Why Turbo-Capitalism wants to de-Christianize the West

In keeping with the theoretical framework outlined in my book, Minima mercatalia. Filosofia e capitalism [Small Business. Philosophy and capitalism], absolute-totalitarian capitalism or turbo-capitalism, as it has been implemented since the sixties of the “short century,” acts by annihilating every limit that can hinder or even slow down its logic of development and reproduction. This logic consists in the colonization without residue of the real and the symbolic, according to the rhythm of omni- mercantilization [conversion of everything into market and commodity], whose only teleological orientation is the unlimited and boundless will to power, and whose foundation is the destruction of every material or immaterial limit—turbo-capitalism becomes absolutus, “perfectly complete,” as soon as it becomes “liberated from” (solutus ab) every limit that can contain it, discipline it and, perhaps also, halt its advance. The incessant demolition of frontiers and bastions of resistance to this conversion of everything into a market is what, with total intentionality, is celebrated as “progress” by the new mental order generated by the completely new world order under the banner of capital.

In contrast, “regression” [“involution”] is the term with which the order of the dominant discourse delegitimizes every figure of the limit or, more simply, of non-alignment, with respect to the enveloping global movement that transforms everything into merchandise, reifying the world and life. And this, in post-1,989, is valid both for “material” and political elements stricto sensu, such as the national sovereign State (which I dealt with in Glebalizzazione. La lotta di classe al tempo del populismo [Glebalization: The Class Struggle in the Time of Populism]—“glebalization,” the serial production of new exploited, underpaid and precarious servants)—the last bastion of popular sovereignty and of the autonomy of the political; and for the properly spiritual dimension linked to cultural identities (at the center of my Difendere chi siamo. Le ragioni dell´identità italiana [Defend Who We Are. The Reasons for Italian Identity], to critical thought (which I studied in Pensare altrimenti [Think Otherwise]) and, especially, to the religion of transcendence.

That unlimitedly self-empowered will to power, in order to be able to realize itself, must colonize the entire planet, following the dynamics of what we usually call “globalization” (a pious name for the new figure of all-inclusive imperialism), and must, “uno motu,” take hold of each and every conscience, provoking the destruction of any cultural and spiritual sovereignty, specifically the dis-identification (the annihilation of all identity) and the de-divinization of the world (the neutralization of all sense of the sacred and of transcendence).

In this perspective, Christianity is in every way incompatible with the new spirit of capitalism since, apart from guarding the sense of the sacred and of transcendence, it lives historically in concrete institutions which, like the Church of Rome, have their own autonomy and, if you will, their own political as well as spiritual sovereignty. So that the so fashionable slogan “war of religion,” with which the postmodern discourse tends to liquidate tout court all religion of transcendence, insofar as it can be assimilated to the fanaticism of potentially terrorist revolts, can perhaps be replaced by the opposite locution “war against religion,” a formula with which, by means of a gestalt reorientation of thought, we refer: A) to the already evident incompatibility between religion of transcendence and atheistic religion of the market, between Christianity and capitalism; and B) to the no less adamantine “war”—now open, now underhanded—that the civilization of markets has declared on the religion of transcendence “ut sic.”

The “retreat of Christianity” is also explained, in part, in connection with the struggle against religion led by the materialistic and spiritless inspiration characteristic of the technocratic order. In the context of this “war against religion,” which is deliberately concealed under the rhetoric of the “war of religion” from the sphere of the globalized free trade zone, Christianity is granted only one possibility: to adapt to relativistic nihilism by pretending to remain itself and thus to lead the faithful and the West itself into the abyss of the nothingness of the civilization of the markets. In other words, and in accordance with what has been pointed out, turbo-capitalist globalization asks Christianity either to allow itself to be “killed” by the nihilism of techno-capitalist civilization, or to “commit suicide” by voluntarily diluting itself in this nothingness; that is, to redefine itself as a mere appendix of the civilization of the markets, assimilating and spreading the same relativistic and nihilistic vision of the world, stripped of any link with transcendence and the sacred, to ultimately end up being transformed into a megaphone of the same political, social and economic conception based on the dogmas of the sans frontières market, the free circulation of merchandise and commodified people, the neoliberal and American-centric one world, and the whims of consumption with rainbow tones for the ruling classes, improperly designated with the noble title of “civil rights.”

In short, globalization asks Christianity, sic et simpliciter, to continue to exist by renouncing its being and becoming an integral part of the very project of globalization founded on the fanaticism of the free market. And when attempts are made to escape this destiny, recovering the spirit of transcendence and the sacred, of tradition and the divine, as occurred during the brief but heroic pontificate of Ratzinger, the clash between Christianity and capitalism becomes irreconcilable. There is shown, in all its crudeness, the real enmity that pits the religion of the sacred against the nihil of the “horrendous order”—as Pasolini called it—of the civilization of capital; an enmity that, in this case, has been resolved in favor of the latter, through the restoration—with the appointment of “Pope” Bergoglio—of a new and more stable compromise of Christianity’s submission to the neoliberal oligarchic bloc. Pope Ratzinger was the extreme and epic attempt of Christianity to reverse its own tendency of evaporation and self-dissolution, resisting nihilistic relativism, thanks to a recovery of the heart of Christian doctrine and tradition, and vindicating in the full sense the reasons of the sacred, the eternal, the transcendent and the Corpus Christianorum.

In the preceding figure of “dialectical capitalism,” just as we have codified it in Minima mercatalia, religion was presented as an essentially dialectical element: it could justify both revolt in the name of the kingdom of heaven and subordination to the constituted power as an image of divine justice, depending on whether the “hot current” or the “cold current” of Christianity prevailed, to use Ernst Bloch’s syntax in Atheism in Christianity. At the time, religion could be used as an instrument of government and it was possible to find a bilateral agreement with it, as for example happened in Italy with the Lateran Pacts (1,929).

Absolute-totalitarian capitalism, for its part, not only no longer needs the religious phenomenon to prop up its own power, but it must get rid of it, recognizing it as an impediment—potential or real, depending on the context—to its own logic of development and reproduction. From a different plane, the Christian religion refers to a higher order that, however, should not necessarily always be understood as a structure of domination and power. Undoubtedly, in the past Christianity has represented an obstacle, because power also needed a religious justification. The power of truly totalitarian neo-capitalism and potentially superior to everything that has preceded it, no longer needs a “celestial” justification: it is strong enough to be self-sufficient. Furthermore, it fears that any possible reference to the higher order of the transcendent may turn out to be intrinsically contradictory, if only because of its appeal to a different and higher dimension than that of the totally colonized real in the form of a market.


Diego Fusaro is professor of History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the Intellectual, The Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre Returns. [This article appears courtesy of Posmodernia].


Featured: “Christ Expelling the Money-Changers from the Temple,” by Nicolas Colombel; painted in 1630.

How “Creation” Implies God

Background to the “Creation” Dispute

There is nothing very new about the thesis of this article—for many proofs that God is Creator of all finite things have already been attempted—often with great success. Moreover, we know as an article of Catholic faith that the existence of God can be known with certainty by the light of natural human reason (Denzinger’s Enchiridion Symbolorum, 1806). Yet, what may be somewhat novel about this article is that I will attempt to prove God’s existence by means of a series of diverse considerations about the very meaning of the term, “creation.” Moreover, I will examine certain presumptions about creation which have been made by atheists, i.e., by those who deny the very conclusion which is presently being sought.

Any self-respecting atheist must deny that the world is created by God. And yet, this very fact, namely, that the atheist feels called upon to deny the reality of creation, is itself significant—so much so, that this universal reaction of atheism will itself serve as the point of departure for our investigation.

Astronomer Robert Jastrow has commented upon the strange situation now confronting his fellow astronomers (many of whom appear to be scientific materialists). Jastrow observes, “…I am fascinated by some strange developments going on in astronomy—partly because of their religious implications and partly because of the peculiar reactions of my colleagues” (Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers,1978, 11).

Jastrow proceeds to explain the enigma confronted by modem scientists:

”The essence of the strange developments is that the Universe had, in some sense, a beginning—that it began at a certain moment in time, and under circumstances that seem to make it impossible—not just now—but ever—to find out what force or forces brought the world into being at that moment…. the astronomical evidence proves that the Universe was created twenty billion years ago in a fiery explosion, and in the searing heat of that first moment, all the evidence needed for a scientific study of the cause of the great explosion was melted down and destroyed” (God and the Astronomers, 11-12).

More recent estimates of the time of the universe’s birth now place it some 13.7 billion years ago.

Scientists today pursue the vision of Grand Unified Theories which attempt to unify the fundamental forces of nature as different aspects of the same force. Senior physicist at the Argonne National Laboratory’s High Energy Physics Division, David S. Ayres, remarks that the “Grand Unified Theories offer detailed insight into the processes which occurred at the instant of creation ….” (Argonne News, 1984, 8-9).

For centuries, atheistic materialists had blandly assumed the eternity of the world while denigrating the peculiarly Judeo-Christian belief of creation in time as a vestige of religious mythology. Science seemed squarely in the atheist’s corner until the recent advent of the Big Bang theory—a theory whose scientific underpinnings have come to be regarded by most scientists today to be quite secure. The 1965 discovery of the apparently vestigial fireball radiation of the Big Bang by Amo Penzias and Robert Wilson of the Bell Laboratories has left the theory, at the present time, with “no competitors” according to Jastrow (God and the Astronomers, 14-16).

Small wonder, then, the “peculiar reactions” of many astronomers, as noted’ by Jastrow! What he refers to are the efforts made by many of his fellow scientists to ignore and refute the mounting evidence in favor of the Big Bang.

Jastrow describes the situation thus:

“Theologians generally are delighted with the proof that the Universe had a beginning, but astronomers are curiously upset. Their reactions provide an interesting demonstration of the response of the scientific mind—supposedly a very objective mind—when evidence uncovered by science itself leads to a conflict with the articles of faith in our profession. It turns out that the scientist behaves the way the rest of us do when our beliefs are in conflict with the evidence. We become irritated, we pretend the conflict does not exist, or we paper it over with meaningless phrases” (God and the Astronomers, 16).

The reactions to the possibility of a Big Bang began shortly after World War I—and from a rather surprising quarter:

“Around this time, signs of irritation began to appear among the scientists. Einstein was the first to complain. He was disturbed by the idea of a Universe that blows up, because it implied that the world had a beginning” (God and the Astronomers, 27).

It is not here suggested that Einstein and all others who opposed the Big Bang theory were atheists. Certainly, Einstein himself appears to have embraced the conception of God propounded by Spinoza (God and the Astronomers, 28).

And yet, conversely, it is manifestly evident that scientific materialists would be in the forefront of those astronomers who would feel uncomfortable in the face of a new theory which seemed to challenge their most fundamental convictions. While it is not suggested that the physical theory of the Big Bang necessarily implies the theological doctrine of creation, nonetheless it is quite understandable that even the appearance of such an implication should cause more than a ripple of resistance among those both philosophically and scientifically indisposed to the notion of creation in time. Yet, we shall see that our concern in this paper will extend to a much broader notion of creation—a notion not restricted merely to that of “having a beginning in time.”

In point of fact, just when most of the scientific community has gotten comfortable supporting the relatively recent Big Bang theory, we are suddenly reminded by new evidence that the history of science is littered with the intellectual corpses of bygone universal beliefs. True science is never dogmatic. What actually happens is that a generally accepted scientific hypothesis is sometimes greeted by new sets of data that contradict its basic premises and soon a new, and quite different, scientific hypothesis replaces the formerly reigning one.

We now learn that findings from the new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) appear to contradict the “standard model” for galactic expansion, which has accompanied the Big Bang hypothesis. It turns out that distant celestial objects, now being seen for the first time through the use of the JWST, do not conform to Big Bang expansion model expectations. Instead of distant galaxies being huge and having a certain amount of “red shift” in their light, the Webb telescope is showing us the exact opposite! The number of disc galaxies is some ten times that of standard galaxy expansion models. Moreover, distant galaxies are being found to be unexpectedly smooth, small, and old. In fact, more and more data seems to contradict what had been predicted based on the massive galactic expansion model assumed to follow from the Big Bang.

This has led some astronomers to actually reject the Big Bang hypothesis altogether!

Still, two points must be made clear:

  1. While frequently associated theses, the fact remains that the Big Bang hypothesis is separate from the cosmic expansion model. Moreover, the Webb telescope data does not in itself address the cosmic microwave background radiation which has long been taken as evidence for the Big Bang.
  2. For purposes of this article, much more important is the fact that the Big Bang hypothesis belongs to the subject matter of natural science, not philosophy. Contending physical hypotheses concerning the origin and development of the universe must be evaluated by astronomers and other physical scientists. That is not my task. Philosophically, I will show that, whether the universe began in time or not is entirely irrelevant to the philosophical question of whether it is created by God.

I need to determine the proper philosophical meaning of “creation” as well as whether the universe was created in that properly philosophical meaning.

The Eternal Enigma

The central question which this article seeks to address is simply the age old puzzle: “Why does anything exist at all?” The believer immediately responds with a simple affirmation of his faith: “Things exist because God exists to make them.” But the atheist is driven to the logical alternative of insisting on the aseity of the Universe: “Things simply explain their own existence; their very fact of existing is its own explanation. Moreover, the Universe has always existed in some form or other, and hence, needs no God to have created it.” Some atheists and agnostics attack the principle of explanation itself, suggesting that not everything may need a sufficient reason or that, perhaps, the principle is limited in scope to the observable phenomena.

In one of human intellectual history’s less ingenuous moments, Karl Marx simply refuses to grant intellectual legitimacy to any question put to the very existence of the world. He labels such inquiry “…perverse…” since it implies “…the inessentiality of nature and of man …. ” Marx insists that for socialism “…the real existence of man and nature has become practical, sensuous and perceptible…” and, hence, such a question “…has become impossible in practice” (Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, 1961, 112-114).

Still, examples of those willing to address directly the central issue are not difficult to find. The problem as to why things exist at all is clearly posed by Kai Nielsen (who was himself an atheist):

“Indeed, ‘Why is there anything at all?’ is an odd question, but in certain philosophical and perhaps even religious moods it is natural to ask: Why is it that any of the things that make up the universe actually exist? They do, of course, but why is this so? There might have been nothing at all!” (Kai Nielsen, Reason and Practice: A Modern Introduction to Philosophy, 1971, 180).

Or again, as F.E. Copleston put it in his famous 1948 British Broadcasting Corporation debate on the existence of God with Bertrand Russell:

“Well, I can’t see how you can rule out the legitimacy of asking the question how the total, or anything at all comes to be there. Why something rather than nothing, that is the question?” (The Existence of God, ed. John Hick, 1964, 175).

John Hospers puts succinctly the theistic response to the given existence of the world (not that he holds it himself):

“Why, indeed, does any universe at all exist—why is there a universe at all rather than simply nothing? For this you have no explanation at all. But I do. I hold that there is a necessary being, God, and that since he exists necessarily all contingent existents (and that includes everything in the universe) owe their existence to this necessary being and are explained by the fact that this necessary being exists” (John Hospers, An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis, 2nd edition, 1967), 440.

But in a contrary response to this same most basic question, as Roy Wood Sellars puts it,”…the modem materialist stresses the aseity as against the contingence notion of creationalism” (A History of Philosophical Systems, ed. Vergilius Ferm, 1950, 425).

The meaning for the materialist of this “aseity” is put with clarity by Nielsen: “…all other realities, if such there be, depend for their existence on these physical realities, but these physical realities do not depend on any other realities for their own existence” (Reason and Practice, 334).

