Romanticism vs Enlightenment

For over a thousand years, science lived happily together with faith. Both existed for different reasons, so why would there be any conflict? Science focuses on building knowledge, while faith concerns itself with the more spiritual questions like: ‘Why are we here?’ and ‘What is good?’. This went smoothly for thousands of years….

Enter the Age of Enlightenment… Suddenly everything had to be done differently. And it seems that most people still struggle with this.

The Age of Enlightenment came 250 years ago and started a massive conflict between romanticism and the ‘enlightened’. There is a lot to find about both movements in literature and google. I will provide a simple explanation:

Romanticism focuses on the emotional value of all that we do. Nowadays – Art, poetry, novels, movies and many other ways in which people express themselves are found everywhere around us. We can thank romanticism for this change, because before this movement, it was nearly impossible to earn a living that way. Focusing on emotional value, romanticism tries to answer questions like ‘what is good?’ and ‘what is beautiful?’.

On the other end, we have the Enlightenment. This movement states that life is about gaining knowledge and following reason. Truth is the only thing that matters. Thus faith was suddenly questioned.

I love reading about this age. Especially the romanticism movement. But what shocks me is the impact is still having on our society, 250 years later. This impact can be clearly seen in the following two areas.

Knowledge is often seen as the goal in our life

In the western world, knowledge and science are often seen as the most important things to dedicate our lives to. Being successful is directly linked to knowing things that other people do not. I have made that mistake after I graduated, I directly started focusing on my career to become successful. Unfortunately, due to me being a romantic, this led to a burnout. I was trying to gain knowledge, simply because I had no idea what else I should focus on. You don’t simply create emotional value… In retrospect, I realize that faith could have helped me during my struggle.

Faith is often rationalized

Many people still feel the need to rationalize faith. They try to understand how someone could walk on water. I often catch myself in similar ways of thinking. But this is wrong! Faith has nothing to do with science and we must stop trying to connect the two. It’s not an or/or situation, both sides work together. I try to see things as follows: faith gives us direction and value, science makes things understandable.

I do want to stress that by faith, I am not necessarily talking about believing in a man with a beard who lives above us in the clouds. It is about being able to give direction and value to your life. Whether you use faith for that or not, is completely up to you.

Eventually, we are born on this earth without a manual and we must figure out ourselves how we spend our life. Science will never give the answer to this, we will always depend on faith.

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