Summing up: Democracy the First Time

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In the first chapters on the individual and the emergence of democracy, one could possibly get the impression that antiquity's road to individual freedom and democracy was almost like a staircase, where people were moving steadily, step by step, towards greater autonomy and more participation, and then there was another staircase, where everything went steadily downhill.

But it was not that simple. Developments in antiquity were more like one of those climbing walls which climbers practice on: the way up is convoluted and full of challenges, and every time you lose your grip, you fall back a little.

The claim that Christianity itself should be a special precondition for democracy must also be said to be baseless. Instead, it looks no different from other religions. None of the world's religions so far has introduced, of its own accord, all the things that a democracy is based on: referenda, parliaments, gender equality, free speech, religious freedom, privacy of correspondence and protection of minorities.

Religions have also had problematic relationships with general education, science, freedom of research and public debate; they have rarely denounced torture and the death penalty (on the contrary they have often made use of it); and they have rarely protected the individual against abuses by the authorities, which most often were religious anyway.

Judaism and Islam, because of their status as law-based religions, have at times had independent courts, a degree of equality before the law, and a widely known and publicly accessible law. But the people have had no influence on the law themselves.

Rather than religions, it has been humanism, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and democracy, which have introduced these basic rights in Europe and North America.


Next chapter: About the Emergence of Modern Democracy