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Is our civilisation changing as drastically as it did during the Reformation?

In 200 years a latter-day Kenneth Clark might look on our society as a singular historical period that has passed away

By on Friday, 5 October 2012

Kenneth Clark presents Civilisation in 1969

Kenneth Clark presents Civilisation in 1969

I happened to watch an episode of the late Kenneth Clark’s acclaimed TV series, Civilisation, on video yesterday. Clark was a mandarin figure and today he would be classed as unacceptably elitist: he felt that art and civilisation were created by exceptional individuals and that “the masses” – or the “plebs” as we should perhaps call them – were a threat to the culture of beauty and nobility which he loved. He was particularly drawn to the High Middle Ages and the Early Renaissance and, not surprisingly, given this predilection, became a Catholic before he died.

The episode I watched happened to be about the Reformation. “How quickly a particular civilisation can pass away” was Clark’s theme: the power of the Church in Western Europe, for good as well as for ill, was destroyed forever by the Reformers. He felt this was inevitable, but also sad; Protestant iconoclasts, with their “instinct to destroy anything… they couldn’t share”, smashed all the beautiful statuary in the Lady Chapel at Ely cathedral and a high point in the graceful and artistic depiction of human achievement was over.

I thought of Clark’s perspective when I later read a thought-provoking interview in the current Catholic World Report with a modern American man of letters, Chilton Williamson Jr. A writer of fiction and non-fiction, his most recent book is After Tocqueville: The Promise and Failure of Democracy, and his position on democracy is not dissimilar to Clark’s on civilisation. His definition of modern democracy is an ironic one: “A society that has achieved complete equality and justice and in which no man lacks for anything he wants, or decides he wants in future.” Asked why democracy has become an almost sacred belief in the West, he replied that its rise has coincided with the loss of religious belief. It became a “sacred notion” when modern man “lost touch with metaphysical reality to the point that they could no longer apprehend the reality of the human condition.”

Asked if it is possible to have a democratic state without a foundation of Judaeo-Christian beliefs, Williamson answered that it was possible, “though it is unlikely to survive long without the formative historical influences that brought it into existence in the first place”. These included the notions of “civility” from the classical world and “chivalry” from the Christian one. He added: “The more the democratic majority dismisses Christian moral and social teaching, the more it weakens the democracy it represents.”

All this, needless to say, is as politically incorrect as it is possible to be. Williamson is pessimistic about the future of democracy in the US. The huge scale of modern societies means that they “must somehow be more and more tightly governed as they become increasingly hedonistic and irresponsible, practically and morally speaking.” He thinks this will lead to the paradox of “chaos existing alongside of despotism”. He also believes it is impossible for any country “to export democracy to the Middle East, whose societies have no history of democratic institutions and whose people lack a tradition of public civility and restraint”. To try to do this, as we persist in doing, reflects our own “self-delusion: national grandiosity, self-importance, moral superiority and arrogance”.

Two thoughts remain with me after reading all this: the first is that despite democracy’s obvious flaws, it is still better to live in the West than in the Middle East (or in Russia or China); the second is that we will not be able to pay the economic bills for the social and moral chaos of our society indefinitely: political coercion will increasingly take over. It is odd to think that in, say, 200 years a latter-day Kenneth Clark might look back on our society as a singular historical period that has passed away, to be overtaken by a different system altogether.

  • Cestius

    Perhaps even more significant than the distruction and desecration of church art during the Reformation in the UK was the dissolution of the monasteries. The monasteries were just about the only social safety net in the country at the time, as well as a major employer.  It must’ve hit many communities very badly indeed, making their world even more bleak and unforgiving. The dissolution was probably not too bad for the rich that could cash in on the spoils.  I do see the present changes in society, particularly the destabilization of marriage just as cruel and bleak, particularly for the most vulnerable, children and the very old.  And the growing intolerance and ignorance of Christianity among many driving the changes doesn’t bode well for the future of our society as a whole.

