Last week, my Philosophy of Religion class was reading Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Book X to be specific, in which a pair of characters are talking about how full of misery and suffering the world is. After about half an hour of working through the dialogue together, one student raised her hand and asked, “Were things, like, really horrible back then? I mean, how miserable was the life then for them to go on listing all these terrible things?”
About half the class jumped up in appreciation of her point, while the other half just about leaped out of their chairs to make the point that the world is incredibly horrible NOW, full of intense suffering from which we are privileged enough to be sheltered. I asked them how many of them thought that things were better now (I left it intentionally vague) compared to the middle late 1700s. A smattering of hands went up. I asked how many of them thought that things were much worse now compared to back then. The majority raised their hands.
I thought of this article that I’d read the day before and posted a link on Blackboard to it for them to read. You should, too:
Believe it or not, the world of the past was much worse. Violence has been in decline for thousands of years, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in the existence of our species.
Don’t believe it? Read the rest.