WI: No rise of secularism in the 18th- and 19th-century West?

As it says in the title, what if there was no increase in secularism in Western thought and culture during this period?

(For the purposes of this thread, "secularism" refers primarily to the attitudes of people regarding this life vs. the next. So a country with no State religion but where 90% of people are devout Christians wouldn't count as "secular", whereas one with an Established Church with nobody believes in would.)


ETA: Just to be clear, by "increase in secularism" I mean in society as a whole. So it's OK for there to be a minority of secularists in the country, just as long as they don't have much influence over the overall culture of the Western world. Also, I'm not too worried about interior thoughts: so it's OK to have a situation like, e.g., pagan Rome, where the elite are mostly disbelievers but nevertheless publicly support the state cult.
 
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I think you might have to prevent the Industrial Revolution and possibly the printing press.

Seriously.

Once you have the old feudal order breaking down, with the rise of the merchant class, and a printing press, the Reformation is pretty much guaranteed. IMO. Once you have faith being a personal choice, you have to MAKE that choice - and that leaves open the option of choosing 'none of the above'.

Moreover, the increased wealth of increased trade, and the spread of books brought the Enlightenment, which questioned everything.

Once the Industrial Revolution happens, these trends accelerate.

Sure, it takes a century or more to percolate through the system, but look at American Founding Fathers like Jefferson. They were pretty darn secular, although they mostly still believe in some 'Great Power'.

Besides, things like the 30 Years War really tarnished the reputation of both Protestants and Roman Catholics.

I don't think secularism is stoppable. Can it be slowed, made a minor movement? Quite possible, I suppose, but getting rid of it entirely probably requires the gross changes I listed above.
 
As it says in the title, what if there was no increase in secularism in Western thought and culture during this period?

(For the purposes of this thread, "secularism" refers primarily to the attitudes of people regarding this life vs. the next. So a country with no State religion but where 90% of people are devout Christians wouldn't count as "secular", whereas one with an Established Church with nobody believes in would.)

Well, I think `secularism` could somehow be prevented by delaying the era of enlightment. Philosophers like Voltaire, Kant etc. never exists or never publish. The 18th and 19th century become an age of continued serfdom,feudalism, subjects instead of citizens, no educated liberal middle class, guilds, and other anachronism.

Furthermore there should be a prevention of centralized absolute monarchies and the doctrine of divine rights. A continued presence of clerical terretories could be helpful as well (prevent the secularisation of clerical terretories in HRE in 1806)
 
As it says in the title, what if there was no increase in secularism in Western thought and culture during this period?

(For the purposes of this thread, "secularism" refers primarily to the attitudes of people regarding this life vs. the next. So a country with no State religion but where 90% of people are devout Christians wouldn't count as "secular", whereas one with an Established Church with nobody believes in would.)

If we are using this definition I would argue that secularism didn't become widespread until the 20th century. Trends like Deism were largely elitist; the common people mostly continued to follow their traditional Christian faith. (If the French Revolution had been democratic in the modern sense, with a secret ballot and no voter intimidation like which occurred IOTL, it's pretty safe to say the Jacobins would never have taken power.)

Likewise, while governments increasingly came to see the benefits of granting religious toleration, this was not necessarily popular among common people. Catholic emancipation wasn't necessarily a big vote-getter in Britain.
 
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Besides, things like the 30 Years War really tarnished the reputation of both Protestants and Roman Catholics.

This seems like a stretch. The Thirty Years' War was hardly even a religious war by its final decade. I don't think there is too much evidence of an increase in secularism over the rest of that century, other than that governments grudgingly came to accept the cuius regio eius religio concept.

I think it can be said however that state religions gradually lost their sway, perhaps because people viewed them as too corrupted by governmental influence. Religious revival movements of the 19th and 20th centuries frequently involved dissenting churches, with the state churches losing ground. In the United States the Episcopal (Anglican) Church, which had been a state church in several of the colonies, dramatically lost ground after independence and is only the faith of about 1% of the population today.
 
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Soverihn

Banned
I think you might have to prevent the Industrial Revolution and possibly the printing press.

Seriously.

Once you have the old feudal order breaking down, with the rise of the merchant class, and a printing press, the Reformation is pretty much guaranteed. IMO. Once you have faith being a personal choice, you have to MAKE that choice - and that leaves open the option of choosing 'none of the above'.

Moreover, the increased wealth of increased trade, and the spread of books brought the Enlightenment, which questioned everything.

Once the Industrial Revolution happens, these trends accelerate.

Sure, it takes a century or more to percolate through the system, but look at American Founding Fathers like Jefferson. They were pretty darn secular, although they mostly still believe in some 'Great Power'.

I don't think secularism is stoppable. Can it be slowed, made a minor movement? Quite possible, I suppose, but getting rid of it entirely probably requires the gross changes I listed above.
So what happens if the industrial revolution occurs in another continent or region and/or feudalism never gets established? Like if the Islamic world or the Byzantine Empire industrialized?

I would go back in time and lay waste to the theocrats.

:rolleyes:
 
A possibility could be the Holy Roman Emperors manage to ultimately and definitely subjugate the Pope, and centralize more succesfully; a Caeseropapist military power ultimately reconquers all of the former Carolignian lands, and makes all neighbors its client states.
 
