I was the Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. This was while being a professor of economics and NDSU. Later I became active in the Red River Freethinkers. While I no longer live in Fargo-Moorhead the focus of my blog remains there.


That Cultures Manufacture Gods is Old and Well Established


In the late 1500's and on into the 1600's there were preachers of many ilks and followers of most everyone of them. I suppose this has been true always. Fortunately, there was a treasurer trove of writing at the time passed down to us.
Michael de Montaigne (1533-1592) was the mayor of Bordeaux and adviser to the king of France. He was also quite wealthy and wrote and traveled much of his life. He owned an estate of note that was filled with books and was passionate about understanding the nature of human beings.
He made considerable effort to analyze himself to better understand whatever prejudices he might have and where he acquired them. His book, Essays, has long been regarded as the most far-reaching and penetrating study of humanity penned in that era.
Montaigne saw himself, though a celebrity, as an unimportant cog in a world so large and complex it could not be completely mastered. He lived during the "Little Ice Age" when his wine crops failed. The most common interpretation of this bad weather that lasted for many years was religious--God was punishing someone for something.
Montaigne, however, saw the religious and political structures not as the discovery of "truth" but of humans assigning their own views to a super natural being. Truth, he wrote, is a product of our own minds. Our minds in turn, he determined, were molded by our experiences and those of our ancestors
For him, the Bible did not contain any illuminating answers. In his writing he quoted a wide variety of writers and thinkers but there is no quotation from either the Old or New Testament. It is known his readers included Francis Bacon and William Shakespeare.
I wish it were possible to gauge the ebb and flow of religious influence and power in Europe and the U.S. over the past several hundred years. Records of secular thinking and secular groups shows the last half the 1700's and first part of the 1800's were strong for secular thinking.
Europe is now polling majority non Christian. Perhaps we are entering another era when secular thinking will again be popular.
Nature's Mutiny (2019) by Phillip Bloom

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