Hospers elucidates in his own manner the claim that the universe simply explains itself and needs no further explanation:

“…this is just a “brute fact”—the universe has such-and-such laws, and if those are ultimate (underived), we can’t derive them from any other ones….If we have once arrived at a basic or underived law (not that we ever know that we have), then it is self-contradictory to ask for an explanation of it” (An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis, 442).

What Hospers means here is that the ultimate laws of the universe, by definition as ultimate, require no further explanation. They are self-explanatory.

Again, Anthony Flew challenges the position that God is any greater an intelligible explanation of the universe that is the universe itself:

“No reason whatever has yet been given for considering that God would be an inherently more intelligible ultimate that—say—the most fundamental laws of energy and stuff; much less for postulating the actual existence of such a further and extraordinary entity, instead of somehow contenting yourself with the alternative idea that the world we know is—in the vertical dimension-not dependent on anything else, and that it is also, in some state or other, probably eternal and without beginning” (Anthony Flew, God: A Critical Enquiry, 96).

The atheistic alternative explanation to claiming that the universe is its own explanation is the claim that not everything needs an explanation. That is to say, the principle of sufficient reason itself is attacked. Again Nielsen puts the case succinctly:

“It would only follow that there is a necessary being if it were true that there is a complete explanation that would give us an adequate explanation of why anything exists at all. Why should we assume or even believe that we actually have such an explanation?”

“It is certainly very natural to reject the principle of sufficient reason and to say that it has not been established that there must be or even that there is (if only we could discover it) an explanation for everything. Some events or states of affairs may never be explained. There may even be some things that are inexplicable” (Reason and Practice, 181).

I do not intend here to reiterate and refute the monumental errors of idealism and process philosophy which provide the most substantive attacks on the principles of sufficient reason and causality. Those who sincerely seek the most exhaustive and convincing defense of these principles are referred to Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange’s classical treatment in the latter part of the first volume of God: His Existence and Nature (1934, 181-194). I have offered my own defense of these transcendental first principles on the Strange Notions website.

It suffices to point out that it seems a bit hypocritical that scientific materialists should ultimately retreat behind a denial of rational principles when it is they who dare to mock all others as being “irrational” and “unscientific.” It is indeed curious that those who demand a scientific explanation for everything should, in this singular instance, fail to see the need for any explanation whatever! One cannot but compare such selective abandonment of rational principles to the curious biological doctrine that spontaneous generation never occurs except, of course, when the evolutionist has need of it in order to initiate the process of evolution itself!

In the end, the consensus of atheists and theists who address the basic question of existence, as well as the dictates of right reason, present the following stark alternatives: Either God (the Infinite Being) exists, or else, the world (all finite being) explains itself, or else, not all things have full explanations. It is our contention that the latter two alternatives are not only absurd, but impossible.

“Creation” as Expression of Infinite Power

For those scientific materialists who refuse to follow the intellectually suicidal denial that there must be reasons for things, the universe must be conceived as self-existent, that is, it somehow explains itself. Moreover, these atheistic materialists clearly accept the metaphysical principle that “…from nothing, nothing comes to be….” (St. Thomas Aquinas, in I Physics, 14, n. 2), since they universally deny that the cosmos had an absolute beginning in time. Thereby they implicitly acknowledge that a universe which just “pops into” existence (out of no pre-existent state) is not only absurd, but impossible.

While it is evident that the natural intuition of the laws of being would require every intellect to affirm that being (the world) can only come from pre-existent being (a prior state of the world, or God), why is it the case that the reason of virtually every man, theist and atheist alike, sees in the notion of instantaneous creation of the world (out of nothing and using nothing) the exclusive mark of divinity itself? With but a modicum of metaphysical reflection, the human mind—theist and atheist alike—grasps that the act of creation is intelligible only as an expression of power—infinite power. And it is precisely this manifestation of power without measure which commands intellectual assent to the existence of God (in the traditional meaning of the term) as the sole adequate explanation or foundation for such power.

The average person who considers the matter will express the insight as follows: “To make something out of nothing can only be the act of an infinitely powerful being, God.” The professional theologian or philosopher will render this insight with greater precision by saying: “That something should come to be while presupposing no pre-existent matter or subject requires the infinite power of God.”

In each case what is affirmed is the absolute need for unlimited power as the only adequate explanation for the universe beginning to be in time. Yet the question remains, “How can we be so certain that the ‘popping into existence’ of the world requires the existence of an all-powerful God?” Is this inference simply the product of a primordial insight or intuition which is, at root, rationally indefensible? Are we ultimately reduced to a form of fideism here?

Still, if this be fideism, then the atheist must suffer it as well — given the firm tradition of atomistic materialism, tracing all the way back to Democritus in the fifth century B.C., which assumes that the universe has always existed, never having a beginning in time. That is why so many scientists held out long for the Steady State theory, which holds that the universe is eternal and largely unchanging.

Why Creation Requires Infinite Power

While there appears to exist a nearly universal intuitive recognition that the act of creating requires the infinite power of a Supreme Being, the attempt to give intellectual justification to this primordial insight is fraught with difficulty. For, even if one grants that the existence of the world had an absolute beginning in time and that this beginning must have an adequate explanation, it is not at once clear precisely why this phenomenon requires an infinitely powerful cause.

Is it because being infinitely transcends non-being? But then, the being of the world is itself only finite (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 7, aa. 2-4). Perhaps, alternatively, one should focus upon the fact that between non-being and being there is no middle ground. Hence the act which transcends this “gap” between non-being and being must be considered as literally immeasurable. Yet, no reputable thinker would dare to refer to a real relation between non-being and being—since a real relation always requires two real terms, and non-being is not real. In Summa Theologiae, I, q. 13, a. 7, c, St. Thomas refers to the merely logical character of the “… relations which are between being and non-being, which reason forms, insofar as it apprehends non-being as a certain extreme.” Hence, the metaphors about “transcending an infinite gap” from non-being to being begin to sound suspiciously poetic or mystical.

It is necessary to turn to the Common Doctor of the Church for illumination of a precise, scientific conception of exactly why creation requires infinite power. The following is neither poetry nor mysticism:

“It must be said that the power of the maker is measured not only from the substance of the thing made but also from the way of its making; for a greater heat not only heats more, but also heats more swiftly. Thus, although to create some finite effect does not demonstrate infinite power, nevertheless to create it from nothing does demonstrate infinite power…. For if a greater power is required in the agent insofar as the potency is more remote from the act, it must be that the power of an agent (which produces) from no presupposed potency, such as a creating agent does, would be infinite; because there is no proportion of no potency to some potency, as is presupposed by the power of a natural agent, just as there is no proportion of non-being to being” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 45, a. 5, ad 3).

The principle which St. Thomas employs here is laid down when he says, “…a greater power is required in the agent insofar as the potency is more remote from the act…” For, as power means the ability to produce being or to act, its measure is taken not merely from the effect produced but also from the proportion between what is presupposed by the agent in order to produce the effect and the effect produced.

Thus, to make a chicken from pre-existing chickens requires a certain measure of power. But to produce a chicken from merely vegetative life would require even greater power; and to produce a chicken from non-living matter yet greater power. But to produce a chicken while presupposing no pre-existent matter at all clearly would require immeasurably greater power. It is immeasurable, as St. Thomas points out, precisely because “…there is no proportion of non-being to being.”

Note that this argument does not rest upon an attempt to measure any supposed infinite relation between non-being and being. Rather, it is precisely the absolute lack of any relation whatever between non-being and being which demands an infinite power to create. For it is precisely the proportion of the potency to act which is measurable. The greater the distance (not physical distance, but remoteness or distinction in existence) between the potentiality and its act, the greater the power needed to actualize that potency. But such a proportion between some presupposed potentiality and its act is always measurable (in some sense), and therefore, is finite—since it is of the essence of the measurable to be finite and since a thing is measured only by its limits. But where there is no proportion, as between non-being and being, there can be no measure, and thus, no limit. The power required in that case knows no measure and no limit. It is therefore infinite.

Note well that St. Thomas does not argue from the remoteness of the potency from the act in the case of creation. Rather, he considers the “… proportion of no potency to some potency…”—for a creating agent presupposes no potency whereas a natural agent always presupposes some potency. He observes that there exists no such proportion just as “… there is no proportion of non-being to being.” A fortiori, the remoteness of no potency to the act of already created being becomes even more immeasurable (if that were possible).

Thus we have the rational explanation for the universal metaphysical intuition that it would require infinite power to create ex nihilo.

The True Meaning of “Creation”

If it were necessary to prove creation of the world in time in order to demonstrate the existence of God, it appears that such a task could never be accomplished by unaided natural reason. For even the most famous Christian apologist for God’s existence, St. Thomas Aquinas, concedes that reason alone cannot prove creation in time: it is simply an article of Catholic faith which is neither contrary to, nor demonstrable by, natural reason (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 46, aa. I-3; De Potentia Dei, q. 3, aa. 14 and 17; On the Eternity of the World, 1964, 2-73).

In fact, according to St. Thomas, the world could well have existed from all eternity—and yet it would still be a creature of God (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 46, a. 2, ad. I; Etienne Gilson, Elements of Christian Philosophy, 1963, 214).

One of his famous Five Ways to prove God’s existence, the Third Way, presupposes this very possibility in the logic of its argumentation. In fact, in Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 13, St. Thomas insists “… that the most efficacious way to prove God to exist is not on the supposition of the newness of the world, but rather on the supposition of the eternity of the world.” Thus, our belief in creation in time is just that—a matter of reasonable Christian belief.

The point of all this is simply to observe that, for St. Thomas, the notion of creation is quite distinct from the notion of beginning in time. After all, on the very supposition of an eternally existent God, could one deny the possibility that such a Being may have been creating the world from all eternity? And would not such a world be a creature in virtue of its being an effect of God despite its beginningless duration? In such a case, creation would be an ongoing production of the being of the world by God—with absolutely no reference to a beginning in time.

Moreover, grant that God did create the world in time. What then would be the relationship of the world to God in the next instant after the moment of creation? Or, the next day, or year, or twenty billion years? Could God cease causing the world and yet the world continue to exist? Certainly not. For, as St. Thomas observes, “With the cause ceasing, the effect ceases” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 96, a. 3, ob 3. Also, “Removing the cause removes the effect,” Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3, c). Creation must not be conceived as a once and for all time act. God must continue to create, or else, the cosmos would at once fall back into the nothingness from which it came (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 104, a. 1). St. Thomas refers to this continued act of creation as “conservation.”

“It must be said that the conservation of things by God is not through some new action, but through a continuation of that action by which He gives existence, which action is indeed without motion and time” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 104, a. I, ad 4).

In other words, a proper understanding of the term “creation” is conceptually distinct from the notion of “beginning in time.” For St. Thomas, the world is created, not because it began in time, but because of its radical dependence on the Supreme Being during every moment of its existence—past, present, or future.

We are thus left with three alternatives regarding the existence of the world: Either it came to be in time—thereby requiring an infinitely powerful Creator, or else, it has existed from all eternity as the created effect of that Creator, or else, it has existed from all eternity without the causation of such a Creator.

On the first two suppositions, the existence of an infinitely powerful God is at once granted and this investigation is ended. But it is the third alternative which now requires closer scrutiny.

For the existence of the world is itself an act whose being demands some explanation. Existence is an act. It is the very first act of any substance (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 104, a. 1, ad 3). And no substance is explained unless and until its substantial existence has been accounted for. Thus we may properly inquire as to the explanation of the existence of this finite world in which we find ourselves.

When we inquire as to the explanation or sufficient reason for a supposedly uncaused finite universe, it becomes at once clear that the need for some foundation in an infinitely powerful being is not escaped. For, just as there is no pre-existing potency for such a world which is created in time, so too, there is no pre-existing potency against which to measure the actually existing universe even if it has always existed (as atheists insist). Hence, its existential foundation, even if this is not conceived as a cause outside its own being, must manifest a power which knows no measure, i.e., it is infinite.

To put the matter in other terms, the power required to explain a being (or beings) is not dependent on whether that being is an effect (whether or not such effect happens to be produced in time). Rather, such power must be measured in terms of its being the reason why there is being rather than non-being. And, as St. Thomas points out, “…there is no proportion of non-being to being” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 45, a. 5, ad 3). Hence, the power requisite to explain the existence of the cosmos knows no measure — whether it began in time or not. Immeasurable or infinite power is needed to explain any existence at all — of anything.

But the world is clearly finite—since space and time are the limiting modes of material existence. Since the finite clearly cannot contain the infinite power needed to explain its own existence, it is evident that an infinite Being must exist.

Some Final Reflections

It may well be suspected that the foregoing demonstration of God’s existence is simply a variation of St. Thomas’s Third Way of the Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3, c., or else, perhaps, the argument which many have abstracted from his proof for God’s eternity which is presented in the Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 15. Yet it should at once be evident that neither of these demonstrations proceed from the same starting point as the present analysis. For, both of the aforementioned texts of St. Thomas take as their initial data the existence of things which are possible to be or not to be. But the present argument proceeds neither from the possibility nor from the necessity of the world—merely from its existence and from the need for a sufficient reason for said existence.

If it were possible for the world to be its own reason for existing, then there would be no need to posit the existence of a transcendent God. It is only when it is shown that the existence of anything at all requires infinite power that it becomes evident that the finite cosmos necessarily requires an Infinitely Powerful Being as the only adequate explanation of its existence.

Hence, the present argument proceeds, not from the possible, as such, but from an analysis of the creative power implicit in any being whatever—whether it be possible or necessary, finite or infinite. It is the factual existence of things which is at issue here, not their indifference to existence.

But it is precisely that indifference to existence manifested by the possibles which St. Thomas uses to prove their causal dependence. As he puts it in the context of the Contra Gentiles:

“Everything however which is possible to exist has a cause, since it is from itself equally [related] to two [contraries], namely, existence and non-existence. [Therefore,] it must be, if it appropriates to itself existence, that this is from some cause” (Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 15).

Again, the same point is made in the Third Way when St. Thomas insists “…that which is not does not begin to be, except through something which exists” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3, c).

In both these cases, again, St. Thomas reveals the causal dependence of the possibles. But the present proof seeks not to reveal causal dependence except as incidental to the need for infinite power as the sole adequate foundation for all existents. Perhaps this point could be more adequately expressed by saying that God Himself, who is absolutely uncaused, nonetheless requires infinite power in order to render His own existence intelligible. That is why St. Thomas’s task in the aforementioned contexts differs from that of the present article.

In conclusion, the intellectual exploration completed in this article entails the following central points:

First, it was established that there exists, either explicitly or implicitly, among theists and atheists alike, a universal intellectual recognition that the theological notion of an absolute beginning in time of the world entails a creation ex nihilo whose sole adequate explanation would be an Infinitely Powerful Being, or God in the traditional sense of the term.

Second, the concept of “creation” itself was scrutinized so as to reveal that it may be properly distinguished from any notion of “beginning in time”—thereby demonstrating that the mere existence of any being whatsoever entails the presence of an act (esse) which requires infinite power to be posited “outside of nothingness.” (The central metaphysical task of this article has been to establish the philosophically scientific validity of this second step.)

Third and last, it was seen that such infinite power clearly cannot reside in any finite being and, that, therefore, it is absolutely necessary to admit the existence of an Infinitely Powerful Creator as the sole adequate explanation of the finite world.

The notion of “explanation” does not necessarily denote extrinsic causality in every case. While every being requires a sufficient reason, only those beings whose sufficient reason for existing is not totally within itself would require an extrinsic sufficient reason or what is called a “cause.” This means that, while an infinitely powerful God is required to cause the existence of all the finite beings in this finite world, yet God can still be said to be his own explanation, and yet not his own cause, since he is his own intrinsic sufficient reason for being.


