Modernity may be summarized by one single ideology – relativism, which aggrandizes the individual by valorizing opinions, choices, tastes, preferences and feelings over ideas, while debasing truth, morality, history and religion.
The lure of relativism has three well-honed hooks – scientism and atheism which together demonstrate and gauge the march of progress.
Progressivism claims that things change for the better over time; and therefore, we are wiser and superior than people living fifty or a hundred years ago because we are the recipients of the benefits of progress.
The modernist project therefore becomes a straightforward one – to clear the road for progress by sweeping away everything that will impede it. The supposed result will be the just society, where a harmonious plurality of individuals will enjoy fruits that are as yet unimaginable.
To achieve this, progressivism understands that the political sphere alone can ensure the achievement of this utopia by way of laws that protect group rights, so that no one is left behind. This is the legalization of identity politics.
Progressivism also readily justifies the current war on statues in the US – because the past is perceived as forever flawed, with nothing to teach and therefore useless to preserve. The past is forever benighted and thus wrong.
And old ideas, like statues, also need to be pulled down and trodden underfoot. Newer ideas are better than old ones, progressivism maintains.
All this is indeed a heady siren song.
For relativism, the worst of these useless monuments of the past is the belief in God, which refuses to let truth, morality and history be easily argued away.
However, here relativism employs another strategy – scientism, which was first elaborated by Auguste Comte.
Since modernity is progressive, science is declared the guarantor of all that is right and therefore believable – and only that which is materially provable therefore exists.
Since science cannot prove the existence of God, then God simply does not exist. This is the strength of atheism, which therefore concludes (via the Cambridge philosophers, such as, Bertrand Russell) that questions about the purpose and value of life are nothing but primitive thinking.
Life has no ultimate purpose or value. Life just is, and nothing more.
Therefore, for the materialists, atheism is the only logical position to hold. But this notion has feet of clay.
For example, at a funeral, the bereaved are not asked to contemplate, say, the Pythagorean theorem, nor given to consider the aorist middle of ancient Greek, as means of consolation and comfort for their loss.
If science has all the answers, why is it deficient in the consolation department?
Aristotle understood this perfectly, for he says, “…all law is universal but for some things it is impossible to make a universal statement which is correct.”
It is also the peculiar habit of humans to see themselves as something greater than the sum of their materiality.
But the habit of the Cambridge philosophers to relegate the non-scientific to the primitive continues, and thus atheism is vaunted as enlightenment.
In this view, science is right, and everything else is superstition, ignorance, and stupidity (the useless dross of history), because knowledge is only that which can be proved with certainty.
Thus, with some regularity, a valiant soul musters himself to finally sweep away God as an unnecessary hang-over from a benighted, barbaric past, when human beings were childish in thought and gullible in worldview.
Of course, for this brave soul, the present, which is fully illumined by the clear light of science and leads to progress contains all the answers that human beings will ever need. Such is the blind arrogance of progressivism.
There is but one slight problem here – when God is deemed non-existent, there is only nothingness which replaces it – because up to today humankind has been unable to come up with an enduring paradigm based upon nothingness that might provide both value and meaning to life.
In other words, atheism is unable to provide a moral conscience. As Rémi Brague has cogently asked, if God does not exist, then why should humanity continue to exist?
The truth that few atheists want to deal with, let alone acknowledge, is this – atheism is dead, despite its triumphal declarations. It can never give humans what they need – civilization, which is rooted in morality rather than material causes.
For example, studies show that infants perceive right and wrong, which means that humans possess natural moral law.
Belief in God is the corollary of this law. Therefore, atheism’s view of religion as superstition is false, and its dream-project of disproving God via science is meaningless, and forever bound to fail.
Science can only express quantification by a purpose-specific methodology. If this methodology and its attendant language are extended to other purposes, the result is babble, because meaning vanishes. Science becomes futile, as at a funeral, in the example above.
How can science explain metaphysics when it can only quantify physics?
Further, atheism posits man as an explanation of man. But as Sartre points out man cannot pass sentence on himself, that is, in whom shall reside the power to pronounce that humans can exist?
This means that saying there is no God, is also saying that there is no morality, because Godlessness inevitably leads to the animal-man.
And here is the crux of the problem – how does the animal-man become worthy of anything more than bio-mass?
The only option left for atheism, then, is to declare both God and morality as nonexistent, and to entirely validate man as an animal, driven by instinct to survive and by the will to power. For what is man without morality? Which is to say, what is man without God?
Here atheism can certainly learn from Nietzsche, but this requires courage – because to live beyond good and evil, to be entirely free from God, is only possible through the complete exertion of the animal-man, which can only be made through strength – not moral qualms.
In a truly Godless society, there can no judgement.
To be an animal-man, then, is not a new experiment. It has been attempted before (Hitlerism, Stalinism, Maoism, and so on).
The honest atheist must fully embrace and then extol a morality-free existence for all human animals. To say that humans are somehow something more than animals is to veer into the Godly.
This means no laws, no society, no kindness, no love – just pure instinct.
Such honesty indeed requires great courage.
Of all the atheists, only the Marquis de Sade was most the honest because as a philosopher he clearly understood what an atheistic life must be – selfishness, even to the point of utter cruelty and depravity, because there are no divine laws that can be transgressed, no one to answer to, no one to lay down morality.
The true, honest atheist must deny moral natural law, and then fully live out its consequences. The term, “sadism” comes from the Marquis’s name.
If atheists are repulsed by this inevitability, then they are affirming that they are not really atheists, but simply rebellious or fashionable, or “cutting edge,” and that atheism for them is nothing more than a preference, a taste, a personal opinion – a matter of social convenience, or group acceptance.
Real atheists must accept what life without God entails – the full affirmation of the animal-man, obeying instincts to the fullest, because every human being is nothing more than bio-mass to manipulate or destroy by the strongest.
The Marquis de Sade, of course, predates Charles Darwin.
So, here lies the challenge for atheists. If they are true to their assertion that there is no God, they must be Sadean. They cannot deny God and then live like perfectly decent Christians, guided by moral compunction. That is simply being a phony.
This is why, historically, atheists have never gathered together and built a civilization, nor created any of the structures that enable civilization to thrive (hospitals, schools, charities).
Atheism was never an heuristic idea – it was simply an expression of dissatisfaction with the normative in society, or at best a critique – and therefore, it was always marginal to human thought.
But why is there a need for atheism in modernity? Why does modernism hate the cultural “hand” that feeds it (namely, Christianity). Why rant against God, and then demand morality (now called, “rights”)?
Since modernity has become thoroughly relativistic (where truth is simply an opinion), the need grows greater to believe (the prospect of emptiness everywhere is destructive).
And this need for belief turns inwards, to the self, which is then deified and duly worshipped (what is popular culture today, if not constant self-worship).
Thus, most modern atheism is only narcissism (it is not Sadean). Christianity negates narcissism by urging the love of the other, and therefore it is despised.
The historian Herbert Butterfield once observed (he should be read more): “…it is not always realised that belief in God gives us greater elasticity of mind, rescuing us from too great subservience to intermediate principles, whether these are related to nationality or ideology or science… Similarly, Christianity is not tied to regimes – not compelled to regard the existing order as the very end of life and the embodiment of all our values.”
Therefore, true atheism is dead because it is anti-human. And very few have the courage to heed the call of the animal-man and live the Sadean life.