Re Modernity and Religion

by Leveret

TR just posted a long quote from Adler. The crux of the quote is that far from destroying religion, science makes it more authentic by stripping superstition away from religion. The quote was posted without comment, save that it was ‘interesting’ given an (ostensible) increase in fundamentalism in recent years.

This is not the whole story, however. While I would argue that science, as we understand the term today, was developed from and is at the heart of Western Christianity (and Catholicism in particular) scientism is a very real enemy of religion.

What does scientism mean? Webster’s defines it as “an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities).” Scientism, then, is an abuse of the scientific method that rejects, out of hand, the possibility of revelation (what TR might deride as ‘superstition’), because it cannot be weighed or measured or tested in a lab. Scientism expels philosophy, once called (rightly) the Queen of the Sciences, on the same grounds.

Scientism poisons everything it touches. It poisoned Darwinism by spawning eugenics. It poisoned economics by inspiring the catastrophe of Marxism. It poisons religion by stripping away revelation and leaving behind fuzzy, content-free ‘faiths’ such as Anglicanism and Presbyterianism.

The public debate between Religion and Science today is really a conflict between Religion and Scientism. The wages are the coarse and clumsy rhetoric of the so-called New Atheists and their leader Richard Dawkins. Here’s a great quote from the London Review of Books:

Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince.

Here is another worthy quote from the Capuchin priest Father Raniero Cantalamessa:


The refusal of scientism must not of course induce to the refusal of science or to diffidence in confrontations of it, as the refusal of rationalism does not lead to the refusal of reason. To do otherwise would be to wrong faith, even before wronging science. History has painfully taught us where such an attitude leads.

The scientific vision of reality, together with man, even takes Christ away from the center of the universe with one blow. He is reduced, to used the words of M. Blondel, to “a historical incident, isolated from the cosmos as a false episode, an intruder or a lost soul in the crushing and hostile immensity of the Universe.”

The influence is perceived also in the religious field. There are widespread forms of religiosity in which contact and syntony with the energies of the cosmos has taken the place of contact with God as way of salvation. What Paul said of God: “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), is said of the material cosmos.

In certain aspects, it is a return to the pre-Christian vision which had as its scheme: God — cosmos — man, and to which the Bible and Christianity opposed the scheme: God — man — cosmos. The cosmos is for man, not man for the cosmos.

There is, however, a profound difference: in ancient thought, above all Greek thought, man, though subordinated to the cosmos, has a very lofty dignity, as the masterful work of Max Pohlenz, “Greek Man,” brought to light…, today instead they seem to take pleasure in lowering man and stripping him of every pretext of superiority over the rest of nature. Beyond an “atheist humanism,” at least from this point of view, it seems to me that one should speak of an atheistic anti-humanism.

Whole homily here. As they say, read the whole thing.

One response to “Re Modernity and Religion

  1. It is probably a good time to note that Adler himself converted to Catholicism later in life. Superstition is to religion what aromatherapy is to medicine, it takes into account only a very narrow view of the universe. Why it is interesting in terms of the current trend of fundamentalism and mass conversion is that these were the conditions which Hume saw as the decisive factors in the High minded Christianity of Augustine becoming the superstition filled religion of the Middle Ages. I agree that religion is a necessary part of man’s quest for truth, but religion for religion’s sake benefits no-one.

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