Dr. Dennis Bonnette retired as a Full Professor of Philosophy in 2003 from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York, where he also served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department from 1992 to 2002. He received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970. He is the author of two books, Aquinas’ Proofs for God’s Existence, and Origin of the Human Species, as well as many scholarly articles. [A, earlier version of this article appeared in Faith & Reason, 11:3-4 (1985), 250-63. Permission to print kindly granted by Christendom Educational Corporation, Christendom College, Front Royal, Virginia, 22630.]


Featured: “The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise,” by Giovanni di Paolo; painted in 1445.

Science Proves The Existence Of God

We are highly honored to present this conversation with Olivier Bonnassies, who is the co-author (with Michel-Yves Bolloré) of the recent and truly magisterial work, Dieu, la science, les preuves (God, Science, the Proofs). The work is a 600-page tour-de-force proof of God, drawing upon rational arguments and scientific evidence. The book throws down the gauntlet to atheism, leaving it little room to maneuver.

Olivier Bonnassies is a graduate of Polytechnique (X86), HEC (HEC start up institute) and the Institut Catholique de Paris. As an entrepreneur, he has created several companies. A non-believer until the age of 20, he is the author of some twenty books and videos and of several shows, scripts, articles, newsletters and websites on subjects often related to the rationality of faith.This interview comes through the kind generosity of our friends at La Nef.


La Nef (LN): How did you come to embark on the writing of such an imposing work on the current knowledge of the origins of the Universe and its consequences? And what skills do you have for such a work?

Olivier Bonnassies (OB): When I was 20, I was not a believer. I had studied science and was at the École Polytechnique. Then I set up my first company, which was starting to do well. But soon enough, I asked myself what it was all for. I asked myself the big questions: what is the meaning of life? What is its purpose? Where do we come from? Where are we going? I thought there were no answers to these questions, but I came across a book by Jean Daujat, a brilliant normalien, entitled, Y a-t-il une vérité (Is there any truth?) I was very surprised to find that he gave serious and very rational reasons to believe in God. I expected to find some flaw quickly. But, no. So, I decided to work seriously on the subject by doing four years of theology at the Institut Catholique de Paris to deepen my understanding. I became a Catholic, even though my family was very reluctant for me to do so. And in the years that followed, I continued along this path, trying to set up projects that made sense. That’s how I met Michel Yves, who helped with two intense projects: the construction of the Mary of Nazareth International Center in 2003, which has been one of the very first places of attraction in northern Israel for the past ten years, and the creation of the Aleteia news website in 2010, which has become the first Catholic website in the world.

Olivier Bonnassies.

In 2013, I gave a presentation on these topics to a senior high school philosophy class where my daughters were, which I recorded: it resulted in the video, ” Démonstration de l’existence de Dieu et raisons de croire chrétiennes” (Demonstrating the Existence of God and Christian Reasons to Believe)” which has 1.5 million views on YouTube. Michel Yves saw it and sent me an e-mail to tell me that it was very good, but that we could do much better, and that he had also been working on the subject for thirty years. So, we brainstormed about a collaboration, and then got to work in 2018. We dug into the subject again and again, with the help of about twenty good specialists. I hope that the surprise I had at 20 will be the surprise of the book’s readers—because there is indeed a body of converging, rational, and independent evidence that God exists.

LN: Formally, science explains the “how,” not the “why,” a role that belongs to philosophy. As such, science cannot “prove” the existence of God. Isn’t there a risk of confusion of genres and a methodological problem in using science to “prove” God?

OB: This is a question that often comes up, and it is important to take the time to answer it properly, even if there is the question of vocabulary and definition behind it.

For some people, the word “science” has been understood progressively in a more and more restrictive way, up to Popper’s criteria, which claim to exclude from it everything that is not falsifiable. But for the general public and in classical logic, science is first of all what scientists practice in a field of knowledge, and it is above all logos (rationality) applied to this field of knowledge, as the etymology of the name of most of the sciences clearly shows (in “-logy”). [Biology is rationality (logos) applied to the living; as well as cosmology, archaeology, geology, psychology, paleontology, ecology, oceanology, oncology, cardiology, dermatology, neurology, pharmacology, climatology, criminology, futurology, graphology, demonology, epistemology, ethnology, eschatology, theology, ontology, ophthalmology, etc.
The basis of science is the logos. And this is also true of logic!]

Today, there is also something new: it is the fact that many modern scientists feel the need to talk about God at the end of their scientific practices, especially when they explore the beginnings of the Universe and its fine tuning. This is how we were able to gather in our book dozens and dozens of quotes from Nobel Prize winners and great contemporary scientists who naturally come to talk about God in direct connection with their scientific research and discoveries. This is why it is difficult to say categorically on the basis of purely theoretical arguments that God is not within the scope of science and that it does not encounter Him.

Here is the summary, in two points, of the argument about the beginning:

  1. There was certainly an absolute beginning to time, space and matter, which are linked as Einstein showed. This is established by rationality (page 61 and page 91 and pages 515-517 of the book), thermodynamics (pages 55-72) and cosmology (pages 100, 165, 206, 210, 214, with in particular the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem), the Big Bang not necessarily being this absolute beginning even if it constitutes a very good illustration of it;
  2. The cause at the origin of this radical emergence is thus by definition non-temporal, non-spatial and non-material (page 91-92) and it had the power to generate everything and to regulate everything infinitely, precisely so that the atoms, the stars and man could exist.

With this very simple reasoning, we arrive quite exactly at the definition of what all philosophies and all classical religions call God. But at what point did we leave science? If you say that it is at point 2, isn’t it the characteristic of science to look for an explanation to emerging phenomena? Isn’t the principle of causality really part of science, the foundation of science?

From moment point on, the concrete problem for scientists, who want to remain atheists, is that they have to contest one of these two points, but it is not easy:

  • Some like Andrei Linde will try to deny the first one by imagining an “eternal inflation of bubble Universes.” But this is very speculative, unverifiable, and quite flawed, especially because it is increasingly clear, thanks to mathematics and physics, that infinity does not exist in the real world (see note on page 206).
  • Others like Stephen Hawking and Laurence Krauss will try to explain the cause or absence of cause by reasoning that is also very flawed, as is jokingly recounted in the book (page 168).

But beyond the fact that the atheist position is very hard to defend, it should be noted that the protagonists of these debates on the existence of God are neither philosophers nor sorcerers, but that they are all scientists who think they are looking for solutions within science.

It is therefore not right to make too tight a separation between science and philosophy. Plato, Aristotle, Newton, Leibniz and so many others did not set up such barriers between science, philosophy, metaphysics or theology. The separation of genres has only existed since the 17th century; but most of the early Greek philosophers were scientists. They all worked from this fundamental Logos; and their opponents were not the scientists, but the poets, who were interested in the Pathos. And it is on this Logos that all the sciences were established, including philosophy, which for a long time was called the “queen of sciences.”

[Science is rationality (Logos) applied to a field. Physics is rationality applied to the material world. Biology is rationality applied to the living world. The same goes for the other sciences: cosmology, archaeology, geology, psychology, paleontology, ecology, oceanology, oncology, cardiology, dermatology, neurology, pharmacology, climatology, criminology, futurology, graphology, demonology, epistemology, ethnology, eschatology, theology, ontology, ophthalmology, etc. Ditto with ideology, oenology, astrology, parapsychology, mythology, ufology… and logic (from Logos).]

Secondly, we must understand that science itself is full of philosophical principles. For example, if we remove the idea that the world is logical, rational and understandable, or the principle of causality, which is also a philosophical principle, or the principle of stability of laws, which is also a philosophical principle, we cannot do science anymore. Science stops.

Thirdly, it is necessary to see that, in their practice of science, the great scientists cheerfully mix theories, figures, equations and interpretations which belong, in all rigor of the term, to the domain of philosophy. But wouldn’t it be absurd to separate this from science? When Newton talks about “force,” when Maxwell talks about “field,” or when Bohr or Einstein discuss interpretations of quantum mechanics, they are in a way doing philosophy within science—but they are doing it in a very legitimate way, of course.

Fourthly, it is more and more clear that modern science, in all fields, opens up to a beyond of science, of which it cannot say anything—except that it exists. Everything that is tangible, calculable, observable, leads, within its own rational analysis, to the existence of something that is intangible, unobservable—but nevertheless necessary. This is explained on page 92, note 56: “If one analyzes footprints on sand, one can, within physical science, affirm that there is a cause for these footprints that do not come from the natural interactions of physical forces.

In the same way, when Alain Aspect’s experiment concludes that there is an entanglement between two particles that are 14 meters away from each other and that dialogue instantaneously, we demonstrate within physical science that there is something outside our space-time. It is still the case when Gödel, inside logic and the mathematical logics, concludes that there are necessarily non-demonstrable truths, which refer to an exterior of mathematics. The same type of “apophatic” reasoning also applies to the Big Bang, within cosmological science itself.”

Finally, it is very important to acknowledge the fact that today, science has invaded the field of metaphysics and that it is no longer possible to do serious philosophy without taking into account what science has brought about time, space, matter, vacuum, mass, atoms, reality, the beginning and the end of the universe, etc. For example, the word “atom” comes from the pre-Socratic atomists, Leucippus and Democritus, and then from the Latins like Epicurus; and it has been taken up by many philosophers after them.

But when, in 1905, Jean Perrin discovered the atom experimentally in Paris, and then its profound reality was revealed, we saw that the atom did not resemble at all that of the Greeks and of all the philosophers, who imagined it to be unbreakable, compact, etc. The atom of the real world has none of the properties that the ancients had attributed to it. A little later, science showed that time is relative to gravity and speed. This is now a proven reality, but no philosopher of the past had ever imagined this either. Can we therefore continue to do philosophy without science or outside of science? No!

In a letter from 1936, Einstein explains that there are many situations in which physicists today are led to enter into philosophy and do the work of a philosopher, because philosophers themselves cannot do it: “It has often been said, not without reason, that natural scientists are poor philosophers. If this were so, would it not be better for the physicist to leave philosophizing to the philosopher? This may be true in times when physicists believe they have a solid and unquestioned system of fundamental concepts and laws, but it is not so in times when the whole foundation of physics is being questioned, as it is today. In such an age, when experience forces him to look for new and unshakable foundations, the physicist cannot simply leave to philosophy the critical examination of the foundations of his science, because he is the best placed to know and feel where the problem lies.”

So, scientists naturally do philosophy within science. This is a fact; and it is wrong to say that science cannot prove anything. Concerning the beginning of the Universe and its setting in particular, science leads to three very clear conclusions:

There was a Big Bang. It is certain. It is possible to describe precisely what happened from 1 second (CERN has made it possible to go that far).
To describe positively what happened before is not possible at present. It may even remain forever impossible and outside our experience before 10-43 seconds: there are only very speculative hypotheses on these subjects, on which there is no consensus.

On the other hand, it is possible, on the basis of rationality, thermodynamics and cosmology (according to the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem—the Big Bang not necessarily being the absolute beginning), to affirm that there was an absolute beginning to time, space and matter; and therefore that the cause at the origin of this emergence is transcendent, non-material, non-spatial, non-temporal, endowed with the power to create and adjust everything. Now, this third conclusion is very important, because it is very close to what all philosophies and classical religions have always called “God.”

Science can therefore contribute to giving proofs of the existence of God.

These are real proofs, but they are “apophatic;” that is to say that we are talking about realities whose existence can only be deduced indirectly and which we can only qualify in a negative way, without having any direct positive knowledge of the nature of the causes in question. In spite of this, we can affirm with certainty the existence of these causes.

And we must also agree on the word “proof” which has a clear definition. A proof is, in a trial, “what serves to establish that something is true” (Google/Robert), a “material element” (Larousse) that allows to accredit a thesis and to invalidate its opposite; or “a fact or a reasoning that can solidly establish the truth” (Wikipedia). Thus, real-world evidence is never “irrefutable” or “absolute.” They are elements that accumulate in favor of a thesis with more or less strength. One can demonstrate that someone is guilty or innocent with such evidence; but it is not a matter of mathematical demonstration, nor of logical evidence, nor of certainties of the “checkmate-in-three-moves” type. On the other hand, when strong, convergent, rational evidence from independent fields accumulates, we arrive at a certainty “beyond all reasonable doubt,” as we say in the legal world.

This is exactly what we arrive at in our rational inquiry, which deals with a dozen independent fields, some of which are scientific, others not.

In short, the a priori theoretical distinctions do not hold; and, to see this, we must look at the real world. There are many a priori, prejudices, preconceived ideas. We have to be careful with these too-theoretical positions which are not right and which are upset by reality, such as: “Science is the “How?” and religion the “Why?” No, science and religion or philosophy are not “two separate magisterial,” as Stephen Jay Gould theorized with his “NOMA” (Non-Overlapping Magisterium). This is not true, as are many other preconceptions such as “science cannot say anything about God;” “it is impossible to prove God;” “if God could be proved, there would be no room for faith;” “if God could be proved, it would be the death of religions;” etc. All these preconceptions are not true. All these preconceived ideas are false.

The only people who believe them are materialists and fideists, for opposite reasons. Materialists think that religion has nothing to say about the real world, and fideists doubt natural reason and its reliability. But all this does not hold. Why not? Simply because if religion claims to speak about the real world and claims to be embodied in history, then there are many places where it interacts with science. If the Gospel says that there is “in Jerusalem, near the Sheep Gate, a pool called Bethzatha in Hebrew, which has five colonnades” (Jn 5:2) and that archaeology confirms this, this is not concordism, it is simply the fact that the Gospel is based on historical realities. And if the Hebrew people say that they believe by revelation that the universe began, that it was created out of nothing, that there are no demigods or sub-humans, and that no god dwells in springs, forests or pieces of wood, this is important because these are indispensable truths for men to have a true relationship with God. But of course, for this relationship to God to be true, it is important that all of this be consistent with reality.

LN: Some of our fellow citizens do not believe in God, not so much out of deep conviction as because they live in a materialistic context that does not encourage it. Do you think that recourse to science can convince these people? What audience, precisely, is your book aimed at?

OB: This book is not only for the curious: it is for everyone, because the question of the existence of God is one that everyone asks themselves one day or another. Nowadays, there are really good reasons to reopen the file rationally, to discover all its elements, to think about it. This book is an invitation to reflection and debate.

LN: You bring us to recognize the existence of God by showing that the Universe, having a beginning (the Big Bang), was created. In what way does a created Universe oblige us to postulate the existence of God?

OB: To say that everything has a cause is perfectly false—there is necessarily at least one necessary being who gives cause to everything that exists. It is easy to realize this by considering the whole of all the beings that exist. This whole cannot have a cause outside itself. Now, to be the cause of oneself is not possible. It is therefore that there is necessarily at least one necessary being. This is true at every moment, to give existence to everything that exists (vertical causality) but it is also true in time (horizontal causality). This is how all atheistic materialist doctrines, from Parmenides, Heraclitus, Democritus or Lucretius (author of the famous formula “ex nihilo nihil”) to Marx, Friedrich Engels, Lenin, Mao and Hitler, through Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer, Ludwig Feuerbach, David Hume, Jean-Paul Sartre and all the atheistic philosophers of the 19th century—or Baruch Spinoza, Auguste Comte, Ernst Mach, Svante Arrhenius, Ernst Haeckel, Marcelin Berthelot, Bertrand Russell, Francis Crick and all the atheist scientists of the pre-1960s—all of them always imagined that matter was somehow eternal in the past and that the Universe had never begun. But this position, which has never been rational, is less than ever tenable after modern scientific discoveries (thermodynamics, cosmology and the Big Bang illustration). Only God remains if we want to remain reasonable.

