The Italian Renaissance refers to a period when the society in Italy began to experience a number of changes in various forms. Although these changes first began to take place in some regions of Europe, they eventually caught up in the whole Europe. In Italy, the period began to take effect in the fourteenth century. The trend continued to grow into the two centuries that followed. In fact, the word ‘Renaissance’ is a new one that only began to appear in literary works in the 19th century (Burke 98). The word is taken from the Italian word rinascimento, which means rebirth. During the period, there were great changes that were realized in the new Europe that did not exist or take place before the Renaissance. Most of these changes became conspicuous at the end of the century despite having actually started earlier on. Most of the changes took place as a result of a renewed interest in the classical antiquity and mostly affected the elite, while the rest of the population only came to feel these effects towards the middle of the period.
Cultural achievements that came about as a result of the Italian Renaissance represent one of the aspects that are best known about that period. They came first of all in the field of literature. There are several authors that came up during that time who wrote about the period in vernacular. Notable ones include Luigi Pulci, Maria Boiardo, and Ludovico Aristo. This period also saw emergence of certain literary personalities who helped to translate works from traditional vernacular into a language that was perceived to be more modern. The most notable individual in this category is Poet Poliziano (Reynolds). The field of painting also went through major milestones in this period. Italian paintings took over and gained complete dominance in most parts of Europe. This was made possible through presence and contribution of artists such as Fra Angelico, Giotto Bondone, Leonardo, and Botticelli among others.
Humanism can be defined as the situation when people have a certain mindset that makes them give more importance to human beings. This often blinds them or makes them become unaware or give less importance to existence and significance of supernatural or divine issues. The mindset of humanists has made them capable only of reasoning and thinking about things that are human and, whenever in crisis, there is a trend to only look for those solutions that seem to be rational and within the human scope (Hale 67). This therefore means that they do not give significance to those occurrences in the world that cannot be explained and are often assumed to be the making of some supernatural or divine being. Humanists often believe that things that occur are results of human actions and behavior.
Renaissance humanism (or sometimes just humanism) refers to a philosophy that first started to appear in the period between 1400 and 1650. During this time, there were certain philosophies that began to take effect after a certain period of being almost inexistent. These philosophies concerned a lot about secularism. They promoted personal independence as well as individual expression. There was also an idea of dominant existence of humans who appreciated worldly pleasures. There were several factors present in this age that contributed to the rise of humanism. These was expansion of trade that brought with it development of many forms of luxury and prosperity (Andersen and Fetner 311-330). People caught in this philosophy also had a chance to expand their social contacts, which enabled them to yearn even more for worldly pleasures despite the fact that most of them had already paid their allegiance to the Christian doctrines that existed at that time. The growing number of humanists began to embrace people who helped in the promotion of this philosophy such as classical writers, especially those whose writings promoted doctrines of the humanism philosophy.
Beliefs in Supernaturalism
One of the points that were held by humanists during the Renaissance period is the belief in supernaturalism despite modern scientific explanations that existed. The main difference that existed between the two different groups between of humanists of that period is that the mindset of the supernaturalism was still focused on the past belief that any occurrence in the world could be explained through certain collective ideologies and ways of thinking that had been in the mind of humans for a long time. The other group however believed in gaining understanding and getting plausible explanations for things that took place regardless of whether they were the only ones who held these facts to be true. Therefore, humanists at that time found themselves torn between believing in existence of supernaturalism and basing everything on science and facts (Reynolds).
As the time went by, beliefs in supernaturalism began to slowly fade away as the belief in the human system began to gain more popularity. This therefore meant that more and more people began to disregard or stop thinking about the life that would follow the earthy one and instead believed in the now and what they were already seeing and experiencing. Before that, most people believed that the life that they were living was simply a means of access to or training for another life that would come later. It was therefore just a sort of a crossing for them (Black 54). This notion began to slowly slip away as people began to view the current life as the only one they had and, therefore, they needed to make the most of it because when it ends, they believed that all would end and there would be no other life that would follow. As the Renaissance humanism began to gain strength, confidence in the current world was taking more ground while that of the next life promised by God in several religions started vanishing slowly.