  • Agent Provocateur21

    Dear author, how can you compare Russia with the Middle East or China??!! Russia is (currently) on the right track, i.e. strong defence of traditional Christian values and glorious resurrection of the Holy Orthodox Church. In Russia, you are not forced to “tolerate” homosexual parades, your kids are not being told fairytales about two kings who fell in love and married and feminism is perceived in the same category as “F-” word. Oh and I forgot, you can carry your cross visibly and no one will find it “insulting”. Perhaps you meant to say it is more comfortable to live in the West? Sure, salaries are higher, but the cost of living is rising too.. And don’t forget, Sodoma and Gomorra were rich cities and where are they today? 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    It is said that social provision in England for the very poor only came back up to the level provided by the monasteries with Asquith’s government just before the First World War.

  • Charles

     England was a loss 500 years ago but Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Munich and most of central Europe was saved from the Reformation by by the Counter Reformation. We must continue both the Counter Reformation now and implement the counter counter culture. The positive virtues of traditional family can endure as both spirit and biology support them; but they must be fought for.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    This is indeed a “Change Moment”. 

    The “New World Order” is what we have already (partially) changed to, and the move towards its full empowerment – or enthronement I should rather say – proceeds apace. Global government for a globalised world, with all major cultural powers, especially religions, either bending the knee to the new Masters or, if they refuse to co-opt themselves as servitors, being eradicated. 

    The Catholic Church has tried to accommodate itself to this New Order, but cannot go as far as becoming a mere NGO of it, so I feel it is inevitable that persecution, even an attempt at eradication, will be directed at Catholics particularly within a few short years. 

    If the Lord doesn’t step in first. Which He will. 

    What we have changed from is the detritus of a collapsed protestantised world, whose Revolution 500 years ago ended finally in unbelief, with the vacuum being filled by New Age and other paganistic/atheistic ‘faiths’ (Eco fascism, feminism, resurgent socialism/Marxism). 

    Amongst the rubble of this collapse of course is the Church, heavily compromised and weak, its believers reduced to a remnant. 

    And then …. 

  • http://twitter.com/LaCatholicState la catholic state

    Post-Christian secularism has been an unmitigated disaster for children…born and unborn.  It is literally a war on children.  And all the coniving ‘great and good’ have conspired very successfully to keep the children from Christ.  It must be one of their proudest achievements.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Agreed, AP. 

    Russia isn’t Acacia Avenue, Berks, but (in some ways) it’s more Christian than the West. Russians in my long experience have certainly retained a sense of the power of evil and the consequent need for remorse and forgiveness far more than in the West. Probably the suffering Russians have endured for so long have taught them some wisdom.

    I pray though that laws outlawing abortion may soon be passed in both Russia and in Ukraine.

  • GrahamCombs

    The American Founders — who considered themselves Englishmen in good standing — emphatically  believed that no republic or democracy could survive or thrive without religious culture.

    I was gratified to learn here that Lord Clark became a Catholic at the end.  I watched the series a few years ago and at one point he stops and wonders how and why England and Europe went within fifty years from a culture of wood and crude stone to the magnificant cathedrals.  Perhaps that was the beginning of his journey to the Church.   The Age of Faith indeed.

    As for America — I wish as an American I could contest the above conclusions.   We are a deeply troubled nation.  Read Charles Murray’s COMING APART for a blunt sociplogical look at our demolition.   I hope that British Catholics are more clear-eyed about our President than most American Catholics are.  I remained baffled by my fellow-Catholics moral complacency over here.

    Graham Combs/Royal Oak, MI, USA 

  • Sweetjae

    Definitely correct however may I add and would strongly argue that without the reforms to open the Church at VII, the Church would see a stagnation or much worse a big drop in her members worldwide. It has taken the Holy Spirit to guide the Church for 2,000 years to the tune of 435 million Catholics in 1960. In about just 50 years after VII it has tripled in size to 1.3 BILLION members.

    We shouldn’t blame the Church for the lost of Faith in Europe because it is caused by relativistic, materialistic and lustful attitude of the people that has nothing to do with VII but elsewhere the Catholic Faith is booming, in Africa alone there were only 10 million Catholics in the mid50s now they number more than 500 millions!!! In Asia like Korea a predominantly 99% Taoist and Buddist now they are minority, there are more Catholics in Korea than the formers. In Vietnam the Faith is flourishing as well as in Hong Kong and othervparts of Asia.

