The City of Man versus The City of God

This is Dawson’s historical overview:

” There is a general; feeling today that the Victorian compromise was wrong – that war is unchristian, that business is unchristian and that even the State is to a great extent unchristian also. We have lost both the optimism of the Victorian Liberals and the old Conservative acceptance of the State and the social order as a God-given order. We find it much easier to understand the attitude of the early Church with its uncompromising hostility to the world and to the power of Mammon… The whole Christian tradition, and the prophetic tradition which lies behind it, are a standing protest against the injustices and falsehood of that which is commonly called civilization… Wherever the city of man sets itself up as an end in itself and becomes the centre of a self-contained and self-regarding order, it becomes the natural enemy of the city of God”

[Christopher Dawson, Religion and the Modern State, 1935]

Money Has Taken Over: Dawson

Christopher Dawson claimed that there had been a breakdown of corporate medieval society caused by the rise of capitalism. This had led to unrestrained individualism, which in turn led to the infamous evils of the factory system, rampant profiteering, slums, disease and chronic poverty. However the real cause of the evils of industrialism, Dawson felt, was not so much individualism itself as the spirit which sacrificed the individual to the economic process. Money, profit, economics became all. The old corporate sense of mutuality and cooperation had been lost.

[Religion and the Modern State, 1935]

Christopher Dawson on the Sabotage of Religion (1935)

This distinguished cultural historian (1889-1970) wrote many influential books in which he tried to rehabilitate religion as a driving force in western history. Among others he influenced T. S. Eliot and J. R. R. Tolkien. What was the challenge? As he wrote:

“The new secularized civilization is not content to dominate the outer world,..but claims the whole person. Once more Christianity is faced, as it was at the beginning, with the challenge of a world which will accept no appeal from its judgment…Indeed it would almost seem as though the prospect today was even darker than it was at the beginning. Then, at least, Christianity was a new thing in the world, and its possibilities were still untried; but now that Christianity has been in the world for 19 centuries, the modern world regards it as a thing of the past – a system that has been tried and found wanting, and that no longer has anything to offer modern man”:

Religion and the Modern State (1935) [see under Writings]