Monday, January 4, 2016

The Atheist Cabal

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.


Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: 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.

I'd generally agree, and our "cult of reason" or "cult of progress" is closer to Feynmann's "cargo cult" than most people want to see. Technical control over nature is impressive, and really unexpected in my mind, but we're more "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" than the Sorcerer, depending on millions of years of accumulated and concentrated solar energy in our fossil fuels, and our reproductive success guarantees our failure, since we need more and more resources each year, more and more one-time resources, to keep our exponential growth system going. So none of that is "reason", but simple exploitation of things we did not create, things we can't replace, and we can't guarantee our descendant will have to exploit.

But I'm less agreeable about the choice between "belief in one God or belief in many gods, one community or in a community divided up into competing cults." What does this mean?

If there's one God, but many names for that God, and many interpretations of "his" mandates, then we're still divided up into competing cults.

And I am partial towards the mythology of many gods, whether or not their behavior is exemplary, seeing that towards Carl Jung's archetypes, seeing humans don't have fixed "instincts" like other animals, but that archetypes are the human version of instincts, and we experience them through our drives and our compulsions, and they represent honest divergent needs of living, and that maturity means we learn how to master these archetypes, at least to not associate their power with our sense of self. And I can consider if we refuse to acknowledge these instinctual archetypes, while believe only on "one God" then we're just as vulnerable to mistaking the directives of our subtle one god to the impulses of these lower god archetypes competing for our attention.

It is curious many people are proud to say they are "spiritual" but not religious, because we know all earthly religions are corrupted by power and confusion, but somehow such people can trust their own "heart" to experience God directly, without any corruption. It's clearly a naive position that just avoids inconvenient issues of our own divided nature.

I like the idea that a good religion contains structures that help people pay attention to the world and themselves in ways that we can see ourselves in the world, and the world in ourselves, and that that mirroring process allows us a path to self-correction, and to see past our naivety.

Finally E.F. Schumacher talks about a a chain of being to see beyond objective understanding.
Schumacher argues that by removing the vertical dimension from the universe and the qualitative distinctions of 'higher' and 'lower' qualities which go with it, materialistic scientism can in the societal sphere only lead to moral relativism and utilitarianism.

He argues that appreciating the different levels of being provides a simple but clear morality. The traditional view, has always been that the proper goal of humanity is " move higher, to develop one's highest faculties, to gain knowledge of the higher and highest things, and, if possible, to 'see God'. If one moves lower, develops only one's lower faculties, which we share with the animals, then one makes oneself deeply unhappy, even to the point of despair." This is a view, Schumacher says, which is shared by all the major religions. Many things, Schumacher says, while true at a lower level, become absurd at a higher level, and vice versa.

David Foster said...

C S Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters. Here's Screwtape himself, a senior and very experienced devil, instruction an apprentice tempter:

"We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and skeptics. At least, not yet. I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalize and mythologize their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, a belief in us (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy.

If once we can produce our perfect work—the Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshipping, what he vaguely calls “Forces” while denying the existence of “spirits”—then the end of the war will be in sight."

I think we have seen in recent years the rise of the Materialist Magician...people who reject "religion" and devoutly follow websites such as I Fu***** Love Science, but at the same time believe in magical crystals, astrology, reincarnation, a conscious Gaia, etc

Ares Olympus said...

Hey, David Foster, quoting Lewis's devious The Screwtape Letters opens the predicaments of all belief clearly, somehow our thoughts themselves are not to be trusted, when there are hidden devils twisting our understanding to their advantage. It could make a person paranoid, or it did me, when I first read it after college.

And perhaps the clever bumper sticks "Don't believe everything you think." attempts to remind of this vulnerability.

Or like Philosopher Christian de Quincey said "You can't help having beliefs, but you don't have to believe your beliefs"

For all we know blogging itself, may be the inspiration of metaphorical or real devils, whispering corruptions, changing direct experience into abstract categories and stereotypes of objects and projective fears that lose the very "spirit" of experience itself, and promote madness in all writers and readers alike?

Proverbs might offer a way out, like:
3:5 "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding."

I can make fun of people as naive when they talk of "heart", but probably that's more my fear that there is something more real than mere thoughts that allow me the illusion of control over ideas. Perhaps this experience we call heart contains a sort of embodied knowledge, one where we're not free to be objective observers judging the world as if it has nothing to do with us.

And if the word "heart" is worth anything, we really have to consider it means "interior of every being", so there's no reason to say only humans have an interior.

And personally, it makes sense to me to imagine a conscious Gaia, as metaphor and mystery, and of what we can only know through our own limited experience of consciousness. Or Jung's collective unconscious works as well. The soul may be real, and there is only one we all share, and the heart is our gateway to its wisdom?

You have to have poetic meaning to say anything here. And as soon as you say it, the corruption begins.

Anonymous said...

G.K. Chesterton — 'When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.

Leo G said...

Interesting about re-incarnation.

The Catholic Church has NO position on this. Some of the Church Fathers actually thought that it could be God's way to give a repentant another chance at Heaven.

Anonymous said...

RE:Interesting about re-incarnation.
The Catholic Church has NO position on this. Some of the Church Fathers actually thought that it could be God's way to give a repentant another chance at Heaven.

I am not a Catholic and do not know who they deem their church fathers if different from the apostles but I would not go by them but by the Book. I don't think you will find a place for reincarnation in "Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, ..." Heb. 9:27

Stuart Schneiderman said...

As I understand it, the Church Fathers were the first great Christian theologians. The last one would have been Augustine, and that would have been around 400 A.D. Among the others, off the top of my head, were Jerome, Tertullian, Justinian, Irenaeus,Gregory of Nyssa.... And there were many more. But, the point to note is that later theologians were not called Church Fathers. Perhaps Leo has a better list as I do not have the time right now to look it up.