  • Sweetjae

    Correct but the Reformation we had also witness a great apostasy from the Faith yet we don’t blame the Church and her Councils for it rather the abuses of the liberal clergy of that time.

  • chiaramonti

    I think there is a chink of light.Politicians are just beginning to realise that immorality costs money- money we do not have any longer. Of course, most will not say so, not publically anyway. Local authorities are spending vast sums on care proceedings, the welfare bill is out of control and the idea that ‘any life style is as good as another’ is going to have to be addressed. It was always thus. Wealthy Metropolitans can live their immoral lives damaging only themselves. When such ideas take hold in the sink estates and the schools, chaos is the inevitable result, and expensive chaos at that. They laugh at the idea of faithfulness and sexual restraint but the consequences of relativism are now being seen everywhere. Morality is cheaper. That alone will swing things back in the future.As JP II repeatedly said, ‘Do not be afraid.’

  • Tim Osborne1

    The abortion situation is getting interesting. Svetlana Medvedeva is pro life and is promoting the case for the unborn. I am not sure whether she is Russian Orthodox but she has certainly been working with the church on this.

  • theroadmaster

    The Reformation and the cataclysmic 30 years war which followed it’s beginnings in the 16th century, marked the rise of the secular nation state at the expense of religious influences and this set the trend for the next 4 centuries.  The Enlightenment movement commandeered Christian principles but set them in a humanist tradition without the need for a Divine Creator, and thus western societies became the products of a scientific rationalism and political Classical Liberalism which decayed into “the tyranny of relativism” that we have presently.  The squeezing of people of Faith out of the public square, across Europe and the US perversely makes the closing of the circle, as it was Christianity in the first place which was the source and main inspiration for the constitutional freedoms that we take for granted in today’s society.  Catholics and other people of Faith have a stake in the proper ordering of societies in which human development can reach it’s full potential, and this will not be done by the granting of “rights” willy-nilly to facilitate behaviours or ideology which will hamper or prevent this from happening

  • Oconnord

    It’s simple, Authority is no longer granted by the populace. There simply came a time after the Reformation, often called the Enlightenment, where people looked for answers outside the Church. They were elite, and almost never heard, but they questioned. 

    It took more than a century but common people started to learn the same lesson. Vatican 2 was like the choice between climbing a tree, or strapping yourself to the trunk. Either way the tsunami was on it’s way. People in the 60′s said it doesn’t matter , we’ll ride the wave.     

    It doesn’t matter what you blame the tsunami on, it has swept away was most of your members. No longer can you blame the event on “God”, you have no authority, no control.

    Again and again ” the church, Pope…..” is shown to to be powerless.

  • JabbaPapa

    What a load of adolescent, indoctrinated nonsense !!!

  • JabbaPapa

    True — but one really should remember that the seeds of the Reformation were sown in the 14th and 15th centuries, in an atmosphere of either moral corruption or extreme authoritarianism from various Church Authorities.

    The Papacy itself had been compromised by political corruption, and as a result, the Church was dislocated and disunited.

    The situation was similar in many respects to that of the Church since about 19th century til present day — and we can see this same huge imbalance between a certain desire for strong central authoritarianism on the one hand, and some completely lax religious values on the other.

    The Church at its best is Living Tradition, but in the massive confusion produced by modernism, many have lost sight of what this even means … :-(

  • Sweetjae

    Huh?????What the heck are you talking about???

  • Sweetjae

    Yes civilization is rapidly changing today like in the time of the Protestant Reformation. The movement that borned the “primacy of self” NOT the Church as the final authority to discern what Scripture truly says including its teaching on morality, finally culminated in relativistic mindset of the western world.

    The baddest and most liberal of all in my opinion that started this mess is, Martin Luther.

  • Sweetjae

    Totally agreed but on point, “The Church is the Pillar and Bulwark of Truth”, (1 Tim 3:16), so there was no compromise! Put it to rest Benedict, you are just chasing a shadow.

