The atheist cabal would like you to believe that the arc of history is trending inexorably toward nonbelief. It does not accept the authority of God, but prefers the authority of science, or of whatever passes for science these days. It fails for not recognizing the difference between what science can do and what science cannot do. As I mentioned yesterday, after David Hume, science cannot set down moral principles and cannot tell you how you should or should not behave.
The atheists are using a commonplace rhetorical ploy. They want to make people believe that the gods of historical inevitability are trending in one and not another direction and that everyone should ride the wave. This implies that the outcome is inevitable and that their actions cannot really change it in one way or another. It also implies that freedom is an illusion, one that you should be happy to abandon.
If you tell people that everyone is doing something—cosi fan tutti—you will make them feel that if they do not pledge their loyalty to it they are hopelessly retrograde and ignorant.
Atheists believe that the more rational we are and the more we believe in science the more the New Jerusalem will descend on the earth. Then, having overcome superstition, we will all live in peace and harmony.
Remember Carl Becker’s book: The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth Century Philosophers. Becker argued that the great Enlightenment thinkers were promoting a vision that originated in the Bible and Augustine, but had gussied it up in more modern terms. Just because you claim that you have overcome religion does not mean that you have necessarily overcome religion. You might believe that you have done so, but you are then relying on belief not science.
As you know Steven Pinker argues that the world is becoming less violent, thanks to science and reason. This may or may not be statistically true, but the twentieth century, just recently completed, was anything but a paean to the power of reason. If we begin with the number of people who were killed during wars, add the number of people who died in epidemics and follow with the number of people who starved to death in famines, the twentieth century was more a horror show than a time of peace and love.
Of course, Pinker thinks that the triumph of reason will inevitably lead in only one direction. If I recall correctly, Malcolm Gladwell objected that people who watch the stock market sometimes predict that the good times will continue forever… which really means that the good times are about to end.
Besides, many of the worst horrors of the twentieth century were caused when great thinkers and great leaders tried to build a culture based on atheism. Communism was the most conspicuous effort to found a culture on godlessness. The body count surpassed one hundred million.
Atheists dismiss Communism as a flawed experiment, but when the experiment does not prove your hypothesis a true scientist and a rational thinker revises his hypothesis. The most conspicuous and radical effort to create a culture of godlessness must count on the balance sheet of atheism. Given that outcome, one understands why today’s atheists would be presenting so much happy talk.
Some atheists have suggested that Communism, like fascism, was really a pagan cult, thus, not a proper experiment in creating values based on rational and scientific and materialistic thought. If they think like the noted polemicist Christopher Hitchens did, they add that everything bad in civilization has been caused by religion while everything good has been produced by reason and science. It’s called playing with loaded dice. It is not an appeal to your rational faculties, but an effort to manipulate your emotions by cherry-picking facts that seem to support your ideology.
As it happens, they blissfully ignore the fact that the work of reason is essential to theology, most especially, in the West, in the work of Thomas Aquinas.
In truth, the atheist faith in the ability of reason and science to solve all problems is properly a blind faith. It is also an idolatrous faith, one that worships the god of reason, Apollo and the goddess of science and wisdom, Athena. Some atheists prefer the goddess of sensuality, Aphrodite and the god of Spring Break, Dionysius.
If it is true, and I have no reason to think otherwise, that science cannot provide us with moral principles—as mentioned in a post yesterday, science is about what is while ethics is about what should—then it is inevitable that those who do not believe in the one God of Western civilization would form cults to the many gods whose reign was supplanted by the one God of the Old Testament.
By my theory, some of our greatest thinkers in recent times, from Marx to Freud to Heidegger have set out to correct God’s mistakes. They have wanted, as I argued in my book The Last Psychoanalyst, to recreate humanity in order to make it better conform to their vision. If that is the case, then these geniuses were promoting themselves as demiurges. In some cases they believed that history was on their side. In other cases, less so. It does not take too much of a leap to see that the political versions of these demiurges should promote themselves as gods whose purpose is to bring the transformation to pass. One notes, with some amusement, that the refusal to accept human nature, with its flaws and foibles and freedoms, as it is represents a denial of science.
Atheists will tell you that no one goes to church any more, certainly not in Europe. But this seems to mean that, having renounced God and all of his works, they are left practicing a form of stealth idolatry, one that they do not even recognize as such? The evidence suggests as much.
Naomi Schaefer Riley writes in the Wall Street Journal today:
Not in Europe, however, where the churches, once so important, are now empty. For the champions of the secularization thesis, such a development is nothing to complain about: Empty churches are a sign of reason’s progress. Mr. [Rodney] Stark offers some amusing evidence to the contrary. Drawing on the Gallup poll, he notes that Europeans hold all sorts of supernatural beliefs. In Austria, 28% of respondents say they believe in fortune tellers; 32% believe in astrology; and 33% believe in lucky charms. “More than 20 percent of Swedes believe in reincarnation,” Mr. Stark writes; “half believe in mental telepathy.” More than half of Icelanders believe in huldufolk, hidden people like elves and trolls. It seems as if the former colonial outposts for European missionaries are now becoming more religious, while Europe itself is becoming interested in primitive folk beliefs.
Making the alternative between reason and superstition or between atheism and irrational belief obscures the issue. The real choice is between belief in one God or belief in many gods, in one community or in a community divided up into competing cults, each led by a god or goddess whose behavior is anything but exemplary.