Note 54 on page 91 of the book shows why an infinite time in the past is impossible. Because if we count 0, 1, 2, 3… without ever stopping, we go towards infinity, but it will always remain a potential infinity that we will never reach. Thus, in mirror image, for the same reason that we cannot reach infinity in the future starting from today; we cannot start from infinity in the past to reach our time either: an infinite time in the past is therefore impossible (see the third point entitled “The Creator of time” in chapter 22). Today, science confirms this point that scientists did not accept one hundred years ago. Science has shown that space, time and matter had an absolute beginning. Through Relativity, Einstein showed that space, time and matter are inseparably linked and that one cannot exist without the other two. Thermodynamics has shown that entropy increases and leads, after a certain time, to the thermal death of the Universe, which cannot be infinite in the past. Cosmology, with the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem, which is based on the work of Penrose and Hawking on singularities, shows that there is necessarily an absolute beginning to the Universe. But the Big Bang, now confirmed, is not the proof of the beginning. It is only a good illustration of this absolute beginning.

LN: If science demonstrates the fact of the creation of the Universe, what does it teach us about how this creation took place, including, for example, the controversial question of evolution?

OB: This question is controversial, as you say. That is why we did not deal with it in our survey, which needed to select the discriminating questions, i.e., those on which one can easily make a decision. On evolution, there are two visions: the vision of Darwin and his (numerous) followers, according to which natural selection explains everything; and the vision of those who think that this principle is valid but that it does not explain everything. Those who are interested can read Life’s Solution by Simon Conway Morris, who presents seventy examples of convergence of complex organs, such as the human eye, and who concludes in a very convincing way that the laws of the Universe program the coming of man since the Big Bang.

LN: The second part of the book chooses to seek concordance between the Bible and science, insisting on coherence when there is any, and explaining, when there seems to be a contradiction; that it is necessary to depart from the literal meaning. Is there not a risk of concordism here, and would it not have been preferable to center this part on the astonishing fact that the Jewish people were the only people of antiquity to affirm a faith in a unique God transcending a physical universe created by Him?

OB: If we assume that creation and revelation have the same origin, then “concordism” is more likely to bring us closer to the truth than an overly “discordist” approach. But two things must be kept in mind which may seem to be in opposition. First, it is true that the purpose of the Bible is not primarily to give us a scientifically accurate account or a historical account in the modern sense of the term (which would not be of much interest), but to allow for a strong and truthful relationship with God. But secondly, Revelation speaks of the real world; it passes through truly historical events; and it is embodied in history. There are thus naturally many interactions between faith and reason which must concur on these points.

Why then this choice to speak about the Bible?

It is very strange to see that the Bible states truths that the Hebrew people knew but that all the other peoples—much more learned—were unaware of about God, men, nature and the Universe. It is also curious to see that the Jewish people are the only people of antiquity still present on Earth; or that a young man of 30, Jesus, who wrote nothing and died on a cross, became the one who had the most influence on the history of humanity, as Himself and the prophecies proclaimed. In this book, rationality is interrogated.

LN: The chapter on Fatima seems a little out of sync with the rest of the book. Why did you choose to devote a chapter to a Marian apparition?

OB: The miracle of Fatima (in 1917, in Portugal) is also, as we show in the book, a real, rational question about the existence of God. How is it that children announce, three months in advance, a miracle that everyone will be able to observe, at a very precise time? This well-documented event raises the question of whether it can be explained within a framework of materialist thought; that is, without a supernatural hypothesis.

LN: Doesn’t the great diversity of ethical systems throughout the world contradict the affirmation of the existence of a transcendent moral law common to humanity? Do not the consequences of original sin, which distort our moral judgment, prevent unanimity on this subject?

OB: Yes, but beyond this diversity, if there is no absolute outside the material Universe to found good and evil, then nothing can be sacred, absolute, good or intangible. In the case of a world without God, we are ultimately just an agglomeration of atoms, and crushing a child or a mosquito is ultimately equivalent: it is a simple reorganization of matter. Consistent atheists must believe this; but it is not easy.

LN: The answer to the objections of the materialists is particularly hurried on two of them, especially on the problem of evil. Why, in a book of nearly 600 pages, did it not go into this objection, which is the one usually put forward against the existence of God? Is it not because there is no totally satisfactory answer, since it remains a mystery?

OB: The objection “if there is a good and all-powerful God, evil is impossible” does not hold, either logically or in terms of probability. For the presupposition “if God is love, He must create a world without evil” is false. Serious atheists readily acknowledge this. To quote a few: “We may concede that the problem of evil does not, after all, demonstrate that the central doctrines of theism are logically inconsistent with each other” (John L. Mackie, atheist, 1982, The Miracle of Theism, Oxford University Press, p. 154). “Some philosophers have held that the existence of evil is logically inconsistent with the existence of a theistic God. No one, I think, has succeeded in establishing such an extravagant claim” (William L. Rowe, atheist, The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism, 1979, p. 135). “It is now recognized on (almost) all sides that the logical argument is bankrupt (William P. Alston, “The Inductive Argument from Evil and the Human Cognitive Condition,” Philosophical Perspectives, Vol. 5, 1991, pp. 29-67).

Indeed, if God is love and if He seeks love, this presupposes free will. In reality, outside of Revelation, we are not in a position to judge whether God has or does not have good reasons for temporarily allowing suffering to exist in the world. Logical or intellectual arguments fall away, but the emotional issue remains very powerful. However, this is not the subject of our book, which does not talk about who God is, but only deals with one question: is there a creator God? And from only one angle: rationality.

LN: You devote a chapter to recalling the philosophical proofs of God’s existence (which have not changed since St. Thomas Aquinas), beginning by saying that they “have never interested anyone.” Why then devote space to them, and why are they of no interest to anyone if they are really convincing?

OB: Personally, the evidence I prefer is that of contingency. It seemed obvious to me that everything that exists must at every moment receive its existence from a cause; and that at every moment there is a first, necessary cause that maintains everything in existence. But after my conversion, I experienced that this proof did not convince many people. These philosophical proofs are very valid, but they don’t “make much of an impression;” i.e., they are not enough to convince. This is an observation. On the other hand, in addition to other elements, and in convergence with them, they are in my opinion very useful and contribute to establishing a rational and independent body of evidence.

LN: People often accuse believers of credulity; but you conclude, on the contrary, that it is materialism that is an irrational belief. Could you explain why?

OB: A coherent and rational materialist must believe that the Universe has always existed contrary to all evidence; that it is infinitely well-regulated by chance; that there is no good and evil; that the Bible, the destiny of the Hebrews, Jesus and the predictions of the children of Fatima, as well as the thousands of miracles and apparitions, the thousands of saints and the testimonies of personal encounters with God are also explained by illusions or by immense strokes of luck. This is really a lot to ask, and it is more than irrational. Everything converges. We must take the time to try to evaluate the probabilities. All this is actually impossible. It takes a lot of credulity to remain a materialist.


Featured image: “Creation of the Animals,” by Tintoretto; painted ca. 1551-1552.

Against The Normal

Within the Christianity of our time, the great spiritual conflict, unknown to almost all, is between a naturalistic/secular world of modernity and the sacramental world of classical Christianity. The first presumes that a literal take on the world is the most accurate. It tends to assume a closed system of cause and effect, ultimately explainable through science and manageable through technology. Modern Christians, quite innocently, accept this account of the world with the proviso that there is also a God who, on occasion, intervenes within this closed order. The naturalist unbeliever says, “Prove it.”

The sacramental world of classical Christianity speaks a wholly different language. It presumes that the world as we see it is an expression of a greater reality that is unseen. It presumes that everything is a continuing gift and a means of communion with the good God who created it. The meaning and purpose of things is found in that which is not seen, apart from which we can only reach false conclusions. The essential message of Christ, “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” is a proclamation of the primacy of this unseen world and its coming reign in the restoration of all things (apokatastasis, cf. Acts 3:21).

The assumptions of these two worldviews could hardly be more contradictory. The naturalistic/secular model has the advantage of sharing a worldview with contemporary culture. As such, it forms part of what most people would perceive as “common sense” and “normal.” Indeed, the larger portion of Christian believers within that model have no idea that any other Christian worldview exists.

The classical/sacramental worldview was the only Christian worldview for most of the centuries prior to the Reformation. Even then, that worldview was only displaced through revolution and state sponsorship. Nonetheless, the sacramental understanding continues within the life of the Orthodox Church, as well as many segments of Catholicism. Its abiding presence in the Scriptures guarantees that at least a suspicion of “something else” will haunt some modern Christian minds.

An assumption of the secular/naturalist worldview is that information itself is “objective” in character: it is equally accessible to everyone. The classical worldview assumes something quite different. “Blessed are the pure in heart,” Christ says, “for they shall see God.” The Kingdom of God is not an inert object that yields itself to public examination. The knowledge of God and of all spiritual things requires a different mode of seeing and understanding. St. Paul says it this way: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1Co 2:14).

This understanding disturbs the sensibilities of many contemporary Christians. Some go so far as to suggest that it is “gnostic” (by this they mean that the very notion of spiritual knowledge that is less than democratic is suspect). Sola Scriptura is a modern concept that posits the Scriptures as subject to objective interpretation. The Scriptures thus belong to the world of public, democratic debate, whose meaning belongs within the marketplace of opinion. The Scriptures are “my Bible.”

The classical model is, in fact, the teaching found in the Scriptures. It utterly rejects the notion of spiritual knowledge belonging to the same category as the naturalistic/secular world. It clearly understands that the truth of things is perceived only through the heart (nous) and that an inward change is required. It is impossible to encounter the truth and remain unchanged.

The classical model, particularly as found within Orthodoxy, demands repentance and asceticism as a normative part of the spiritual life. These actions do not earn a reward, but are an inherent part of the cleansing of the heart and the possibility of perceiving the truth.

The rationalization (secular/rationalist) of the gospel has also given rise to modern “evangelism.” If no particular change is required in a human being in order to perceive the truth of the gospel, then rational argument and demonstration becomes the order of the day. Indeed, modern evangelism is largely indistinguishable from modern marketing. They were born from the same American social movements.

The classical model tends to be slower in its communication, for what is being transmitted is the fullness of the tradition and the transformation of each human life. Evangelism, in this context, has little to no relationship with marketing. The primary form for the transmission of the gospel is the community of the Church. The Christian faith, in its fullness, is properly only seen in an embodied community of believers living in sacramental union with God through Christ by the Holy Spirit. In the early Church, the catechumenate generally lasted for as much as three years. The formation that took place was seen as an essential preparation for the Christian life. “Making a decision” was almost beside the point.

The struggle between classical/sacramental Christianity and modernity (including its various Christianities) is not a battle over information. The heart of the struggle is for sacramental Christianity to simply remain faithful to what it is. That struggle is significant, simply for the fact that it takes place within a dominant culture that is largely its antithesis.

A complicating factor in this struggle is the fact that the dominant culture (naturalistic/secular) has taken up traditional Christian vocabulary and changed its meaning. This creates a situation in which classical Christianity is in constant need of defining and understanding its own language in contradistinction to the prevailing cultural mind. The most simple terms, “faith, belief, Baptism, Communion, icon, forgiveness, sin, repentance,” are among those things that have to be consistently re-defined. Every conversation outside a certain circle requires this effort, and, even within that circle, things are not always easy.

Such an effort might seem exhausting. The only position of relaxation within the culture is the effortless agreement with what the prevailing permutations tell us on any given day. Human instinct tends towards the effortless life – and the secular mentality constantly reassures us that only the effortless life is normal. Indeed, “normal, ordinary, common,” and such terms, are all words invented by modernity as a self-description. Such concepts are utterly absent from the world of Scripture. Oddly, no one lived a “normal” life until relatively recently.

That which is “normal” is nothing of the sort. It is the purblind self-assurance that all is well when nothing is well.

God have mercy on us.

Father Stephen Freeman is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, serving as Rector of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.

The photo shows a marginal pen-and-ink drawing from a letter by Olaf Stapledon, written to his fiance, dated October 3, 1918.

Bertrand Russell: Preliminary Remarks

Bertrand Arthur William Russell was born on May 18, 1872 into a privileged family. His grandfather was Lord John Russell, who was the liberal Prime Minister of Great Britain and the first Earl Russell. Young Bertrand’s early life was traumatic. His mother died when he was two years old and he lost his father before the age of four.

He was then sent to live with his grandparents, Lord and Lady John Russell, but by the time he was six years old, his grandfather also died. Thereafter, his grandmother, who was a strict authoritarian and a very religious woman, raised him.

These early years were filled with prohibitions and rules, and his earliest desires were to free himself from such constraints. His lifelong denial of religion no doubt stems from this early experience. His initial education was at home, which was customary for children of his social class, and later he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he achieved first-class honors in mathematics and philosophy.

He graduated in 1894, and briefly took the position of attaché at the British Embassy in Paris. But he was soon back in England and became a fellow of Trinity College in 1895, just after his first marriage to Alys Pearsall Smith. A year later, in 1896, he published his first book, entitled German Social Democracy, which he wrote after a visit to Berlin.

Russell was interested in all aspects of the human condition, as is apparent from his wide-ranging contributions, and when the First World War broke out, he found himself voicing increasingly controversial political views. He became an active pacifist, which resulted in his dismissal from Trinity College in 1916, and two years later, his views led him even to prison. But he put his imprisonment to good use and wrote the Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, which was published in 1919.

Since he had no longer had a teaching job, he began to make his living by giving lectures and by writing. His controversial views soon made him famous. In 1919, he visited the newly formed Soviet Union, where he met many of the famous personalities of the Russian Revolution, which he initially supported.

But the visit soured his view of the Socialist movement in Russia and he wrote a scathing attack that very year, entitled Theory and Practice of Bolshevism. By 1921, he had married his second wife, Dora Black, and began to be interested in education. With Dora he created and ran a progressive school and wrote On Education (1926) and a few later, Education and the Social Order (1932).

In 1931, he became the 3rd Earl of Russell, and five years later got a divorce and married his third wife, Patricia Spence in 1936. By this time, he was extremely interested in morality and wrote about the subject in his controversial book Marriage and Morals (1932).

He had moved to New York to teach at City College, but he was dismissed from this position because of his views on sexuality (he advocated a version of free love, where sex was not bound up with questions of morality). When Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, Russell began to question his own pacifism and by 1939 had firmly rejected it, and campaigned hard for the overthrow of Nazism right to the end of the Second World War.

By 1944, he was back in England from the United States, and his teaching position at Trinity College was restored to him, and was granted the Order of Merit. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1950. During this time, he wrote several important books, such as, An Enquiry into Meaning and Truth (1940), Human Knowledge: Its Scopes and Limits (1948).

His best-known work from this time is History of Western Philosophy (1945). As well, he continued writing controversial pieces on social, moral and religious issues. Most of these were collected and published in 1957 as Why I Am Not A Christian.

From 1949 onwards, he was actively involved in advocating nuclear disarmament. In 1961, along with his fourth and final wife, Edith Finch, he was again put into prison for inciting civil disobedience to oppose nuclear warfare. He spent his final years in North Wales, actively writing to the very last. He died on February 2, 1970.