  • teigitur

    A bit of nonsense from you there Damo. Unusual I’ ll admit. Perhaps it was the sauce typing and not you….lol

  • theroadmaster

    Thanks for your additional points, as they are well made, JabbaPapa,, and  they establish some background for the Reformation.

  • Oconnord

    I was so drunk when I wrote that.. (Hi Teig, you were correct).

    But my point was that the main problem that the church faces is unprecedented, so looking at the Reformation is pointless. Apathy towards the church is the hurdle, and it is a hurdle that cannot be climbed by any champion or teaching. Never in history has the church had to deal with the idea that it is simply irrelevant.      

  • teigitur

    I see it was removed!! I thought it might be.
     Of course it has been completely “irrelevant” before.The new, young, Church 2000 years ago was completely “irrelevant”. In as much as it had no impact on the people of the middle east and then Europe for a very, very long time. (It is still in a minority, where  it was born, in the middle east).. That changed, gradually mostly, with the help of the Paraclete. So I m afraid you are completely wrong Damo. It has all happened before and will again. It will also change again.
     But you are correct about apathy, this is the biggest issue today, its a modern disease. Apathy is apparent everywhere in life. Few join political parties, few youngsters the scouts or guides anymore. Few people seem to want to belong. Yet that too will rectify itself in time, as it is a basic human need to belong.
      What we are seeing more and more now from the media, and other sources, are attacks on the Church. This is exactly what is needed, as Ireland can testify.

  • JabbaPapa

    I see it was removed!! I thought it might be.

    A great number of posts have vanished — I suspect some kind of technical glitch personally.

  • JByrne24

    ” What we are seeing more and more now from the media, and other sources, are attacks on the Church. This is exactly what is needed, as Ireland can testify.”

    Is that a typo?  Or do you really mean that the Church needs to be attacked in the media and from other sources?

  • teigitur

    I mean that the Church always and everywhere thrives when its under attack and under pressure. Always better than luke-warm.

  • JByrne24

    Yes, i’m sure it does. As in Poland perhaps, where the Church could be said to be (almost) “missing” Communism. 

    The Church has also mellowed over the long years and has been seen, in the past, as a possible “centre” (of which Clark speaks). Russell thought this – in his time seeing the centre as eventually lying either in the Kremlin or the Vatican, and deciding (despite being an atheist) to favour the Vatican, because of this “mellowing”.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    A shadow that lies very heavily over the Church, and which the Pope has directly talked about often enough.

  • scary goat

     Yes, it’s been a bit funny the last couple of days.  “Like” wasn’t working and posts have disappeared into cyber space.

  • Jeannine

    I can easily describe Russia as morally bankrupt. Let’s start with abortion. More abortion than live births. Its population decreases every year. Putin is bribing the people to have babies. Alcoholic rates & drug abuse have increased dramatically since the Soviet Union collapse. Increase in prostitution. Cronyism is at an all-time high. It is so morally bad that that the Russian Orthodox Church is starting to “play nice” with Rome which it never had in the past.

    Yet’ there are small signs of a turn around where the Catholic Church is present.———-Siberia. Go figure!

  • Lewispbuckingham

     I’ve been wondering if this thread is on some distant server with a poor landline.I’ve checked and my cookies are enabled.Another possibility is that there is some sort of cyber attack going on.

  • Agent Provocateur21

    Jeannine, you seem to contradict yourself. You say abortion rates in Russia are high and that is true. Yet, at the same time you blame Putin for his “bribing” (whatever it means) to have more babies. What exactly you don’t like in that? At least abortion is perceived as a problem which should be avoided (unlike here). Of course I would love to see president Putin to sign a presidential decree forbidding abortion in Russia and I hope God in his infinite mercy will grant this grace to Holy Rus one day. Alcoholism, drug abuse and increase in prostitution are indeed high since the collapse of the Soviet Union. That’s why president Putin called it the “biggest geo-political tragedy of the 20.century”. And it was precisely Western liberalism which directly supported and still supports the fragmentation of society. As for the Russian Orthodox Church..I am not sure what you mean it “plays nice” with Rome…Again, God send another wise shepherd to Russia and his Holiness Kyril is indeed much more friendly towards the Vatican then his predecessor Alexej. I think every Catholic or Orthodox should rejoice in a fact, that two Churches are embracing each other. True, it’s a cautious hug and I do not see the unity in a near future. After all, the Catholic Church must renew itself first and purify from all liberals, progressive and other deluded souls.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    I too fear for the future of the West.
    We need to reform and sanctify ourselves, pray hard, evangelize like crazy, and engage in political action. Then we can at least delay the coming politically correct totalitarianism.
     

