Saturday, January 28, 2012

The $100 Challenge - Part I

So a while ago I got sent this video from youtube user modernitaly inviting me to take his 100 dollar challenge
 His terms are very simple: answer the three questions in the description using whatever sources or help you need. If you are able to answer the questions he will give you 100 dollars. The only catch is that you cannot use the answers that he lays out in his other videos, which I think is fair. Now I don't know how serious this guy is, or if he'll creationsist-style plug his ears and refuse to concede that any opinion other than his own has merit, and I highly doubt I'll ever get paid, but why not give it a shot anyway. Also it should be noted that I have not watched his videos because I wanted to approach these questions from a fresh, nonbiased (apart from my own personal bias) perspective. If I do wind up repeating some of the things that he has said in his videos then I apologize and be assured it was done accidentally.

So, without further ado, let's take a look at question number 1:

At the time of the Renaissance in Italy was the Catholic Inquisition and the Counter Reformation. All the representatives of the Renaissance Culture, in Italy, have been persecuted and censored, including those survivors of Michelangelo and Galileo. Maybe the Renaissance Culture was Contemporary to the Catholic Inquisition, and to the Catholic Counter-Reformation, but have nothing in common. What I want to know is how the Renaissance Culture turned up to be glory and pride of the most Catholic Civilization of the Planet? How did the Renaissance culture turned up to be intellectual legacy of the persecutors of the Renaissance Culture?

Hmm.. well, first of all I really have to be annoying and point out the error of referring to Italy as being "the most Catholic Civilization of the Planet". It is a common misconception, seeing as the Pope lives in Italy (well, he lives in a tiny independent state that is surrounded by Italy), but in fact Italy is far from being the most Catholic country there is. Brazil has the world's largest Catholic population, followed by Mexico. While Italy has a very high percentage of people that define themselves as Catholic, only one third of them (36.8%) say they are active members. Compared to other Catholic countries, Italy is not on the top of the list when it comes to Catholicism.

That covered the question is really divided into two questions: how did the Renaissance culture turn out to be the glory and pride of the (quite catholic, though not most catholic) Italy, and how did it become the intellectual legacy of the persecutors of the Renaissance culture (by which I think he means the Vatican itself)?

Tiny overview: The Renaissance (in Italian "Rinascimento" meaning "reborn") was a cultural movement that most agree was born in Florence and later spread throughout Europe. It is when Europe slowly and painstakingly pulled itself out of the Dark Ages, and is characterized by a surge in everything from literature, art and music to philosophy and science. Of course the Catholic Church did not like that. People thinking for themselves? Trying to figure stuff out objectively instead of blindly following and believing everything that the Vatican officials claim is truth? Fuck that. Although the Catholic Inquisition was born some time before, it suddenly found it had a whole lot to do.

Now the Vatican has never been anything but cunning. When you see the times changing you have to change along with them without ever losing control. That is what brings me to the second factual error that I feel obligated to point out. It is not correct to state that every single person representative of the Renaissance was persecuted by the Vatican. Michelangelo, one of the men that most represents the Renaissance period, was commissioned repeatedly by various Popes for everything from Basilicas to the freaking Sistine Chapel. If you ask people "name a Renaissance man" they say Leonardo da Vinci, and he was entirely left alone by the Vatican.

The Vatican left you alone so long as you didn't rock the boat all too much. So long as you didn't come up with any discovery or philosophical argument that was contrary to the teachings of the Church you were pretty much alright. This is why it was the scientists and the philosophers that really got the brunt of the Church's wrath during the Renaissance period. Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for his scientific and philosophical pursuits, while Galileo had to renounce his findings and spend the rest of his life under house arrest to avoid the same fate. So back to the question, why is the Renaissance the cultural pride of Italy?

Well, because these people were Italian. Some were dissenters, others were not, but there none of that makes them or their contributions to humanity any less Italian. It is not fair to equate Italian culture with the Institution of the Vatican. What about us atheists, or Catholics by name but not in practice? How can you say that Italian history has to agree with Catholic doctrine to be a source of pride for all Italians?

The second part of the question is how it became the intellectual legacy of the Vatican. Well, is it? Let's just assume for the sake of argument that it is, is that really all that surprising? Religious institutions are wonderful at stealing things created or invented by others and incorporating them into their doctrine. The 25th of December, the Christmas tree, most of the story of Jesus' life, all stolen from other religions and incorporated into Christianity to make the religion more palatable to people wanting to convert. In the 19th century the Bible was used by many Americans to morally justify the use of slavery, but nowadays they would be crazy to suggest that slavery is moral because the Bible says so. It is the same with the Vatican and they've been doing it for centuries. At first they fight change, but when they see that the battle is lost and there is no longer any possible way to logically deny them they change their mind and declare that now everyone can believe in it and it doesn't actually go against the Vatican doctrine at all. They did it with Galileo's findings, evolution, anything that became demonstrable fact. Of course such an important part of Italian history would follow suit. Since when is hypocrisy something that the Catholic Church avoids? That shit is their bread and butter!

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