His range of interests took in the various spheres of human endeavor and thought, for not only was he engaged with mathematics, philosophy, science, logic and the theory of meaning, but he was deeply interested in political activism, feminism, education, nuclear disarmament, and he was a ceaseless opponent of communism. His ideas have greatly influenced the world we live in.

So pervasive is his influence that contemporary culture has seamlessly subsumed the ideas he introduced so that we no longer recognize his impact.

For example, his ideas have forever changed, on a fundamental level, the way philosophy is done, the way logic is dealt with, the way mathematics and science are understood, the view we hold of morality, marriage, the nuclear family, and even the various attempts to stop the spread of nuclear arms – all these concepts owe their beginnings to Russell.

At the very heart of Russell’s thought lies the concept, first elucidated in The Principles of Mathematics, that analysis can lead to truth. By analysis he means the breaking up of a complex expression or thought in order to get at its simpler components, which in turn will reveal the meaning or truth.

Thus, the method involves moving from the larger to the more specific, from the macro to the micro. Russell arrived at this process by suggesting that mathematics and natural languages derived from logic. He extended his approach and stated that the structure of logic could be a useful tool in helping us understand the human experience, which in turn would lead to the working out of disputes.

Thus, in A History of Western Philosophy he shows how the structure of logic is consistent with the way the world works, namely that reality itself is paralleled in logic.

Therefore, this blending of logic and the need to arrive at the truth of reality highlights the second important concern for Russell, namely, metaphysics. In fact, both logic and metaphysics unite and give philosophy its unique approach to uncover truth, which for Russell leads to the understanding of the universe and us. It is this concept that he explores fully in Our Knowledge of the External World.

Although logic is essential to Russell’s philosophy, it is not synonymous with it. Rather, philosophy is to be seen as a larger construct, which certainly begins with logic, but ends with mysticism. It is certainly true that Russell denied the authority of organized religion all his life and preferred to live a life outside prescribed dogmas.

Nevertheless, he recognized the essential mystery that surrounds life, both in its particular representation in the life of humankind and in the larger sphere, namely, in the life of the universe. It is precisely this mysticism that disallowed him an ultimate denial of God existence, and therefore Russell never called himself an atheist; rather he labeled himself an avowed agnostic, or someone who does not know, and cannot know, whether God exists or not.

Thus, in philosophy he found a quest far greater than that embodied by religion or science, and he described this process in Mysticism and Logic.

 

The photo shows, “New York Movie,” By Edward Hopper, painted in 1939.

Atheism Is Rebellion

Atheism is rebellion – it is hardly a methodology of thought, truth, or even science. Unknown to its cheerleaders is the fact that atheism cannot overcome apoptosis – it is programed to commit suicide. Its genetic contradiction kills it. This is why atheism is now regarded as a genetic mutation, slotted for destruction.

Its death sentence – is simply this – it cannot build an equitable, just and good society in which humans will want to live. Morality is not brain-washing. As recent studies clearly, infants come equipped with a sense of right and wrong. In other words, the Socratic tradition had it right all along.

While nature has its own innate laws, described by science – humans are born with natural law. In other words, because humans are naturally moral, there is God.

Thus the entire effort of “proving” God by quantifiable methods is a false one. Ludwig Wittgenstein said it best, at the end of his Tractatus: “…if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all.”

To try to answer these problems (why a human has worth, purpose and meaning) with quantifiable methods (which is Scientism) is useless. Again, Wittgenstein points out that each is purpose-specific; it cannot be extended into all areas of life. If it is, then he says, “language goes on a holiday.” Thus, scientism is simply illogical, because it cannot be rational, and therefore wrong. Simone Weil understood this clearly, for she observed: “Science is not a fruit of the spirit of truth.”

And because of moral law, atheism is also not true. Since modernity is an age of confusion, because it is an age of relativism, truth is defined as opinion, personal preference, choice, or taste. Thus, atheism is simply all that – it is not a verifiable, quantifiable fact.

Each time, an attempt is made to disprove, or prove God, by way of science, language goes on a holiday. Therefore, atheism can only be opinion, taste, preference, choice, which is the only viable explanation possible.

Atheism also seeks to replace religion – and it simply does not have the logical means to accomplish what it seeks. It is deficient in a viable language that will satisfactorily explain the “problems of life.” And “language” means ideas.

If atheism truly wants to replace religion, then it must abandon the language of science and create one that properly explains why each human life is valuable, purposeful and meaningful. Humans as creatures with an innate natural law continually need these explanations. They do not only scientific ones, which can only be true according to their own purpose of quantification.

But since atheism is scientism, it is inherently unable to formulate a language for morality- because the result would then be religion. This is the fatal flaw. Death is the only possibility. It is like asking a tree to find a way to use dental floss.

Given this problem, the only possible way out for atheism is to do what Nietzsche does – declare the death of God – and then entirely abandon morality. To fully recognize that man is only an animal, and nothing ever more, destined for the dust, like any animal dead in the forest.

Second, atheism must fully embrace Hitlerism (this term is preferable to Nazism which was the political and social practice of Hitlerism. Nazism is dead, but Hitlerism is alive and well – and embodied by every atheist, whether s/he understands this or not).

This means that atheism needs to accept what a life without God fully entails. And that life cannot then be based upon morality, since that is simply brain-washing and an expression of weakness – that life must be based upon the full consequences of man being an animal – existing “beyond good and evil.” It was Simone Weil who very elegantly understood this connection and identified it.

So, here is the challenge for atheists – if they actually believe their opinions, tastes, and preferences – they have to accept that they must Hitlerism, which is the best and most accurate (and even courageous) explanation, or program, of living a life without God and denying natural moral law. Therefore, a true atheist must be unapologetically Hitlerian, which alone had the courage to describe what life without God is like.

The corollary to this is another question – after deny God, why do atheists then proceed to live like perfectly decent Christians, worrying about human rights, social justice, tolerance, fairness?

Should they not, instead, be striving to express their will to power – the destruction of the weak, the strengthening of the species, the struggle to survive? There can be no decency in atheism – because that is weakness – and weak animal lives for too long.

There is indeed an adolescent quality to atheists who frolic about having tossed off all authority – perhaps this is why the greatest “thinkers” of atheism tend to be academics – and yet they do not understand the consequences of their “thinking.”

First, atheism is simply a preference, a world-view, an opinion, which is unable to generate a particular type of society in which humans might want to live. Why? Because atheism is no more than a critique of normative thinking; it is not an alternative to it. There is reason why ideas are normative.

Therefore, atheism can only last for the life-time of the individual atheist. And studies by Eric Kaufmann bluntly point out that atheists just do not have enough babies to keep their world-view going into the future. Atheism will die with the atheists. Religious people have more babies, and therefore religion will keep on going.

Atheism needs to answer why this is. Historically, to exist and think without God is alien to what it means to be human. Archaeology points this out continually – even that civilization is not the result of economic forces, but rather of religious worship (as, say, in Gobekli Tepe). Farming, domestication, metallurgy, cities, social hierarchies, culture are the consequences of religion alone. Doubt is neither creative, nor generative – socially or biologically.

Second, the position of atheism is arrived at by way of reason, as expressed in scientism (which says that only quantifiable probabilities exist and are therefore true). But if atheism is correct, then rationality is simply the result of random chance, which is to say, it is the product of pure irrationality. How can rationality be created by irrationality? Atheism provides no answer.

Third, the famous philosophical question – why is there something, when there could be nothing? Physics tell us that all things are forever falling into entropy, which means that all objects prefer to be at rest rather be active.

Therefore, once the first accidental burst of creation happens, and random things get created, why do all things become self-generating? Why does life keep producing more life? Why the instinct for procreation, which is an on-going waste of energy, given that entropy is the normal state? In other words, why does life need to keep on going?

Fourth, if atheism is correct, then why must humans continue to exist on the earth? They have been nothing but trouble, and highly destructive to boot. Why did nature (which is viewed as all-wise) carry on with this experiment? What good have humans ever done to the planet?

Fifth, if atheism is correct, then man is certainly animal. But why would nature, in her wisdom, let evolve a creature that is so utterly unsuited to live in nature? All man has is intellect, with which to fashion the earth into a world in which he alone can exist. Why this disconnect creature and natural world?

Such unresolved questions also build internal contradictions within atheism. For example, why is it that atheists first deny the existence of God and regard religion as ignorance, superstition, and barbarity which has oppressed and imprisoned mankind, but then promptly behave, think, act, and live like good Christians? Why can they not embrace and “celebrate” their “animalness?”

An atheist is also a Darwinian nowadays, which means that men and women must be driven by instinct, which is the urge to survive and the will to power. Thus, an atheist must be a powerful predator, who seeks to destroy the weak.

Such is the true calling of an atheist, to be a strong animal, free of morality, which is part of the prison created by religion.

Thus, why live in family groups, why behave decently, why be nice, why worry about “human rights,” why love anyone other than your own self, why object to killing and murder, why not seek to destroy charity work (which only promotes life for the feeble), why have doctors and hospital who prolong life for the sick who should rightly die, why care for the elderly who are useless, why have education for all, why not kill the handicapped and the mentally challenged, why have prisons since criminals are only being good animals and they should be free to win even more power?

Indeed, are there any true atheists in the world?

There was one, and he wrote the best manual for the atheist, liberated from the prison of religion. This book made the author an instant millionaire, with worldwide sales. The appeal of the book was that it laid bare man as a true animal who survived through strength who had no need of God and morality.

The book was Mein Kampf, the author Adolf Hitler, who was a millionaire-writer long before he became the Fuhrer. He did create a purely atheistic culture, in which man the animal reigned supreme. It six years and about fifty million lives to destroy this atheist world. It is Simone Weil who made this insightful connection between atheism and Hitlerism.

But why does modernity need atheism?

First, it captures perfectly the relativist ethos that permeates the world today, with its denial of truth, history, morality in favor of opinion, taste, preference, choice.

Second, by being in a state of denial, atheism is a rebellious throwing off of constraints which has come to define freedom.

Third, as Charles Péguy observed long ago, there really is no such thing as atheism, because what passes for the denial of God is really an “auto-theism,” a deification of the self.

By removing God, man can worship himself. Thus atheism is attractive, because it is validated narcissism, for atheism has no interest in the future – it is merely the mirror with which to gaze upon oneself – in the illusion of an unending present.

The photo shows, “Echo and Narcissus,” John William Waterhouse, painted in 1903.

Self-Annihilation?

Knowledge has been successfully hijacked – because its purpose is no longer truth. We live in a world governed by a particular worldview that no longer sees truth as the foremost necessity to the good life.

This leaves only feelings which alone are truly authentic. In other words, opinions are far better than thought, and reason is merely another system of oppression. All previous pursuits of learning were therefore merely constructs contrived by dominant groups to sustain and extend their power over the oppressed.

Such is the post-truth world that we now inhabit, where reality can only be governed by human emotion, which apparently demands socio-political justice for the “historically” downtrodden and ignored.

This is often labeled as, “postmodernism,” but this is inaccurate. The hydra indeed has many heads.

In fact, it’s best to call it, The Grand-Conglomerate Ideology (GCI), whose texture is woven from divergent threads, namely, Marxism, relativism, feminism, eugenics, corporatism, Stalinism, Hiterlism, Protestantism, secularism, scientism, multiculturalism, atheism, postfoundationalism, naturalism, technologism, transhumanism, transgenderism, environmentalism, progressivism, and nihilism.

The tentacles of this beast reach into all facets of life. The very purpose of western society is now simply an extension of GCI. Nothing lies outside of it. Even our habit of mind no longer makes sense without GCI. Our society exists to justify it, and our politics and laws sustain it. All validations of human existence can now only exist in the purview of GCI.

People may content themselves with one or more threads of its latticework, but that it is merely the play of labels, for each thread leads to the same telos.

And what is that telos – what is the purpose, or chief end of GCI?

Very simply – annihilation, or what the Buddhists call nirvana. We have only to look at the “virtues” which are held up as laudatory – abortion, anti-genderism, anti-nationalism, antinatalism. Why are each of these an inherent good, when each of them also denies humanity its dignity?

But why annihilation? Why the deep loathing of humanity itself? Again, very simply because we have managed to relegate the transcendent into the realm of the ridiculous. In other words, when humanity denies God, it stops being human, and can no longer justify its own existence. Its ideal no longer becomes life (both physical and ghostly), but its very opposite – that is, death.

When we can no longer believe in a panoramic purpose for all of humanity, we veer into a purpose closer to hand – murder in all its manifestations. Why do all tyrants want to kill as many people as possible? Why the carnage of totalitarian states in the twentieth-century?

The spilling of blood is a very necessary element in humanity’s worship of itself. This is why human sacrifice was an essential component of paganism, for the pagan gods were simply extensions of humanity. It’s violence alone that makes us feel human when we no longer know how to look beyond ourselves. All this was once known as, “evil.”

Is this what Simone Weil meant when she called Aristotle “the bad tree that bore bad fruit?” Aristotle turned the human gaze inwards, and by doing so, he mechanized thought, made it a system. All of creation thus became an enclosed system, a self-contained micro-world functioning in an endless plethora of other systems.

But so what? And more importantly, what is to be done (to borrow a phrase form Nikolai Chernyshevsky)?

First question first – so what? In the words of Rémi Brague, “If God doesn’t exist, then why should humanity exist?” We may content ourselves with diversions like saving the planet, or seeking social justice and the like. But this is only delaying the more obvious question – what’s the point of being alive? Should the planet be saved and humanity destroyed?

These may appear to be stark queries, but they do point us to the very heart of our darkness – we no longer really believe that we should continue to exist, because we no longer believe that life has any true purpose. Everything else is a diversion until nirvana.

Second, what is to be done? But to really answer this question we have to accept that humanity actually has a purpose on this planet – and a life beyond it. Fighting the hydra requires far more than clever slogans; it requires that we return value to that which is moral.

Given our deep addiction to “-isms,” we have made ourselves morally bankrupt – in other words, we have made ourselves receptive to all kinds of foolishness, for though we might have displaced God as the giver of meaning, we have been unable to replace him with anything meaningful. None of the “’-isms” can assume the role of god, no matter how hard their valiant followers may try. Therein lies the various conflicts of our time.

As the thought of John Hare shows, humanity cannot be moral without God – it can certainly try (by seeking rights and justice), but it will fail because there is an unbridgeable gap between the human ability for goodness and the human duty to do the good.

Why be good? Ability and duty can only come together via God, in that morality must a purpose – not a reward, but a purpose. Here people often misunderstand God as some dispenser of rewards and punishment. That is a very childish view, though it does serve to advance one strand of GCI (atheism).

Given the omnipresent hydra, humanity must return to its root, which is God. But not any god – only the God of the Judeo-Christian faith. God has made us to live life through morality, and we should live this way because He has made us so. A life outside morality is not human at all – it’s not even bestial. It’s meaningless, for even beasts have meaning. Only man can give himself meaninglessness.

To continue with Hare, we must answer two important questions – Can we be good? And, why should we be good? Neither question can be answered without God.

To return to GCI, it’s now easy to see that it is an attempt to find a substitute for God, an all-inclusive transcendence which might provide some sort of God-less meaning to life.

However, humanity is incapable of providing justification for itself, let alone why it must be good. GCI quickly erodes into tyrannical tribalism, where baser desires of winning and subduing become foremost, because humanity cannot free itself from its condition to create truth. Humanity can only discover truth, not create it.

Likewise, humanity cannot create morality; it can only live within it, or outside it, because it’s one of the necessities of human existence like air and water.

The first step in breaking free from the grip of the hydra is to destroy the ground in which it’s rooted. Since the GCI is rooted in the education system, citizens needs to dismantle the entire education system which has now become nothing mora than an intricate mind-abuse system that destroys the minds of the young.

