Atheism & Civilization

7338586-3x2-700x467The thinness of the new atheism is evident in its approach to our civilization, which until recently was religious to its core. To regret religion is, in fact, to regret our civilization and its monuments, its achievements, and its legacy. And in my own view, the absence of religious faith, provided that such faith is not murderously intolerant, can have a deleterious effect upon human character and personality. If you empty the world of purpose, make it one of brute fact alone, you empty it (for many people, at any rate) of reasons for gratitude, and a sense of gratitude is necessary for both happiness and decency. For what can soon, and all too easily, replace gratitude is a sense of entitlement. Without gratitude, it is hard to appreciate, or be satisfied with, what you have: and life will become an existential shopping spree that no product satisfies.

To regret religion is to regret Western civilization.

— Theodore Dalrymple

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Faith in Reverse

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Absolute atheism starts in an act of faith in reverse gear and is a full-blown religious commitment. Here we have the first internal inconsistency of contemporary atheism: it [often] proclaims that all religion must necessarily vanish away, and it is itself a religious phenomenon.

–Jacques Maritain,
The Range of Reason

The Religion of Science

scientism 5Science, like any other human affair, is indeed shot through with prejudice and partisanship, not to speak of ungrounded assumptions, unconscious biases, taken-for-granted truth, and beliefs to close to the eyeball to be objectified. Like religion, science is a culture, not just a set of procedures and hypotheses. Richard Dawkins declares that science is free of the main vice of religion, which is faith; but as Charles Taylor points out, “to hold that there are no assumptions in a scientists work which aren’t based on evidence is surely a reflection of blind faith, one that can’t even feel the occasional tremor of doubt. . .

There are . . . still a great many telescopes up which science is churlishly reluctant to peer. Science has its high priests, sacred cows, revered scriptures, ideological exclusions, and rituals for suppressing dissent. To this extent, it is ridiculous to see it as the polar opposite of religion.

–Terry Eagleton,
Reason, Faith, and Revolution