Category Archives: Religion

Why do we like music?

by Leveret

Our recent discussions about scientism and logical positivism remind me of something I have been thinking about for a long time. What is the empirical basis for admiring beauty? In recognizing the beauty of other humans, the answer is easy – the things that we look for (symmetry, good skin etc) are markers of good physical health and good genes.

What, however, is a comparable basis for our appreciation of music? Continue reading


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.

Modernity and Religion

by The Rhetor

I thought I would start off the new year with a quote from Mortimer J. Adler, an American philosopher and author of “how to read a book” (which I will be reviewing in the coming week). This passage bears a resemblance to David Hume’s Natural History of Religion, though Hume saw the transition of superstition to pure religion as a cycle where as pure forms of religion became popular the mass of people attached their superstitions to it. In a time when religious fundamentalism seems to be on the rise this is food for thought.

“I suggest that the men and women who have given up religion because of the impact on their minds of modern science and philosophy were never truly religious in the first place, but only superstitious. The prevalence and predominance of science in our culture has cured a great many of the superstitious beliefs that constituted their false religiosity. The increase of secularism and irreligion in our society does not reflect a decrease in the number of persons who are truly religious, but a decrease in the number of those who are falsely religious; that is, merely superstitious. There is no question but that science is the cure for superstition, and, if given half the chance with education, it will reduce the amount that exists. The truths of religion must be compatible with the truths of science and the truths of philosophy. As scientific knowledge advances, and as philosophical analysis improves, religion is progressively purified of the superstitions that accidentally attach themselves to it as parasites. That being so, it is easier in fact to be more truly religious today than ever before, precisely because of the advances that have been made in science and philosophy. That is to say, it is easier for those who will make the effort to think clearly in and about religion, not for those whose addiction to religion is nothing more than a slavish adherence to inherited superstition. Throughout the whole of the past, only a small number of men were ever truly religious. The vast majority who gave their epochs and their societies the appearance of being religious were primarily and essentially superstitious.”

P.A. says no to hater imams

by The Rhetor

The Washington Post reports on the Palestinian Authority’s clamp down on sermons in West Bank mosques. The Authority’s Minister for Religious Affairs Mahmoud Habbash closely monitors and provides guidance on the content of the sermons given by the imams under the Authority’s jurisdiction. The Fattah regime can only be seen by those under its control as a Vichy government and the West must be cautious in its dealings with this group of strong-men.

In order to secure peace in the Levant  Western  governments must avoid politically convenient solutions involving armed political factions and seek to establish functioning democracies that maintain a separation of church and state, promote individual freedoms and political pluralism.

Has the Church’s hard line on condoms softened?

by Leveret

Let’s face it, the media was never going to get this one right.  With their usual incompetence and need to condense complicated news into a five word headline, they mischaracterised the Pope’s comments and the Church’s actual stance towards condoms.

Austen Ivereight at America gives a pretty good background here:

The Church is opposed to artificial contraception, not condoms per se. Just as, in Humanae vitae, the Pill may be used for medical purposes (to prevent heavy bleeding, say), if the intention of using a condom is to prevent infection, not pregnancy, then it was not contraceptive in intention. The point is obvious that — not to put too fine a point on it– a condom used between two men can hardly be considered contraceptive in its purpose; and the same would be true if a husband who returns from the mines infected with HIV uses one to stop his wife getting infected.