Machiavelli blamed the Italians’ loss of civic spirit on the church, attacked the temporal interests of the papacy for preventing Italian unity, and questioned the values of Christianity itself. Machiavelli evidently believed that the purpose of government was less to prepare people for the City of God than to make them upstanding citizens of this world—ready to fight, work, and die for their earthly country.
Pondering, then, why it can be that in those ancient times people were greater lovers of freedom than in these, I conclude it came from the same cause that makes men now less hardy. That I believe is the difference between our religion and the ancient. Ours, because it shows us the truth, and the true way makes us esteem less the honor of the world; whereas the pagans, greatly esteeming such honor and believing it their greatest good, were fiercer in their actions…. Ancient religion … attributed blessedness only to men abounding in worldly glory, such as generals of armies and princes of states. Our religion has glorified humble and contemplative men rather than active ones. It has, then, set up as the greatest good humility, abjectness and contempt for human things; the other put it in grandeur of mind, in strength of body, and in all the other things apt to make men exceedingly vigorous.