During both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, pagan learning played a considerable part in the intellectual life of Western Christendom. Thanks to the endeavors of medieval thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas, ideas from antiquity, most notably the philosophy of Aristotle, were successfully incorporated into the Christian worldview.
Yet such ideas were always subordinate to the dictates of Christian theology. Pagan learning tended to be used as a means to an end, to serve the interests of the Church. During the Renaissance, however, this attitude changed completely. Now, pagan ideas were valued for themselves, not simply for what they could do to bolster the Church's monopoly on learning.
Though most Renaissance thinkers identified themselves as Christians, many of them came to realize that pagan learning could lead to conclusions, especially in what came to be known as the natural sciences, which could contradict the teachings of the Church. Now that the fruits of ancient learning were...
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