What does religion go with, and what does it go against? I am thinking primarily of the Catholic religion, which I consider to be Christianity, par excellence; but my observations will apply to others, including, I think, all religions when they are sane.
That is quite the qualification, however. From the beginning, it implies that religion is in accord with reason. It is not the same thing, but harmonious with it. Where it is not, we discover a problem, or more usually a spider’s nest of problems, on one side, or the other, or both.
Warren’s “iron law of paradox,” or “paradoxical law of irony,” should keep us on our guard, however. Neither religion nor reason is glib. What may appear superficially to be a contradiction, to the glib observer, need not be casually dismissed. Modern atheism depends on refutations that are only microns deep, and quickly evaporate when the sun gets in.
This is specifically a Catholic observation, but it gets a nod from Protestant and most other sane religious leaders, including “mainstream” imams. Islam is a religion of will, not reason, and yet the conception of Allah has seldom, without violence, been held to conflict with the findings of plausible science – today, or in the Islam of one thousand years ago.
Similarly, through India and the Far East, there has never been a coherent opposition to what we would call common sense. Depths beneath or flights over this world have been preached (often explicitly paradoxical), but Richard Dawkins’s “Flying Spaghetti Monster” would be recognized by any as an asinine thing.
Nor do we find any sustained opposition to free inquiry, in any religious histories. This is because faith enters into them all. People who believe that they are on a wavelength with divine reality will, even when wrong, expect to be proved right.
Indeed, to my view, the danger in “radical Islam” today, is doubt. The terrorists aren’t sure that Allah is there; they commit acts of violence to force the issue. They put Allah to the test, like skeptics. This is a classic atheist maneuver: to reduce the religious to the political, so one may take control.
All who “play God” are in this position. We have seen it in Christian, and all other traditions. Nietzsche was to be commended for exposing it within our modernist psyche. The ideological proceed as if God isn’t there; and in a sense, He isn’t. He has withdrawn from the mind that has no faith or trust in Him.
The “God that failed” was no God at all, was never, as our own thinkers and saints have preached. The man without God – “the godless” – was in all cultures a figure of fear and horror, from the instinct that nothing would restrain him.
It took the 20th century, with its hecatombs of death, to demonstrate that their instinct was sound. A hundred million corpses testified to what happens when men make a god of “man.” It is not a risk, but a certainty, as generations of the persecuted, of all religions, have known.
And as Christ Himself taught, there are demons loosed by this. A pact without God is a pact with the Devil, and an invitation to the Father of Lies to build upon the first human lie.
I’m aware that this is an “unmodern observation.” Those who disbelieve in God will hardly be caught out worshipping or substituting Satan in His place, if they are at all clever. Even a child caught out in theft will try to deny it, or excuse it if he can’t. As an aside, I would point to the tremendous salvific value of Confession.
My chief “political” worry at the present day is about the broad, but glib, rejection of religion. I would guess that a majority in Western society thinks it is irrelevant to their lives, and a growing number of these would expressly declare that they are “nones” on a questionnaire.
I call them glib, because they can’t imagine that this could be important; most have never devoted four minutes’ thought to this. Thank God, for the most part, they have not thought through the implications of their dismissal.
Or rather, don’t thank God, for atheism is, both subtly and unsubtly, the means to their damnation. The godless man knows in his heart (do I echo Biblical proverbs?) that he can do whatever he can get away with. His restraint is only the prospect of humiliation, should he get caught; and if, as typically, he thinks himself smarter than his fellows, this is no restraint.
He needn’t commit “the perfect crime,” just one that is unlikely to be discovered. Again and again, we see scandals in public life, modeled on common scandals in private. “Progressive” people, who would legislate for others, hardly live by their own rules when they think backs are turned. Consult any newscast.
We call this behavior a “failure of conscience,” when we ourselves should realize that conscience hasn’t come into it. For these are the sort of crimes, often small and miserable acts of hypocrisy – that are inevitable once conscience has been suppressed.
I remember this from my youth in the hippie age: the campaign against Guilt. The suppression of conscience was not merely lax. It was part of an intention, to be free of restraints. “Free love,” for instance, was unrestrained fornication (except for such fears as of venereal disease). We would rebel against our elders, and thus rebel from their gods.
Ultimately, we would rebel from Love, as any force that would bind us. We would be responsible only to our own desires. We’d embrace the “right to choose,” even our own sex, or finally to kill the inconvenient.
To my mind, our present conception of freedom – blazoned in our godless media – reveals everything. It is the signal for more horrors that are coming, not by accident, but through acts of our own “liberated” will.
*Image: Narcissus by Caravaggio, c. 1598 [Palazzo Barberini, Rome]