Parents need to stop sending their children into the maws of this Moloch. They need to stop sacrificing their children upon the high altar of GCI.

Instead, parents need to build independent schools, colleges, universities where their children may once again learn the richer form of human life – one rooted firmly in the morality guaranteed by the Judeo-Christian God.

In other words, parents alone have the ability to starve the monster of CGI to death. Otherwise, the beast will only grow more and more powerful, with each child that it devours. All of society needs to say – enough!

 

The photo shows, “The Death of Chatterton,” by Henry Wallis, painted in 1856.

The Enlightenment Misunderstood, Again

As with Steven Pinker’s earlier The Better Angels of Our Nature, of which this is really an expansion and elucidation, I was frustrated by this book.

On the one hand, Pinker is an able thinker and clear writer, free of much of the ideological cant and distortions of vision that today accompany most writing about society (for society is what this book is about), and he is mostly not afraid to follow his reasoning to its conclusions.

His data on human progress is voluminous, persuasive, and extremely interesting.  On the other hand, Pinker regularly makes gross errors about history, some of little import, but some that undermine the entire thesis of his book—which is that that the Enlightenment is the sole cause of the human progress he illustrates.

I like Pinker for his clarity of mind.  And since I have been reading a steady diet of books whose central claim is that the Enlightenment was a mistake, and moreover I am personally enamored of Reaction, the idea of creating a new thing by reference to the old, it is only fair that I consider the opposite ideas presented as well as possible.

Moreover, this book claims to answer exactly a current question of mine—is the material marvel that is the modern world the child of the Enlightenment?  I was not disappointed; this book is just what the doctor ordered, at least to clarify my own thoughts, though probably not with the result Pinker intended.

He wants to prove the Enlightenment is responsible for everything that is good in the modern world, and every good thing that will be in the future, but he ends up, for the most part, refuting himself on all his key claims.  Still, the ride is interesting enough and that alone makes his book worth reading.

On the second page of his book, Pinker enunciates the core of his argument, by referring to “the Enlightenment principle that we can apply reason and sympathy to enhance human flourishing.”

The next sentence, by implication, defines the Enlightenment further as “the ideals of reason, science, humanism, and progress.”  The following paragraph says the Enlightenment is “also called humanism, the open society, and cosmopolitan or classical liberalism.”

All this creates a somewhat confused definition, but once you read the whole book, it’s evident that to Pinker, the middle sentence is the key—the Enlightenment consists in the primacy to human societies of “reason, science, humanism, and progress.” His book revolves around these four concepts, and we will return to each of these concepts in turn.

Pinker divides his book into three parts.  The first, shortest, part expands on what Pinker means by “the Enlightenment.”  Here, Pinker begins by turning to the driver of all the progress that he details at great length later in the book, namely, the Scientific Revolution.  “The Enlightenment is conventionally placed in the last two-thirds of the 18th century, though it flowed out of the Scientific Revolution and the Age of Reason in the 17th century.”

Given that the term “Age of Reason” is only used in one other place in this book, at the very end in a similar context, while the terms “Enlightenment” and “Scientific Revolution” are used continuously, it seems fair to conclude that Pinker believes that the Scientific Revolution (actually beginning in the 1500s, and possibly earlier, not “in the 17th century”) was the necessary first step that combined with the Enlightenment to produce the benefits of the modern world.

Pinker reinforces this conclusion by summarizing the modern understanding of scientific progress to include entropy, evolution, and information.  Grasping these three underlying drivers of scientific progress, Pinker tells us, allows a more complete approach to scientific understanding, and thus of the Enlightenment.

All this is true.  The problem with this definition of the Enlightenment, though, is that it is all about the Scientific Revolution, from its inception to today, and when you look closely at it, has nothing to do with the Enlightenment.

The Scientific Revolution led to technology, which ultimately (with some other drivers that are endlessly debated) led to the Industrial Revolution, which created nearly all the progress Pinker spends the second part of his book documenting.  But this eliding of the Enlightenment with the Scientific Revolution is the fatal error of Pinker’s entire book—every chapter, and practically every page, is shot through with it.

Pinker claims for the Enlightenment, a system of political and philosophical principles with a nearly exclusive focus on increasing liberty, the advantages of created by the Scientific Revolution, a pre-Enlightenment happening whose success, and whose single-handed creation of the modern world, had essentially nothing to do with the Enlightenment.

Pinker does this because he wishes to advocate for Enlightenment principles (in particular, emancipation and atheism), but justify those principles almost wholly by reference to the achievements of the Scientific Revolution.  This is a neat parlor trick, but intellectually dishonest.

I cannot tell whether Pinker realizes the dishonesty, or merely has wandered so far into the weeds he cannot think clearly.  In either case, the effect is to make some parts of the book fascinating, and others risible.

There are many, many claimed reasons for why the Industrial Revolution occurred, and why it only occurred in the West.  But no serious historian claims that it was the Enlightenment that caused the Industrial Revolution, which is no doubt why Pinker glosses over the supposed linkage and offers no citations tying the Enlightenment to the Industrial Revolution (or, for that matter, to the Scientific Revolution).

For a man dedicated to carefully parsing the evidence and linking causal chains through reasoning, this is a glaring omission.  Fortunately for the reader, though, these first philosophical musings, or ramblings, only take up the first thirty-five pages of the book.

The next 300 are an endless, and endlessly fascinating, series of statistical analyses about various forms of (mostly material) progress.  In the final sixty pages, the last third of the book, Pinker returns to philosophy, attempting to synthesize the progress he has demonstrated with his other claimed keystones of the modern world, reason, science, and humanism.

Pinker’s basic point about progress is a broadening of his claims about peace in The Better Angels of Our Nature—that those who think the world is getting worse are wrong, not (mostly) from malice, but from various forms of psychological bias, such as the “Optimism Gap” (people see their own lives as better than other people’s); “Availability Bias” (we make decisions based on data easily available to us, which is often weighted toward the negative); and “Negativity Bias” (it’s easier to imagine how things could be dramatically worse than how they could be dramatically better).

To prove this, Pinker offers fourteen separate chapters, each covering a totally different area of progress, demonstrating that since the Scientific Revolution human conditions have gotten better.

Pinker starts with Life—he shows how life expectancy, both at birth and at later periods of life, has dramatically increased over time—or, rather, since the Industrial Revolution in the West, and since the early twentieth century in much of the rest of the world.  Next is Health, to much the same effect.

In both chapters, Pinker relies heavily on Nobel Prize-winner Angus Deaton’s The Great Escape, a fascinating book.  But Pinker’s philosophical confusion shows up every time he makes other than statistical claims—for example, he tells us that “Deaton notes that even the idea that lies at the core of the Enlightenment—knowledge can make us better off—may come as a revelation” to some (i.e., the non-Western) parts of the world.  There are two problems with this.

First, that is not the “idea that lies at the core of the Enlightenment,” it is in an idea that, in the West, far pre-dated the Enlightenment, as I discuss further below.  More to the immediate point, that’s not what Deaton says (since I have a copy of his book, I checked).

What Deaton actually says is that people in poor countries are often satisfied with their health, not knowing it can be better.  He saying nothing about the Enlightenment, or knowledge in general.  Unfortunately, such appeals to authority are common in Pinker’s book (surprising, since appeal to authority has been identified as a basic logical fallacy for millennia), and when the authority is mis-cited, it makes matters worse.

(The reader’s suspicion is further exacerbated by Pinker’s frequent habit of not offering page cites, just footnotes to books as a whole, though he does give a page cite to Deaton’s book.)

Anyway, Pinker next turns to food (Sustenance), where he again talks about the Scientific Revolution (including its modern continuation in Norman Borlaug’s Green Revolution) feeding the world, and then tries to claim that it was an accomplishment of the Enlightenment, and failure to feed people as shown by Stalin’s terror famines was because (supposed) Enlightenment values weren’t honored. That’s a stretch.

Next is wealth, where Pinker focuses on GDP per capita, showing the takeoff since the Industrial Revolution in the West and more recently in some Asian countries, and the reductions in extreme poverty in other countries that have not experienced the same kind of takeoff.

Following is Inequality, which Pinker acutely and subtly analyzes (channeling Thomas Sowell in some cases—you can tell that Pinker is, in many areas, broad-minded by the several times he cites Sowell for different propositions, since Sowell is anathema to doctrinaire leftists).

Then Environment, noting that other than global warming, the environment is doing just fine and shows every sign of doing better in the future, on every metric.

In particular, he notes how resource apocalypses, from Peak Oil to supposed shortages of rare earth elements, are invariably falsified, by technology in general and by hard work enabling us to produce better things with less material.  He also covers Peace, updating his earlier book Better Angels, and Safety, noting the declines in homicides and accidents.  He quickly dismisses Terrorism as a tempest in a teapot.

It’s not just material progress that Pinker covers, although that’s the focus.  It’s also moral progress—we are, among other things, nicer to people.  Less torture, fewer executions, more value assigned to human life and happiness.

True enough, but a necessary leg of Pinker’s entire argument is that there was no significant moral progress prior to the Enlightenment, since prior progress would disprove the causation he claims.  But prior progress in the West was very great, as anyone with any grasp of history knows.

Christianity immediately obviated many of the worst moral behaviors of the Ancient World (variants of which are still common in non-Christian cultures), from infanticide to the Roman practice of starving children to death in sight of a banquet, to distill their organs into love potions that would enhance desire.

Christianity further led to the rule of law and was instrumental in the creation of the institutions that made possible the Scientific Revolution.  All these moves forward, as Pinker documents while glossing over their cause, led to further moral gains.  To hide his embarrassment at these pre-Enlightenment advances, Pinker chants, over and over again, the same trite phrases about “endless religious wars” and repeats boring anecdotes about witchcraft and bearbaiting.

After these convincing chapters (convincing for their substance, at least), Pinker covers some softer topics, somewhat less successfully.  Generally, the less harder-edged and susceptible to statistical analysis the topic, the worse Pinker does in showing that actual progress is being made.

In fairness, though, it is true these softer topics, to the extent one agrees they constitute actual progress comparable to that covered in the earlier chapters, are more tied to actual Enlightenment ideas.

First up is Democracy, which he claims is increasing, but Pinker helps himself over the finish line by defining democracy as basically any good government, one which “threads the needle, exerting just enough force to prevent people from preying on each other without preying on the people itself.”

That, along with other definitional broadening from Karl Popper and John Mueller, means that democracy is redefined as any government with the rule of law and some responsiveness to public opinion.  But in any case, there’s more democracy, however defined, and that’s Progress.

Next is Equal Rights, where Pinker goes full Left, trumpeting all emancipation as good for what ails a society, and all failure to emancipate as evil incarnate (although he seems confused, since what is evil, anyway, to someone who denies the reality of moral abstractions other than utilitarian ones)?

He does try to give a scientific gloss to his philosophical attachment to emancipation, ascribing it to more wealth means more people seek self-actualization, and want the same for others.  This he then extrapolates to a claim that liberal values are spreading everywhere, with a lot of graphs (though we’re never told what “liberal values” are being measured, but by implication they overlap with “emancipative values”).

Then Knowledge (we know more, and we’re getting smarter); Quality of Life (we work less and both the necessities and luxuries of life are cheaper); and Happiness (we are happier, largely because we’re richer, though Deaton covers this much better and more subtly).

Along with Daniel T. Rodgers, Pinker huffily rejects Robert Putnam and others who point to the atomization of American lives as a problem, with the flip response that “Users of the Internet and social media have more contact with friends” and they “remain as satisfied with the number and quality of their friendships as in the decade of Gerald Ford and Happy Days.”

But this is obtuse.  Putnam’s claim wasn’t that people didn’t have friends anymore, it was that the intermediary institutions that were the entire basis of the success of any successful, and in particular, the successful American, society had been completely destroyed, resulting in the cascading baleful effects that Tocqueville and Robert Nisbet had earlier identified and feared.

Pinker totally fails to make this connection, or more likely deliberately obfuscates it (which is probably why he refers to fears of social atomization as a “hysterical misconception”—that’s protesting too much).  Not to mention that Putnam would have told him, too, that the problem was well under way by the time of Gerald Ford, so the 1970s are probably not the best comparison decade to today.

Finally, Pinker points out that Existential Threats, from Y2K to bioterror, are grossly exaggerated.  Sure, we can’t know the future, but on balance, we’re not all likely to wink out of existence next week, or next millennium.

Of the supposed threat from artificial intelligence, he says “the scenario makes about as much sense as the worry that since jet planes have surpassed the flying ability of eagles, someday they will swoop out of the sky and seize our cattle.”  Ha ha.  He’s also heinously sexist.  “There is no law of complex systems that says that intelligent agents must turn into ruthless conquistadors.  Indeed, we know of one highly advanced form of intelligence that evolved without this defect. They’re called women.”

I like all this, and agree with much of it (although I could do without the constant references to Mama Cass and the Beatles, reminding me Pinker is stuck, in many ways, in the 1960s—and he is writing primarily for aging Boomers, staring down both barrels of their mortality, wondering if their lives of self-indulgence were really as pointless as they now seem).

I am mostly a techno-optimist myself.  However, Pinker’s greatest technical error, as opposed to failure of vision, is to believe (like Joseph Tainter) that if it can’t be quantified, it doesn’t exist.  I’m a quantitative guy, personally—I have an MBA with finance and accounting concentrations from the Booth School of Business, and my wife correctly says I view the world as Neo does in the last scenes of The Matrix—as cascading columns of numbers underlying the perceived, but merely surface, reality of things.  Certainly, non-quantifiable views of human flourishing are subject to errors of perception, which is probably why Pinker repeatedly excoriates the Romantics.

But Pinker is too quick to reject that humans seek transcendence, and all the new flavors of Doritos and life extension in the world isn’t going to change that.  “Man shall not live by bread alone.”  Pinker is fond of quoting Jesus, always with a sneer, but he does not offer us that truth, because it scares him, since it cannot be quantified.

But the unquantifiable aspects of progress are a topic too long to get into in this review.  Pinker wraps up Progress by talking about its future. He does this by making totally unsupported claims about the origin of Progress.  “Since the Enlightenment unfolded in the late 18th century, life expectancy across the world has risen from 30 to 71, and in the more fortunate countries to 81.”  “The Enlightenment is working: for two and a half centuries, people have used knowledge to enhance human flourishing.”

Therefore, it’s going to continue, don’t you know?  No logic is offered, just repetition of the mantra of “knowledge” and trying to tie the Enlightenment to the Scientific Revolution by repeatedly mentioning them in the same breath.  It’s not convincing; in fact, it comes across as desperate.

Embedded within all this proof of progress (for proof is what it is—we can quibble, or call it incomplete, but only a fool would say that material progress since the Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revolution has not been immense), is the truth, difficult for some to accept, that all this progress was caused purely by, and until recently only affected, the West.

It is the Western world that has gotten better—and finally, after 400 years, some of those benefits have been adopted by others.  That’s it. This is not a global phenomenon in cause, and it may not be a global phenomenon in effect, if the inferior cultures of the world, for whatever reason, refuse to accept the gifts offered by the Western Scientific Revolution.

Pinker doesn’t make this point, either, though I can see why—it’s inflammatory and distracts from his argument.  (He does admit that his first love, the Enlightenment, was a wholly Western phenomenon, a topic he shuffles away from quickly, mumbling about how ideas have no home, which may be true, but they do have a birthplace.)