  • Sporus

    Perhaps it’s a fiendish plot by the secular enemies of the Catholic Church to prevent more gems of truth being posted here. Every other fantasy about Catholicism gets indulged here, so why not this one?

  • JByrne24

    We need to…: “…pray hard, evangelize like crazy, and engage in political action.”

    Like the extreme Muslims?

  • JabbaPapa

    Alternatively, you could get your brain examinecd ……

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    There was no call to murder in Fides’ post, so no, not like the “extreme Muslims”. 

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    Like the extreme Muslims?

    Like blessed Pope John Paul II. If you want to preach a “gospel” of moral relativism, fornication, trivial divorce, homosexualism and abortion, you should at least
    1) Admit you are not a Catholic
    2) Stop implying false things (like you did above) about Catholics.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    No, AP, that’s NOT why Putin called it that at all.

    He decried the loss of the power of the USSR, and to think he said it for moral reasons is just bizarre, given the homicidal nature of that regime, as well as being frankly inaccurate.

    The horror that was the last century all came from the First World War. THAT was the greatest geo-political catastrophe of the 20th Century.

    And I will say it straight about the Orthodox hierarchy (not the bulk of believers): they hate the Catholic Church.

  • JabbaPapa

    I can think of one *particular* extremist modernist liberal who loves nothing more than to engage in his politically-minded crazy evangelisation programme towards the faithful Catholics ….

  • Sporus

    So could you since you can’t recognise irony – proves my point.

  • Iamrb

    Although I think that the general thrust of this is correct, I am slightly surprised to read a historian saying that democracy probably can’t survive without a substratum of judaeo-christian beliefs – how does such a view accommodate the evolution of democracy in Greece, which, despite repeated setbacks, remained the preferred system in Athens and was immediately restored after its suppression, whenever international politics permitted it?

    But on the major issue, I think this article is right.  What surprises me is that the writer doesn’t think that this process hasn’t been at work for a very long time – at least since 1789, if not 1776.  Those events themselves are symptomatic of the move from agricultural to industrial society, from land to machine, from faith based culture to rights based culture, from classicism in the arts to romanticism, from aristoctartic to bourgeois government.  Everything that has happened has intensified this process – mass transport, mass communication, radio and television and the cinema, processed food – and the omni-presence of popular music – the list is endless.  What people believe about the world and about themselves has been radically reshaped.  Byron, Beethoven, and David simply set off a process that leads, in the end, to extreme individualism, relativism, and hedonism.  And we see ‘progressive’ elements in the Church taking it for granted that the CXIX pontiffs were ‘on the wrong side’; that their resistance to ‘progress’ was futile; and that ‘aggiornamento’ actually means adopting the assumptions of what used to be a revolutionary, rights-based culture which was once thought anathema, but which is now so culturally dominant that people subscribe to it without realising firstly, that its roots are found as much in christianity itself as in the enlightenment; and that it’s evolution has not been, as many think, towards the implementation of ‘true christianity’, but towards the remodeling of christianity to fit into an individualistic rights culture which is actually at odds with it.

    This is not the first time this has happened – the forms of Christianity evolved after Constantine, Charlemagne, Bernard of Clairvaux, the Council of Trent, and the First Vatican Council can all be seen to be adaptqtions to new social forms and forces, and it may be said that a rights based culture is no more inimical to basic christian ideas than a culture which adapys to absolute monarchy, or to deudal ideas of honour, or the pietistic emotionalism of the settlement after the Council of Trent.  But is does help if people know what’s going on and why.