In essence, humanism mostly consisted of aesthetic value of things rather than their scientific and supernatural aspects. During this period, most contributions given by people in the field of science consisted of facts that were gathered from Greek literature (Andersen and Fetner 311-330).
.This was because literature was laden with facts that were perceived to be more accurate and therefore more likely to make sense. Belief and faith began to lose followers as many people were now concerned about reason relating to present facts. People had more courage to be curios and doubtful about certain issues as compared to the past when all they had to do was believe whenever they encountered situations that they could not adequately explain. Humans began to reason out and investigate things for themselves instead of following beliefs and doctrines that had been laid out by people who had existed before them.
Humanism Aspects during the Renaissance
There are many aspects of humanism during the Renaissance period that are similar to the current situation in the United States. This is especially so when it comes to religion and values that various religions have held for many years (Hale 67). People have become more aware and are questioning everything that they come across, in the process rejecting existence of a supernatural force that is in control of everything. Religion that has greatly suffered from this doubt and investigation is Christianity. Over the decades, Christianity has been the main religion as it has managed to set roots in many parts of the world, only being followed closely by Islam.
There is extensive analysis that has been taking place over the years regarding things that exist in the Bible and the proof that these things have ever been in existence in the first place. It has led to the rise in the number of pagans and atheists. The latter do not belief in the presence and existence of God or any other supreme being who created all things that are in the world and who controls every aspect of human life. Most people who are religious often believe that when they dedicate themselves to the supreme being, they are able to change the course of their lives and are even sometimes able to get out of situations in ways that they cannot explain, thus leading them to believe it to be intervention of the supreme being. Atheists, on the contrary, believe that everything that happens in human life is a result of human activities. They do not believe in fortune changing because of some interventions that cannot be explained. Most things that happen that people do not look forward to are often mostly considered as a coincidence (Burke 98).
Doubt in the existence of supreme beings has also given humans freedom and courage to follow those things that they see as beneficial or that make sense to them. Human beings are no longer afraid of acting in a way that they feel without fearing that there are dreadful consequences awaiting them (Blank 54). Most people believe in the fact that life that they are now living is all they will ever have because there is very little, if any, evidence that after this one people will live again in whatever forms that are preached by various religions. This has made them yearn to have all the best of everything that they can get their hands on while they are still alive rather than wait for the future or the afterlife where the scriptures promised them a reward for their actions. Human beings have therefore become more vengeful and materialistic than they were in the past due to the increased spread of the humanism theory. Wealth and good life have been given more importance than preservation of cultural and social values that had more significance in the past.
Human beings, having decided that there are no consequences or next lives, have begun to engage in acts that were seen as forbidden before. The best example that is affecting the country is the presence of gay and lesbian rights. These are people who fall in love with other people of the same sex. The Bible explicitly rebukes any activities of this nature. However, the number of people who still give importance to it has greatly reduced, hence increasing the number of people who support the new trend. In fact, most people who belong to this population usually have lost their assurance in any religion. Their argument is that if indeed there is a supreme being who is in charge of human way of life, He would not have created them to have the kind of feelings that they posses and then rebuke them in the holy book. The fact that God did not make a provision for them is proof enough that chances that he actually exists are minimal. Religious groups and leaders are increasingly finding it difficult to try and convince non-believers that the doctrines they are preaching are true (Burke 99).
The rebellion that is present in human beings is also visible in other aspects of their lives such as dress code. In the past, there were certain types of clothing that were reserved for certain types of people and would not be ventured into by others. However, nowadays people dress the way they like and have even embraced certain traditions and ceremonies that allow them to do just that. For instance, during events like Halloween, people wear different types of clothing to try to imitate certain figures in the society (Reynolds 123). The main agenda that seems to rule the world today is that there are actually no consequences to actions that they take part in. Therefore, humans have learnt to live freely and do things the way their hearts desire.
In a nutshell, there are several aspects of the Renaissance humanism that are present in the current age in the United States. One of them is the spirit of rebellion and independent thinking, as well as the ability to analyze situations and circumstances based purely on facts that can be seen and not those that demand blind faith. The difference between the two periods is that humanism in the current age has grown much more rapidly than it did in the past due to the increase and advancement in technology, as well as the spread of knowledge and influence through education.