There are two topics related to Progress that Pinker avoids like the plague, mentioning them only in passing and in lists of other, related topics.  Those are slavery and abortion.  Why he avoids them is obvious, if you give it a little thought.  Slavery he avoids because all progress toward eradicating it was based on religious belief; the Enlightenment had nothing to do with it.

Slavery had been increasingly frowned upon by the Church, to the point of disappearing in Europe long before the High Middle Ages.  It made a comeback outside Europe with the conquest of the Americas, with intense debate about its morality applied to Africans and Indians within a Christian framework, and it was solely Christian believers in England and America who ultimately pushed for the ending of, and ended, slavery.

Pinker’s beloved Enlightenment had nothing to do with it, and in fact most of his precious Enlightenment thinkers, like Jefferson, were fine with slavery.  This is not convenient to the thesis that religion is poison and the Enlightenment made us all free, so it is glossed over.  For similar reasons, Pinker avoids abortion.  If violence is decreasing, and infanticide is a horror equivalent to public torture-executions, why is abortion OK?  Pinker never explains, and in fact he once lists abortion in a list of bad things in which the United States leads, including homicide and incarceration.

The reader suspects that Pinker is either unable to overcome his own internal cognitive dissonance, or is afraid of no longer being invited to the right parties if he suggests that abortion should be treated as a moral bad.  (In fairness, he did address this in Better Angels, where he admitted that abortion logically is indistinguishable from infanticide.)

Another topic that Pinker studiously avoids is China.  Yes, he mentions China in various sections on Progress.  But since China embodies the very opposite of Enlightenment political thought, in particular “emancipatory values,” its progress is hard to square with Pinker’s thesis that the Enlightenment is solely responsible for all progress.

It is easy to square, though, with China adopting Western science and rejecting Western political values.   Which is exactly what has happened, which suggests those political values are not, in fact, important for, or even related to, progress.  Again, though, the reader is offered no thoughts in this direction.

Pinker only sees two possible threats to ever more progress.  The first is economic stagnation, which he dismisses the possibility of with, in essence, “not going to happen because I say so.”  Not for Pinker grappling with Robert Gordon’s The Rise and Fall of American Growth and its claims that productivity is likely to stay low (which he does mention), or Peter Thiel’s lament, “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.”

Mostly he doesn’t grapple with those arguments because he’s falling all over himself to get to the real threat to progress:  Donald Trump.  Pinker offers an insane list of caricatures and falsehoods about Trump and, more generally, all Republicans, for good measure throwing in pro-Brexit Britons. Did you know that Trump opposes all of Life, Health, Wealth, the Environment, Safety, Peace, Democracy, and more?  That is, Trump is opposed to Progress, and wants to strangle it, then throw its body into a fire and dance naked around it.

Pinker does everything but Photoshop a picture of Trump with a red suit, a tail, horns, and a pitchfork and fold it into the center of his book. This section goes on in this vein at great length, but in the entire book, every few pages, Pinker snarls and foams at the mouth about Trump, attacking him irrelevantly while discussing unrelated topics.  I suppose, like the mad dog he resembles here, Pinker can’t help it, since he very evidently suffers from Trump Derangement Syndrome, which relates to the older Leftist Derangement Syndrome in the same way that Ebola does the common cold.

But it’s at this point that Pinker’s book starts to go off the rails.  Not the stuff about Trump—that’s just boring, and par for the course in these days of #Resistance (though it is certain to make the book date badly, whatever the future holds—authors do themselves no favors by ranting about the politics of the moment in books not about the politics of the moment).

And Pinker generally appears to have none but the most simplistic grasp of politics—not for him any references to any political thinker, from Spartans to Athenians to Machiavelli.  No, it’s his final three chapters, on Reason, Science, and Humanism, that cause Pinker to implode.

This is where Pinker exalts what he claims are the principles of the Enlightenment, without making any attempt to actually show they were the basis of the Enlightenment, re-defining them to avoid the inconvenient truth that reason and science pre-dated the Enlightenment, and Humanism has nothing to do with progress.

As far as reason, Pinker first rambles about various cognitive biases that limit reasoning.  Then he notes that conservatives and liberals are equally subject to these biases.  Having established his impartiality, he throws it in the trash, attacking only conservatives viciously and at length (Jonathan Haidt would be appalled).

He starts by claiming “the first modern conservative, Edmund Burke, suggested that humans were too flawed to think up schemes for improving their condition and were better off sticking with traditions and institutions that kept from the abyss,” which falsely suggests (without quite saying it) that Burke, and by extension all conservatives, are opposed to all reason and therefore all progress (and miscasts Burke, of course).  After various sonorous paragraphs about predictive bias and the like, Pinker returns to “the major enemy of reason in the public sphere today—which is not ignorance, innumeracy, or cognitive biases, but politicization.”

It’s a little bit of a problem that all academia has been politicized by the Left, but the real problem is “a Republican Party that has become synonymous with the extreme right,” which “has undermined the institutions of democracy.”  Only Republicans gerrymander.  Only Republicans “encourage unregulated donations from moneyed interests.”

Only Republicans politicize the Supreme Court.  Only Republicans “shut down the government when their maximum demands aren’t met” (this book went to press before the Democrats did just that three weeks ago to get amnesty for illegal aliens).

But help is on the way!  It’s in the form of “fact checking,” by PolitiFact and Snopes, neutral helpers who can help the virtuous, neutral, public-minded media show the masses the Truth.  Yawn.  Pinker really beclowns himself here; he would have done himself a service by deliberately selecting some non-#Resistance editors, for his book, so he could have avoided demonstrating so effectively the cognitive biases he is only too eager to point out in others.

But the even bigger problem is that reason is not a feature of the Enlightenment. Pinker really, honestly, seems to think reason was invented in 1750.  This is laughable.  Reasoning about first principles, about reason itself, has always characterized the West.

The idea that people were irrational until the Enlightenment is totally bizarre (and for good measure Pinker seems to think anyone living before 1600 was somewhere between credulous and stupid).  An obsessive pursuit of reason in the most refined forms possible has always been the hallmark of the West, starting with the Ancient Greeks, through the Neoplatonists (many Christian); and into its rediscovery in the court of Charlemagne, where Alcuin and Theodulf began the process of re-introducing rigid patterns of reason into the philosophical toolkit of the West.

This pattern continued through the Middle Ages, Early, Middle and High. (Only dolts believe in the “Dark Ages” anymore, and to be fair, Pinker never mentions such a thing—but then, he mentions nothing at all substantive about any era prior to A.D. 1600.)  The Western search for reason (which had no analogue anywhere else on Earth) led directly to the Scientific Revolution, in which the Church played a critical funding and organizational role.

Then that led into the Industrial Revolution.  Where was the Enlightenment in this process?  Nowhere. The Enlightenment was about political reasoning, which is interesting in its own right, and has to do with progress to the extent political change is progress, but not beyond, and most people would rate being able to eat and live as much more important progress than any form of political advancement.

Pinker next (briefly) covers Science, by which he explicitly doesn’t mean to repeat what he said earlier about progress being based on science, but to focus on hostility to science. By this he means that anyone who sees any value to any philosophical system that is not purely based on hard science is a fool.

Most attacked is Leon Kass (who is attacked throughout the book, not just here), but most of the chapter serves for Pinker to channel the British intellectual C. P. Snow (who, along with a physicist named David Deutsch, of whom I have never heard, is cited scores of times in this book).

While Pinker meanders on about the need not to separate science and the humanities, what he is really getting at is that religion must be exterminated.  “The moral worldview of any scientifically literate person—one who is not blinkered by fundamentalism—requires a clean break from religious conceptions of meaning and value.”

Why this should be, precisely, is never explained, any more than Pinker ever explains anywhere in this book what one’s “moral worldview” should be, other than utilitarianism, while simultaneously telling us that it is an absolute certainty that “the fate of the black rhinoceros [is] a significant moral concern” and that a bedrock moral principle is that “life is sacred.”  Anyway, mercifully, this chapter ends quickly.

So Pinker’s chapter on Reason isn’t great, nor is his one on Science.  But they are written with a golden quill by an angel, compared to his chapter on Humanism, by which he means Atheism.  Here, Pinker’s unhinged bigotry is let fly.  Still, he starts slow, saying “The goal of maximizing human flourishing—life, health, happiness, freedom, knowledge, love, richness of experience—may be called humanism.”  So it may be, even if he cribbed that list from Martha Nussbaum (whom he repeatedly praises for making up these types of lists).

So far, fair enough, if simplistic enough.  Then he flips that into a claim that “there is a growing movement called Humanism, which promotes a non-supernatural basis for meaning and ethics: good without God.”  Why this logically follows is anyone’s guess, given that maximizing human flourishing is hardly incompatible with religion, or at least with Christianity.

In fact, most of the human flourishing Pinker documents in his book is the result of, at least in part and often nearly wholly, of Christianity, a direct result of how it created the ethos of the West, whether Pinker wants to admit it or not.

The reader weeps in this chapter.  Howler follows howler.  Throughout the book, it’s clear that Pinker has no grasp of history, and what history he knows, is wrong, but it shows up the most here.  The Golden Rule was “rediscovered in hundreds of moral traditions.”

Of course, Pinker names none, since no religion other than Christianity has ever made the Golden Rule a central or even important principle, and many, like Islam, affirmatively reject it.  (Pinker, to nobody’s surprise, is careful to always respectfully add “the Prophet” before “Mohammed,” while he constantly ridicules and makes sarcastic comments about Jesus, whom he most definitely never refers to as “the Lord Jesus Christ”).

He claims that the Nazis were Christian, among other things not seeming to grasp what “German Christians” were, and more broadly which is a claim that is intellectually and morally equivalent to Holocaust denial.

For this claim, his cited sources are “Hellier 2011,” which if you slog through the Bibliography, is not a book but some random astrophysicist’s personal blog, and a website called EvilBible.com, whose only stated mission, in the first line of the site, is that it is “designed to spread the vicious truth about the Bible.”  (I am not making this up.)  Pinker claims that “starting with the Enlightenment, the West initiated a process (still ongoing) of separating the church from the state [and] carving out a space for secular civil society.”

He glibly rejects all arguments about the “fine tuning” of the universe (which, to be fair, say nothing about the actual characteristics of God) with a faith-based appeal to an unproved and probably unprovable concept, the multiverse, compounding his error with the logical fallacy that because some things amazed us in the past yet were true, things that seem amazing now, like the multiverse, are more likely to be true.

All this gives us a view into the mind of someone who, like a man selling magnets when mesmerism was a thing, desperately flogs his wares twice as hard as the customers drift away, shrieking that if they know what’s good for them, they’ll come back.  The reader really doesn’t believe Pinker when he claims that religion is withering away, because it certainly seems to exercise him out of all proportion to something that is not a threat.

Finally, we can distill the entire problem with this part of the book down to one sentence not directly about religion.  It occurs when Pinker discusses consciousness; he naturally rejects any possibility of mind-body duality and spatters the reader with conclusory statements about the solely materialistic origins of consciousness.

Having offered no evidence (but, as he likes to do, having praised third-rate philosophers like Daniel Dennett at great length), he says “Nothing that we know about consciousness is inconsistent with the understanding that it depends entirely on neural activity.”  Let’s unpack that.  Pinker suggests we have an “understanding”—but he offers no evidence of that at all, including any possible actual mechanism.

He conditions that with a “not inconsistent,” which is another way of saying “I don’t know.”  A more accurate rephrasing would be “We know of no way in which consciousness, which we don’t understand in any meaningful way, could depend for its existence on neural activity, though we may discover one in the future.”  But the sentence he offers sounds like a windup to a successful argument, when in reality it’s just a magician’s trick to distract the reader from the hollowness of Pinker’s rantings.

I suppose the basic problem with this book, other than not proving much, if anything, about the responsibility of the Enlightenment for the modern world, is that Pinker wants to offer readers, and the world, the meaning of life, and he can’t, because he’s a straitjacketed materialist.  He puts at the very beginning of his book an episode of which he is extremely proud—when he answered a student’s philosophical question, “Why should I live?”

Pinker’s answer was that life allowed the student to flourish—to “make the most of your capacity for pleasure and satisfaction,” and to engage in sympathy, able to “enjoy the gift of mutual benevolence with friends, family, and colleagues.”  But she also has “the responsibility to provide to others what you expect for yourself,” which will lead to human progress.  Fine words, but they don’t answer the question, whatever Pinker thinks.

They are circular; they offer things which might be good, or might not, depending on how one views things.  But they don’t respond to the actual query, which is really one about whether there is a transcendent purpose to life.  Pinker thinks he hit the platform with a sledgehammer and rang the bell, when really, he missed and hit his foot.

I can only recommend reading this book for one reason—to load up on ammunition if you are a techno-optimist and need support in arguments with doomsayers, Romantics or those who claim all material progress necessarily violates the teleology of Man.  And if you’re stranded on a desert island, it’s reasonably interesting reading material, in the abstract.  Other than that, this book is a failure.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.
The photo shows, “Le Dernier banquet des Girondins,” by Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux, painted in 1860.

God And Science: Three Responses

In our secular world, belief in God is popularly linked with either delusion or dangerous political agendas.

In the West, it’s normal and “rational’ to say that there is no God since no scientific proof for Him exists.

How is a Christian to respond to such a foregone conclusion? Here are three to consider.

 

FIRST RESPONSE: FAULTY REASONING

To ask for proof for all things that are essential to life in order to affirm truth or gain certainty is extremely fuzzy logic. Human beings have always understood and dealt with the world in two ways.

Through science which seeks to explain how the world works, and what kind of patterns exist in nature. And through religion which seeks to explain the meaning and significance of reality.

In other words, the minute we start looking for meaning, we have already entered the realm of religion, or the realm of God, that is, we are always in search of significance and meaning.

There are two types of knowledge in the world: naturalist (or scientific) and idealist (or meaningful).

We cannot use the logic of the one to deal with the other.

For example, science can show, prove and study life on the planet. But it cannot answer this question, which each human beings needs to answer for himself – what is the moral purpose of life?

Naturalistic logic fails immediately, and we must turn to idealist logic which alone can explain meaning.

The logic of idealism deals with things not seen, such as, love, empathy, charity, friendship, hope, and goodness.

Man does not live my bread alone.

 

SECOND RESPONSE: THE MATTER OF TYRANNY

If God continually showed Himself so people would have proof – could we really look to Him for moral guidance? No, we could not. Why? The idea of morality depends upon another essential idea – free will.

If God continually showed up on earth and stopped both moral and natural evil as a demonstration of His power, what kind of creatures would we be? Would we not be slaves only motivated by fear of being found out? Certainly, such fear lies at the heart much human belief. But fear is not part of the equation in Christianity. This is why neither Hell nor Heaven are clearly defined. Here is true wisdom.

But if God is love, then He must be invisible so that we may have the ability to express our free will without hindrance. If God keeps interfering with our expression of freedom by becoming a looming, controlling presence, He becomes a tyrant, and He cannot love us, and we are not really free.

Perfect love and perfect freedom can only exist when individual will has the opportunity to be expressed unhindered. Therefore, God is silent and seemingly absent, so that we come to understand what a moral life is to be lived, not only through teaching but through practice.

 

THIRD RESPONSE: THE STRUCTURE OF GOD

God may choose to be invisible and absent, and yet He is immediately knowable through His structure. What does this mean?

Here we can borrow the logic of science and use it to understand a crucial point. All reality is constructed in a specific way; it has a structure.

There is a grand system, or guidebook to the all life and to the cosmos – something that science is becoming mature enough to understand.

