Today while prepping for my next Applied Ethics Lecture (I teach at a public college in the State of Florida), I came across the ever-recurring theme of the so-called "Dark Ages" in Western European History. Similar to fourth grade world history books, this section on "Non-Consequentialist" Ethical Theory (i.e. Ethical Theory that is not some form of Utilitarianism) spoke of the "Dark Ages" of European History in which the supposedly "authoritarian" Catholic Church tried to drown out the Voice of Reason. Granted the textbook gave a positive mention of Thomas Aquinas as a Natural Law philosopher and theologian who "reclaimed reason" (granted not as valliantly as the Enlightenment thinkers of the 18th century, culminating in Immanuel Kant of course), but nonetheless the caricature of Roman Catholic medieval history as "the Dark Ages" was, nonetheless, once again perpetuated, and yes, at the university level even.
Contrary to such mis-characterization of the "Dark Ages" of Catholic history, as any student of history can well attest, the period of the 5th through 14th centuries can be characterized as anything but "Dark." In the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, Byzantine culture, complete with iconographic art, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the construction of Hagia Sophia Church in Constantinople and the Eastern Roman Emperor as Christ's representative on earth was anything but 'dark.' In fact, even at the ancillary campus of the college where I teach, Byzantine art (along with a Celtic cross, and various Egyptian and Jewish artifacts) rests right there in the display case as an example of the best of Indo-European art.
Granted, the Christian Imperium of the East (including ironically enough Greece, the "cradle" of philosophy to include "applied ethics" a la Plato and Aristotle!) did outshine the fractured kingdom of the West, divided politically, yet nonetheless unified culturally and religiously under the Pontiff of the Catholic Church, the Pope. Yet, even within such supposed "Dark Ages" of political fragmentation, historically, Christian Imperium still lived on, most notably with the crowning of Charles the Great (a.k.a. Charlemagne) as Holy Roman Emperor over what is now France, Germany and Italy in 800 A.D. To the Franks, Charlemagne and his papal coronation was "far from 'dark," but instead represented CONQUEST and cultural vitality. Granted, learning at this time was centered in the monasteries, complete with squadrons of monks dedicated to hand-copying the Biblical text and other ancient documents, but the time of the high middle ages (pre-Aquinas) was anything but "Dark."
So, once again, in an attempt at offering a secular alternative to Christendom (loosely rooted in Kantian rule-based deontological moral theory), instead of doing so fairly or honestly, secular humanism again demonstrates its pernicious anti-Catholic bigotry.
Therefore, in conversations regarding the necessity of some form of secular North American and Western European cultural identity, let us, Christian and secularist at least be intellectually honest about European history. Yes, Rome did in fact fall, but the Roman Emperor Constantine, perhaps recognizing Rome's precarious position, simply moved the capital to the straits of the Black Sea and founded the 'New Rome,' and 1,000 years of Christian Imperium (complete with the Greek city-state of Athens!) continued undisturbed (at least until they were conquered by the Turks in the 15th century) under Christ Pantocrator.
Similarly, although the West has always been fragmented and squabbled both politically and religiously (i.e. the Protestant Reformations of Luther and Calvin and the Regal Usurpation of Papal Authority by King Henry VIII in England), such fragmentation does not equal cultural darkness. If anything, ever since the Enlightenment (the supposed "crown jewel" of Western civilization) art itself has become increasingly devoid of meaning, vulgar, and at times even quite disturbing. From the Sistine Chapel, Western art has now degenerated into post-modern crucifixes encased in urine. Perhaps the New Secularism should befriend its Christian heritage, rather than continuing down the post-modern, nihilist path of continuing TRUE CULTURAL DARKNESS. From Beavis & Butthead to SouthPark, perhaps we are now living in the TRUE Dark Ages. --RobJKing 14:50, 21 September 2007 (UTC)Rob J. King, Catholic Political Voice