are much more willing to accommodate democratic elements.  My alternative theory:  any nation that goes to war with England and the United States gets classified as not being a real democracy.

3 Responses

  1. If Christians controled the media, we could spin prosperity as the sign of God’s generosity and adversity as teaching the futility of attachment to the world.

    Amen. Consider the Medieval village. Where do the people get their news? From the Priest, from the pulpit, during his homily. Where do the elites get their thoughts? From monasteries and medieval universities—institutions influenced or controlled by the Church.

    At least as a hypothesis, it seems reasonable to believe that what the churchmen got wrong during the transition to modernity was the importance of controlling the discourse. And once they lost control of the discourse, the importance of entering into the discourse in a non-useless way.

  2. The more expedient explanation, if one simply *must* try and tie WWI to Christianity, was that the decline of Christianity made the carnage of that war possible.

    This is a little too neat for my taste. It’s obviously a lot more complicated than that. But it makes a heck of a lot more sense than the notion that WWI somehow discredited Christianity, which is just fatuous.

  3. Where did you get the info for the first point on religion?

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