I think you might have to prevent the Industrial Revolution and possibly the printing press.

Seriously.

Once you have the old feudal order breaking down, with the rise of the merchant class, and a printing press, the Reformation is pretty much guaranteed. IMO. Once you have faith being a personal choice, you have to MAKE that choice - and that leaves open the option of choosing 'none of the above'.

Moreover, the increased wealth of increased trade, and the spread of books brought the Enlightenment, which questioned everything.

Once the Industrial Revolution happens, these trends accelerate.

Sure, it takes a century or more to percolate through the system, but look at American Founding Fathers like Jefferson. They were pretty darn secular, although they mostly still believe in some 'Great Power'.

Besides, things like the 30 Years War really tarnished the reputation of both Protestants and Roman Catholics.

I don't think secularism is stoppable. Can it be slowed, made a minor movement? Quite possible, I suppose, but getting rid of it entirely probably requires the gross changes I listed above.

I'm not sure that this really holds up. IOTL the religions of the ancient world were rather diverse, and there were people questioning traditional beliefs (e.g., the Epicureans), but ancient Greek and Roman society doesn't seem to have been noticeably secular by modern standards.
 
I'm not sure that this really holds up. IOTL the religions of the ancient world were rather diverse, and there were people questioning traditional beliefs (e.g., the Epicureans), but ancient Greek and Roman society doesn't seem to have been noticeably secular by modern standards.
OK. But 1) the industrial revolution and the scientific revolution provided alternate, secular explanations for the running of the universe, which provided better predictability. and 2) by time of the Roman Empire, the Roman state religion was losing its attraction fairly quickly, and philosophy made little reference to gods. However, instead of secularization, you got the growth of mystical religions, like Christianity (also Magna Mater, Isis, Mithras, etc.) which explained the universe better than the old pagan gods. And had more appeal to people.

While the Romans weren't "noticeably secular by modern standards", I think one COULD make the case that they were by ANCIENT standards, which is what the appropriate comparison would be, IMO.


Note, too, that I'm not suggesting that secularism has to get as strong a hold as OTL, where e.g. in France wearing of ANY religious symbols in schools has been outlawed. What I am saying is that there WILL be a rise in secularism - so even if there are official state churches, that a significant minority of people would identify putting secular matters ahead of religious ones, or even be 'atheists' or 'secular humanists' (not the same thing, of course).

For calibration purposes: I am both a committed Christian by belief, and a scientist (math/physics) by training.
 
OK. But 1) the industrial revolution and the scientific revolution provided alternate, secular explanations for the running of the universe, which provided better predictability.

Whilst some peasants might have used direct divine intervention to explain various phenomena, this wasn't the case with educated people, most of whom were of course Christians.

and 2) by time of the Roman Empire, the Roman state religion was losing its attraction fairly quickly, and philosophy made little reference to gods.

Did it? Epicureanism certainly didn't, but Stoicism and Neoplatonism were both definitely theistic.

While the Romans weren't "noticeably secular by modern standards", I think one COULD make the case that they were by ANCIENT standards, which is what the appropriate comparison would be, IMO.


Note, too, that I'm not suggesting that secularism has to get as strong a hold as OTL, where e.g. in France wearing of ANY religious symbols in schools has been outlawed. What I am saying is that there WILL be a rise in secularism - so even if there are official state churches, that a significant minority of people would identify putting secular matters ahead of religious ones, or even be 'atheists' or 'secular humanists' (not the same thing, of course).

A significant minority of people being secular would be OK; I was thinking more of societal attitudes as a whole. I'll edit the OP to make that clearer.
 
Wow, that's a big topic. No rise in secularism would change so much about the world - even simply in France itself the lack of secularism (assuming that the French Revolution still happens) would probably butterfly away the destructive Church vs. State conflicts that characterized most of the Republican phases in France, and so you might see the Second Republic (1848) last a bit longer, and that by itself would cause gigantic butterflies already.

No rise in secularism might also generate less reform by 19th Century 'new theologians' such as John Henry Newman or Jonathan Edwards, who both spurred religious revivals in their respective countries (UK and America), and again that would shake things up quite a bit, especially with America's Great Awakening and the abolitionist movement that it (partly) spawned.

Of course the reason for why secularism fails to develop is important. I personally think a few accidents of nature - the lack of a Voltaire or Rousseau - could have stifled secularism. After all, the Enlightenment didn't just produce anti-religious philosophers: Kant, for example, argues that the conception of a God (or at least an afterlife where justice is meted out) is necessary for morality; not to mention Pascal's wager.
 
^ If something similar to the French Revolution breaks out, I could see it being driven by some sort of liberation theology-type belief. A country run along such lines would almost certainly be less anti-clerical than OTL Revolutionary France, although if the government tries to enforce clerical vows of poverty using civil law I can see the Pope getting quite annoyed...

As for revivalist movements, their precise time and form would probably be different, but I think that such movements would still be around in some form or another. It is after all a common theme in history for people to lament the declining morals of their own time and call for a return to the piety and virtue of previous generations, and there's no reason to suppose this wouldn't be the case in an alternate 18th/19th century.
 
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