Yes, for the many centuries, science has been childish, and therefore wilful and petulant, happy to rebel and deny God as a delusion.

But things have changed – the complexity of reality, of creation, has forced science to grow up and acknowledge what it has denied – that chaos cannot create order.

There is a grand design to everything. Nothing is random, even if it may at first appear to be so.

From the atom to the largest planets and stars; they all have a structure which gives them not only form and organization but also purpose.

For example, in medical science, the structure of disease must first be mapped; only then can a cure be formulated. And what is a cure? It is a competing structure that unhinges the harmful structure of the disease.

Therefore, nothing that exists is without structure. In other words, being is structure. But notice structure has two aspects: shape and function or purpose.

All things have a shape – and a purpose; they fulfill a role. This twin characteristic of reality is a reflection of God. He has a shape (the structure in which all reality exists – the sum of all life), and He has a purpose (the reason why there is something in the universe when there could be nothing).

The very fact that there is life means that there is God, since life has both shape and function, or purpose.

In these three ways, we see that when people say that there is no “proof” of God, and therefore He is simply a figment of the imagination, they are simply reaching for an easy answer in order to affirm their own moral choices, and these choice are often just emotions. In fact, most atheists are angry at God for some perceived let-down.

The question has nothing to do with God – it has everything to do with what people choose to do with their lives. But such is God’s love that He has generosity of purpose, and room enough in His structure, to permit disbelief and denial.

 

The photo shows, “The Adoration of the Golden Calf,” by Andrea di Leone, painted ca. 1526-1627.

Is Christianity Bad For The Environment?

On Boxing Day, 1966, a medieval historian delivered a paper to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The paper was entitled, “The Historic Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis.” The historian was Lynn White, Jr.

The paper caused quite the stir, and by the time it was published in the March 1967 issue of Science magazine, it was already famous.

So famous that it remains a classic to this day and is used by all who want to further their various environmental agendas by bashing Christianity for being inherently anti-ecological.

In his paper, White made wide-ranging claims, which are nothing more than his own misunderstood or misrepresented notions about Christian history, Christian theology, and the history of ideas. Needless to say, he comes across as not really knowing what he’s actually talking about.

In brief, this is what White claimed to be the “truth”…

  • That the western mind is conditioned to exploit and dominate and degrade nature.
  • That western man views the whole of nature as specifically created for human use (and therefore open to exploitation at all cost).
  • That the western mind forever seeks to control nature because it is indifferent to what nature really is (a living entity).
  • That the only way to stop natural degradation is to work towards changing the western mind to a more eco-friendly one.
  • Therefore, western man is a despot because of the way he has been conditioned to think.
  • How did western man come up with such a wretched mindset –you guessed it…because of Christianity. You see, people read five verses in the Bible (Genesis 1:25-30), and launched into full exploitation mode.
  • White’s solution? Radically change Christianity, or replace it with something more kind and gentle to nature.

As is obvious, this sort of thinking has had a deep and pervasive influence in the West, with Christianity being portrayed as the chief villain, responsible for all kinds of nastiness like, “colonialism,” “patriarchy,” “racism,” “gender-bias,” and even “misogyny.”

Hence the concerted and relentless attacks on Christianity, which the emotional rather than intellectual progeny of White perceive as a roadblock to their Utopia of “green,” “sustainable,” “multicultural,” “gender-neutral,” “matriarchal” life.

But is any of this true?

Many people have tried to take White’s essay to task, but his assumptions are now protected by the hallowed cloak of being a “classic.”

Thus, all critical responses are ultimately ineffectual, since once the influence of a “classic” percolates down into popular mythology, criticisms become ineffectual and thus meaningless.

The critique that follows of White’s shallow understanding and misrepresentation is fully cognizant of its own ultimate pointlessness.

The truly sad consequence of White’s mythologization is that most Christians actually accept what he preaches and try to correct and “update” their received theology.

Of course, the minute you say a theology needs updating, you also fully accept the fact then that said theology cannot be true, because it needs updating to “fit into” what the world has now become. But that’s a side issue for now.

Let’s continue with White.

His arguments and assumptions show that he does not really understand anything outside his own narrow area of specialization (which was medieval technology). But that never really stopped anyone from formulating opinions based on what he thinks he knows, rather than on what he actually knows.

Even in his scholarly works, he is peddling assumptions that have long been proven to be incorrect, or just plain wrong. For example, in his magnum opus, Medieval Technology and Social Change, which is best left on the bookshelf unread.

So, if he can’t even get things right in his own area of expertise, is he really to be trusted when he launches into critiquing and then suggesting “viable” solutions for something he’s not an expert on – like the environment and the western mind?

One should hope not!

For example, he knows nothing about Christian history, Greco-Roman philosophy, Roman Christianity, ancient religions, scriptural hermeneutics.

And he most certainly knows nothing about theology (not even medieval theology – and he was a medievalist), philosophy, Modernism, secularism, Marxism, consumerism and postmodernism (Jacques Derrida’s seminal work, Of Grammatology came out in 1967, the same year as White’s essay).

He needed to have some acquaintance with these varied areas of research in order to actually critique Christianity, but he was tabula rasa. But he forged on regardless.

In fact, all these developments in western thought had a far more devastating role to play in environmental exploitation than five verses in the Book of Genesis.

But when White sits down to write a comprehensive analysis of what is going wrong with the world, his reach is not simply limited, it’s misguided because he can look no further than his own ignorance.

He’s like the Rev. Dean Drone, in Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, who overhears someone calling him a “mugwump,” and is to be found, later that evening, going through a book, entitled, Animals of Palestine. When he can’t find the mugwump listed in said book, the reverend decides that this particular animal must have been unknown “in the greater days of Judea.”

Truth is always complex. It only becomes simple when it is misunderstood, or when it is misrepresented.

Rereading White’s highly influential essay half-a-century later make certain things immediately stand out.

There’s the habit of making sweeping statements which barely crawl past the opinion stage.

Things like:

  • that Christianity wrongly destroyed the better pagan view of seeing spirits in nature;
  • that Christianity teaches anthropocentrism and changes nature from sacred to useful;
  • that Christianity enables the exploitation of nature because the religion is indifferent to the “feelings” of natural things;
  • that Christianity bears the entire “burden of guilt” for making the West into a domineering and exploitative force;
  • and that the West needs to find a better religion, or change Christianity so can be “green” and “eco-friendly.”

Let’s have a look at what White is actually saying.

Is it better to have people believing that spirits inhabit everything, and did Christianity actually destroy it?

Briefly, what White is assuming to be “paganism” is actually “shamanism” (which is nature spirituality). He’s again confused.

Greco-Roman paganism was polytheistic, but it was not shamanistic. Yes, it had gods, but that did not translate into some sort of nature spirituality (for now, let’s just point to the Roman arenas where huge number of animals were slaughtered for entertainment)

Nature, in the Greco-Roman world was seen as chaotic and threatening and thus needed to be controlled. In other words, pollution, degradation and exploitation were rife in the pagan world (White knew nothing about it).

White’s heroes, the pagans, were happy carrying out mass deforestation, while horribly polluting water and air and soil with things like the industrial-scale smelting and mining.

So, how did the Romans become such excellent polluters, exploiters and dominators – without first being instructed, in that fine art, by Genesis 1:25-30? White is clueless.

Greco-Roman paganism was exploitative, domineering, and cruel. White is simply erecting a self-serving construct of “good” pagans so he can the more easily bash Christianity. It’s a lot easier that way.

Thinking that there are spirits everywhere does not make you into a green citizen of the world. According to the Roman example, it makes you a very effective manipulator, because you have to continually come up with strategies to control nature so it won’t harm you. You have to control nature so it kill you. Basic human survival.

Next, does Christianity teach anthropocentrism by transferring nature from the “sacred” slot to useful one, which then leads to indifferent to nature? The answer again is, No.

Once again, White doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Anthropocentrism, as the word suggests, is a Greek invention (long before Christianity). It’s what came to be called, “Humanism.”

Or, in the famous words of Protagoras, “Man is the measure of all things.” The Pre-Socratic philosophers, as well as Plato and Aristotle, knew that nature was meaningless – and useless – without the human mind.

On the other hand, Christjanity denies anthropocentrism, because it makes human beings into God’s creation, who exist in an allegorical relationship with nature.

Nature, in the Christian view, forever teaches mankind eternal truths (that’s why it’s allegorical).

This is the view of the Bible and all the Christian theologians, such as, Origen, Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, Meister Eckhart, and many others.

Thus, in the Christian view, nature is not useful, it is didactic – it is a guide, a counselor, an adviser to mankind about the mysteries of God.

This means that a Christian cannot be indifferent and hostile to nature. Such an attitude would be a denial of God’s purpose. How? Because both nature and Scripture are one and the same.

White is simplistic and wrong, because the Christian view of nature is far more sophisticated and caring than he can imagine. He just doesn’t have the proper intellectual background to discuss the issue properly. So, by default he turns to what he actually knows, like Rev Drone.

Next, did Christianity make the West into both “dominating” and “exploitative?” Again, no.

White cannot fathom the fact that any community, any culture, any civilization has the right to clothe and feed itself. Humans cannot exist without dominating and exploiting natural resources.

This is the real problem that all modern environmental activists cannot solve. How a world built according to their “green specifications” will actually feed and clothe itself?

When White extrapolates western negative character traits from Genesis 1:25-30, he is veering into territory that he doesn’t understand.

The real exploitation and domination only begins when the West cuts itself off from Christianity and pretends that it can live rootlessly.

It’s the West’s scientific secularism and atheism which changes nature into an inert thing. Therefore, mankind sets out trying to find uses for what nature has. Exploitation follows, as usefulness ramps up into consumerism, which is an extension of materialism.

Consumerism has only virtue – profit. Here the shadow of Thomas Hobbes looms large, but White can’t notice it.

So, ecological degradation is the by-product of materialism. That is where the blame really lies.

But White is hampered by his own ignorance, and the Rev. Dean Drake has to root around in his own limited knowledge in order to come up with an explanation to a very complex historical process.

As for White’s “solution” of creating a better religion than Christianity, or fixing Christianity so it becomes “better” for him, that’s all just his own fix to a problem that he himself has created.

Of course, if you’re going to say that all the world’s problems come from Genesis 1:25-30, then the fix is easy. Get rid of Genesis 1:25-30.

But what if the problem is far more convoluted than White can even imagine?

How can a man, who shows a very limited understanding of the life of ideas, actually presume to correct, and fix, what he is clueless about?

White has no solutions. He just has a faulty agenda that he wants to push as the “truth.” His “arguments” are nothing but caricatures of thinking.

Here’s the ultimate problem that White faces. He’s trying to prove the historical consequences of five scriptural verses.

In other words, he has veered into proving reception – and he’s both inadequate and incapable for the task.

White best trick is to trundle long-debunked notions, like the “Protestant Work Ethic,” which was invented by Max Weber (who wanted to understand why the West became secular and atheistic).

In other words, White tries to prove his case by relying on false data. And, importantly, he doesn’t even know that it’s false! He thinks it’s all true!

Then, there’s that annoying fact about Christianity outside of Europe – in Africa, and in all (yes, all) parts of Asia.

How come none of these Christians suddenly got into domination and exploitation mode after reading Genesis 1:25-30?

But, lest some social-justice-warriors gleefully leap into the usual Europe-bashing routine, let’s continue with another problem that White cannot address (because he’s clueless that it even exists).

The Genesis creation exists also in Judaism. Surely, given the immense amount of cultural power that White ascribes to Genesis 1:25-30, one would expect that when Jews read these words, say, in Djerba, they might paddle out into the Gulf of Gabès, looking for ways exploit and dominate?

In other words, why do people in other parts of the world react (receive) Genesis 1:25-30 differently from what White imagines? If only the words of this passage have had such a devastating effect?

But…White says nothing about such Genesis-indoctrinated Jews and Christians beyond Europe.

According to White’s scheme of things, these five Bible verses only changed Europeans into the domineering, exploitative sort. Why, of course!

Need we go on? Well, just for a bit longer.

The Genesis story also appears (wait for it…) in the Koran, in the Al-Baqarah section, where Adam is (you guessed it) given dominion over the earth, as Allah’s Caliph (or a sort of Pope), to do as he pleases – and to let loose blood and devastation, as Allah’s angels observe.

But, as might be guessed, White knowns nothing about the Genesis-Koran connection.

So, the reception of the Genesis creation story is not only “Eurocentric” and “Protestant-Work-Ethical.” It is also Asian-and-African Christian, Jewish, and Islamic.

Outside of Europe it seems, Genesis 1:25-30 couldn’t do its usual “conditioning.”

But since White seems not to know about any of this, he can safely assume that it just doesn’t exist.

Then, there’s the larger problem of how the entire book of Genesis has actually been read and understood throughout Christian history.

In Christian theology (another topic that White knows nothing about – but that has never stopped anybody when there’s an ax to grind), the term used in Genesis 1:25-30, “dominion” never meant exploitation or domination (as White assumes – which points to the fact that he’s a literalist – and you can only be a literalist if you don’t know much).

“Whiteism” is the problem with present-day literalists, as well – they read the Bible without any understanding, or knowledge of, the Magisterium, the vast tradition of learning that complements and theologically explains what is contained in the Bible. This is a problem with Protestantism, where people have to make things up as they go along.

White does the same thing – make things up as he goes along, so he can sound convincing.

In fact, in Christian theology, the word “dominion,” in Genesis, refers to controlling the passions of the body which always led to sin.

“Dominion” never had an ecological sense at all. This sense has been added by White.

Historically, Christians read the Bible allegorically, not literally (literalism is the result of secularism, which sees itself as an authority in and of itself).

In fact, when we project a literalist reading of Scripture back into time, we are only demonstrating our own ignorance.

With the rise of secularism, the intellectual tradition of Christianity has all but vanished. This results in the rootlessness of the West, which now sees its own nourishment (Christianity) as poisonous. This attitude is created by the Enlightenment.

It is secularism which launches Europe into exploitation and domination mode – not Christianity.

For example, here’s Joseph Glanvill, writing in 1665 – that the new philosophy (the Enlightenment) offers “ways of captivating Nature, and making her subserve our purposes and designments.” He continues that this will lead to “the Empire of Man over Nature.”

This has nothing to do with Genesis 1:25-30.

By the way, none of these Enlightenment philosophers adds, “I’m getting all this, in case you’re wondering, from Genesis 1:25-30 and so, God wills it, etc.”

It’s highly doubtful that White bothered much with the many, many secular philosophers during and after the Enlightenment.

White was what he was – but the reception of his critique has been long-lived, and therefore his notions need to be challenged and debunked.

Alas, most Christians today have drunk his Kool-Aid and go about lecturing everyone how Christians need to get past the exploitative and domineering message of Genesis 1:25-30.

Sadder still is the fact that both Christians and their critics are deeply ignorant of the history of western ideas.

If we do not know history, we don’t just repeat it, but we stupidly repeat the lies fed to us.

But that is the tale of the modern world – flying off into high moral dudgeon because of the rhetorical force of lies.

What is the real Christian ecological message?

Here it is: “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Matthew 6:26).

It is only when this real message of Christianity is forgotten and lost, that exploitation and domination begin.

And if people want to find the ideas that led to exploitation and wilful domination, then they need look no further than secularism.

The spoliation of the earth, and the exploitation of the weak, are both the fruits of the West’s apostasy from its true root – the redemptive message of Christianity.

Without it, the West is lost…”You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Matthew 5:13).

 

 

The photo shows, “Chapel on the Edge of the Wood, ” by Karl Friedrich Lessing, painted in 1839.