I am currently reading a really fascinating book. In a nutshell what Brad Gregory is arguing is that the Protestant Reformation played a pivotal role on the journey of Western societies towards
A hyperpluralism of religious and secular beliefsThe secular world we live in today is the unintended eventual result of the train of events set in play by the Reformation. None of this was what the Reformers had in mind — indeed, they would turn in their graves if they could see the longterm consequences of what they did. Nevertheless, he argues, the Reformation shaped the world we now live in in ways far deeper than many have realized.
An absence of any substantive common good
The triumph of capitalism and its driver, consumerism
It is a pretty controversial book, as you can imagine. I have no doubts that it will bring joy to a fair few Catholics and enrage Protestants. However, the basic argument seems rather plausible so far (I am about half way through). I have long suspected that the Reformation did play an important role in the rise of secularism but this book makes a far more detailed and eloquent case for that vague instinct.
The author, Brad S. Gregory, is the Dorothy G. Griffin Associate Professor of Early Modern European History at the University of Notre Dame.
Hardcover: 520 pages
Publisher: Harvard University Press, 2012
Highly recommended, even if you don't agree with it all.