civilization

(Latin: civilis, pertaining to citizens in the State) A social order characterized by a high degree of accumulated knowledge, art, law, and social organization. It is distinguished from savagery and barbarism, which are social orders inferior in these respects, and has been possessed in different degrees and different ways by China, India, medieval Europe, Rome, Greece, Assyria, Egypt, etc., as well as modern Europe and America. There is an intimate relationship between civilization and religion. The chief points of contact are:
(a) Ideals. Every civilization is built around central ideals of what is right and valuable. Greece emphasized liberty and beauty; Rome, order and administration under law; medieval Europe, the Kingdom of God on earth. The central philosophy of the present era includes elements drawn from the past, with, perhaps, a consciousness of the opportunity and possibility of doing great and new things. The worth of individual. men is highly emphasized, hence democratic institutions; and the existence and requirements of social life are consciously studied and its influence extended. Although the 16th-century revolt against the Church has caused repeated repudiation of the doctrines and institutions of religion, many of the most cherished ideals are inheritances from the religious thought of the past. Christ revealed God's interest in and love for every individual soul. The present consciousness of human worth is due more to this than to any arguments of natural philosophy. Christ preached a life of faith, hope, and charity toward others, all expressed in good works (in direct opposition to the indifference and fatalism of Asiatic thought). These doctrines of the necessity and worth of justice and cooperation are the basis of social life. Christ taught the double obligation of every citizen to God and to Caesar, to live a moral life as an individual, and to contribute his part to the temporal success of society. This religious sanction is a great supporting force of law and order.

(b) Knowledge. All civilization rests upon a cumulative body of common knowledge, diffused throughout the population. Both in the building of this system and in the diffusion of its contents, the Church has ever held an important place. Religion has ever been the center of the work of education; has maintained schools and honored scholars; and, through the sermons and example of religious leaders, has constantly spread abroad the highest ideals and views of life and living. In a commercial age, such teaching is held subordinate to education in business and manufacture; but a lack of the higher thought always leads to discord, unhappiness, and a break-down of the very material prosperity upon which the lower teaching concentrates.

(c) Social organization. Civilization exists in a body of men living in social union, wherein the individual cooperates with the community and the community with the individual. The ordering of these intricate inter-relationships is achieved partly by codes of laws, partly by accepted customs, and largely by the good will of the individuals themselves. Man is by nature social. He will seek to establish his life along lines that avoid conflict with his fellows, hence custom and law arise. However, this social tendency is limited. Social life requires sacrifice of individual liberties and opportunities, and man's innate selfishness will operate to oppose such sacrifices, unless some other force presses him to submit. This force is found only in religion. Those who appeal to patriotism, to devotion to the human race of the future, or to the socialistic state, find little response. Religion teaches an order of duties in justice and charity, and recognition of the established rights of others, and in addition, guarantees rewards for the observance of these rights, and punishment for their violation. Positively, religion is the great socializing force. Negatively, religion serves to repress all dangers to social organization. Crime in the individual is branded by religion. More especially, social forces are diagnosed and their true nature exposed. Thus religion has ever opposed both socialism and extreme state power as violations of the inalienable rights of the individual. On the other hand, unjust revolt and violation of law are condemned as sins against the state. Other social bodies too are protected, conspicuously, the Church is the great opponent of divorce and birth-control, as destructive of family society.
Civilization varies with time, places, and peoples. It is an adaptation wherein the various elements of human life reach a high degree of harmony. A civilization that ignores or contradicts religious truths and influence is necessarily imperfect and incomplete. Inevitably such a situation means conflict, friction, and suffering, until the discord is dissolved and harmony restored. An unreligious or antireligious civilization involves such fundamental discordance with truth as to be unthinkable and incapable of existence. A civilization like our own, containing much of Christian thought and living, with much that is unchristian, is necessArily subject to conflicts and troubles. Progress requires the restoration of religion in its fullness to the life of society and of every individual, and continuation of this religious life in perfect adaptation to every change of social, economic, and political history.

New Catholic Dictionary

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