Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Quote from Will Durant, a Pulitzer Prize Winning Historian

While reading the introduction to Will Durant’s book, The Greatest Minds and Ideas of all Time, I found the following quote from Will Durant particularly interesting: 

In 1968, shortly after winning the Pulitzer Prize for literature, Will Durant and his wife, Ariel, gave a television interview in their home in Los Angeles, CA. The interviewer, who fancied himself an intellectual, posed to Durant the following question:

If I were to ask you to name the person who has most influenced the 20thcentury, would it be Karl Marx?

Durant paused for a moment and then replied:
Well, if you use the word in its largest sense, we would have to give the greatest share of influence to the technical inventors, like Edison. Doubtless the development of electricity has transformed the world even more than any Marxian propaganda. Then, if you think in terms of ideas, I think the influence of Darwin is still greater than the influence of Marx, but in a different field. The basic phenomenon of our time is not Communism; it’s the decline of religious belief, which has all sort of effects on morals and even on politics because religion has been a tool of politics. But today in Europe it ceases to be a tool, it has very little influence in determining political decisions—whereas 500 years ago, the pope was superior in influence to any civil ruler on earth. 

I find this fascinating on many levels, but mostly when I see how the Church’s influence has declined over the last two hundred years. To think that people were still being burned at the stake for heresy in the eighteenth century, and now the Church has almost no influence on most people’s lives. I hope I live long enough to see the Age of Enlightenment finally bury Christianity and all it’s bastard cousins once and for all.

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