Mandeville, LA – [Editor’s note. The following appears in Joseph Pearce’s Small is Still Beautiful book as well as Mr. Tawney’s opus Religion and The Rise of Capitalism. – M.C.] “The secularization of political thought, which was to be the work of the next two centuries, had profound reactions on social speculation, and by the Restoration the whole perspective, at least in England, has been revolutionized. Religion has been converted from the keystone which holds together the social edifice into one department within it, and the idea of a rule of right is replaced by economic expediency as the arbiter of policy and the criterion of conduct. From a spiritual being, who, in order to survive, must devote a reasonable attention to economic interest, man seems sometimes to have become an economic animal, who will be prudent, nevertheless, if he takes due precautions to assure his spiritual well-being.
The result is an attitude which forms so fundamental z: part of modern political thought, that both its precarious philosophical basis, and the contrast which it offers with the conceptions of earlier generations, are commonly forgotten. Its essence is a dualism which regards the secular and the religious aspects of life, not as successive stages within a larger unity, but as parallel and independent provinces, governed by different laws, judged by different standards, and amenable to different authorities. To the most representative minds of the Reformation, as of the Middle Ages, a philosophy which treated the transactions of commerce and the institutions of society as indifferent to religion would have appeared, not merely morally reprehensible, but intellectually absurd. [emphasis mine: M.C. Editor] Holding as their first assumption that the ultimate social authority is the will of God, and that temporal interests are a transitory episode in the life of spirits which are eternal, they state the rules to which the social conduct of the Christian must conform, and, when circumstances allow, organize the discipline by which those rules may be enforced. By their successors in the eighteenth century the philosophy of Indifferentism, though rarely formulated as a matter of theory, is held in practice as a truism which it is irrational, if not actually immoral, to question, since it is in the heart of the individual that religion has its throne, and to externalize it in rules and institutions is to tarnish its purity and to degrade its appeal. Naturally, therefore, they formulate the ethical principles of Christianity in terms of a comfortable ambiguity, and rarely indicate with any precision their application to commerce, finance, and the ownership of property. Thus the conflict between religion and those natural economic ambitions which the thought of an earlier age had regarded with suspicion is suspended by a truce which divides the life of mankind between them. The former takes as its province the individual soul, the latter the intercourse of man with his fellows in the activities of business and the affairs of society. Provided that each keeps to its own territory, peace is assured. They cannot collide, for they can never meet.” – R.H. Tawney, Religion And The Rise of Capitalism