Humanist Culture vs. Religion?- A Streetlight Named DESIRE!

I never heard of this particular Vatican uproar … but the Vatican has done a lot of changing since Darwin found his map to the Galapagos Islands under a streetlight in Rome! (< the Darwin reference is NOT a fact; it was added only for the sake of Humor !)

Interesting, but I’m skeptical without a reference. It looks like a blogger was able to find a quote from the book referenced in the meme, but it doesn’t really mention anything about the third part of the claim there.


I’m pretty sure gas lighting is discouraged here on this forum. :wink:


We can over look misspelling, too. :grin:


Interesting? Humour? Those silly 200 year old RCs eh?

If it is faked… it is certainly impressive in its rhetorical restraint. Let’s see what I can find…


Not faked!

The second claim also did not capitalize the the phrase “Papal states”. The Papal States or officially the State of the Church was the pope’s temporal realm on Earth before Italian nationalists of liberal bourgeois background unified the Italian peninsula under one secular nation-state.

I am still skeptical of the third claim because I do not see this information anywhere else.

I think the blogger is correct that Pope Gregory XVI did not ban these modern technologies for theological reasons and that his successor, Pope Pius IX, brought some technological modernization despite turning more reactionary over time. It is not the Catholic Church as a whole that opposed technological progress but a pope who still ruled over a large portion of the Italian peninsula but experienced anxiety about a changing world and wanted to preserve a traditional social order. That is what I think was going on.


I am not sure I understand your skepticism. I found the exact quote in a different book.
So it’s possible that the person who published the meme got his references confused.

As I quote from Joffe’s book “My Name is Heretic: Reforming the Church…”, we read that Pope Gregory the 16th opposed street lamps because “putting lights up after sundown flew in the face of God’s law” (i.e., lights to mark the day and the night).

If this is not a THEOLOGICAL reason … what would you call it? It’s certainly not a scientific reason.

I wanted to see if there is anything spoken or written by Pope Gregory XVI that explicitly referred to the argument in the meme’s third claim.

I should have clarified by “technological modernization”, Pope Piux IX allowed gaslights along with other the technologies his predecessor, Pope Gregory XVI, refused to have in the Papal States.


I think it is helpful to read the details in the book I found with the details.

Pope Gregory XVI made his example in the Papal territory because he was in charge of that.
His EXPLANATION was a theological one - - not a budgetary or technological one.

I don’t think anyone has charged the Catholics as an aggregate with this bias against street lights.

Your book’s author does not cite the information in that excerpt, so I was uncertain if Pope Gregory XVI actually used that argument. But I do not know if I completely agree with all the blogger’s arguments from @Laura’s post. I just want to look for more information.

By “the Catholic Church as a whole”, I mean the Catholic Church’s hierarchy as a whole because I know that there were various factions and personalities, but the meme does not capture that nuance.

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That’s kind of how I felt. I tend to distrust memes, especially if they cite a source that really doesn’t seem to back up the information, at least from the little I’ve had time to Google. Joffe’s seems closer to the initial claim, but still doesn’t cite any primary source. Sometimes the “whys” of an action are harder to ascertain without direct quotes.


The blogger is rightly critical about the meme, but both are naturally biased. (I mean we all are biased.) However, the blogger put a lot of effort into his arguments, whereas the meme like any other meme is just propaganda. I do not mean that memes are always false, but propaganda can contain facts, half-facts, non-facts, or a mixture of all of them.



I backed up the meme… if anyone wants to challenge the Pope’s motivations, I leave that to you and them.

I agree. @gbrooks9, does Joffe cite a source? It seems an odd claim when man has used fire at night longer than any other tool that I know of…perhaps pre religion. Thanks.

@Randy and @Thanh_C:

I have located the source (or one of them) for the meme. You now know as much as I do.

To read that you think the Pope makes “an odd claim” is hilarious. No doubt, this general thought
has been offered to any number of fellow readers of Papal decrees over the centuries!

I leave it to you and yours to uncover the Pope’s though processes.

Mr Brooks, it reminds me of the claim that Popes opposed Galileo because they thought the earth was flat. It was a popular belief at one time. I am finding it interesting. I am taking the allusion with a grain of salt. Not being Catholic I have no big dog in this race, except concern that rather unusual claims that prove mistaken can hurt both sides’ credibility. It would be an interesting study in psychology either way if true or false…Thanks.

Noooo, we are talking about Bruce Joffe’s lack of citation about the church’s argument, which the meme’s third claim copied and pasted, because we are trying to figure whether or not Pope Gregory XVI actually used that argument.

Anyways, I was doing a lot digging on Google Books, but I only found one relevant result. It is from Volume IV of The American Protestant, published in 1848, two years after Gregory died. (This is the only primary source that I could find.)

Assuming that the story from the Protestant magazine is true, Gregory was concerned that the implementation of gas lights would distract people from honoring the saints and thus entail disrespect to traditions. (1) I suppose that his reason for concern was religious, but it was not exactly the same as the one in Joffe’s text. In an attempt to read between the lines, however, I think he also did not want his people carouse late into the night, or worse, politically organize outside of their homes.

Fears of political subversion, according to a historian, also made Gregory banned railways in the Papal States. (2) In a wordplay in French, he reputedly called the railroad the “road to hell”. (3) I am sure that he did not literally meant that anyone who build railways or ride trains will go to hell. After all, he was known to use humor. I think he was conveying a personal distaste traditionalists had against the effects of industrialization on the traditional world they lived in.

It is true that the 19th century Catholic Church was dogmatic and expected science to be subordinated to its teachings, but the meme is probably not correct on why some modern technologies were forbidden by a particular pope. Political reasons primarily motivated resistance to technological modernization in the Papal States. The next pope was still reactionary and expectant of science’s subordination to the Church, but he introduced gas lights and railways to his temporal realm because he was more practical. No theological turnabout happened as the policies only applied to how the pope wanted to govern his temporal realm.

(1) I do wonder who recorded the encounter between the gas light company chairman and the pope.

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I dont really understand why does this thread exist in the first place. If it was for joke purposes well it really got into a serious converaation quickly. As for the meme. Nothing new. People (leaders) have done stupid things over the ages. So what? As for the title humanist culture vs religion ? As if religion didnt attributed to humanistic ideas . But i digress


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