    As for culture – well, it’s driven essentially by money: if a few, privileged, feel-educated and cultivated people have it, you will get privileged, educated and cultivated art. If not, no – and so not.

  • JabbaPapa

    I’d generally disagree with your post, and the underlying philosophy, but THIS :

    As for culture – well, it’s driven essentially by money: if a few,
    privileged, feel-educated and cultivated people have it, you will get
    privileged, educated and cultivated art. If not, no – and so not.

    … is just straightforward in its wrong-headedness.

    Culture is, quite simply, NOT what you are presenting it to be — which is, as a snobbish pastime of the educationally superior, and a supercilious demonstration of the better-ness of the few compared to the many.

    Culture infuses and defines the totality of our social existence — regardless of whether the cultural aspects of this or that are universally shared or locally/nationally determined or are the property of only a small group of not *privileged* but *cohesive* individuals.

    Culture has the dual function of determining us and them, and determining our human universality.

    Apart from that, I can only recommend that you read some Foucauld — preferably in the French.

  • JabbaPapa

    ????? “can’t recognise irony”

    Even when it’s so patently and blatantly obvious ???

    Well excuuuuuse me for pointing out how inept it was !!!!

  • Agent Provocateur21

     Dear Benedict, I mistakenly “liked” your comment. But let’s get to the point… I think you misunderstood me. President Putin called the collapse of the Soviet union the biggest geo-political strategy in the 20th century not because it caused moral and economic suffering of millions of people, but because it was a disaster in itself. You can agree or disagree with Putin on that, but to speculate about his motivations is pointless. And so it is pointless to argue what was the greatest tragedy of the 20th century – WW1, WW2, collapse of the Soviet union?!! As for the Orthodox Church…. I do not think you have an accurate picture of the Orthodox hierarchy. The common believers tend to put Catholics in the same category with Protestants, but not because they hate the Catholic church; they are just ignorant. As for the hierarchy – they have a huge respect for the faithful, orthodox, traditional Catholics. True, they laugh when they see some “people friendly” Masses and they look down on all things progressive and liberal. And rightly so.

  • Parasum

    But it wasn’t irrelevant *to Christians*. Now, by contrast… STM the OP was right. The damage is very largely self-inflicted – blaming the meeja is pointless, and unfair. 

    The old name for the current malady is *accidie*, “sloth”. Which takes many forms. The Church is slothful, and it is decadent – partly because it is pagan in many of its assumptions.

    Revelation 3 is not encouraging:

    14 “And
    to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen,
    the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

    15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!
    16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
    17 For
    you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing
    that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
    18 I
    counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be
    rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame
    of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so
    that you may see.
    19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
    20 Behold,
    I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the
    door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
    21 To him who conquers I will grant to sit with me on my throne, as I
    also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
    22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

    ## No Church 1900 years was as wealthy as those of today.

  • Parasum

    “It must be one of their proudest achievements.”

    ## People are more than capable of doing colossal harm with the very best and benign intentions. The badness of a result does not guarantee the badness of the intentions.

  • Parasum

    “I am slightly surprised to read a historian saying that democracy
    probably can’t survive without a substratum of judaeo-christian beliefs…how does such a view accommodate the evolution of democracy in Greece…” ?

    ## Religious tunnel vision, perhaps. An atheist would have no problem pointing out that the unspoken assumption – that Judaeo-Christian beliefs will be more benign in their social effects than a society without them – is questionable in itself, and even more questionable when the historical record is looked at. If atheists are virtuous, an atheist democracy is as likely to be benign as one with Judaeo-Christian beliefs – possibly more likely than such a one. Christian & Jewish ethics are not supernatural from an atheist POV, but as natural & non-Divine as the as the atheist’s. Without a belief in a Divine Being, there is no reason to think a DB exists. So the Christian argument that one needs faith in God so as to be good looks from an atheist POV  like wilful self-delusion, the mistaking of fantasy for fact, the needless positing of a made-up world that explains nothing and makes no difference to reality.

    There is no reason why an atheist should not be virtuous – it was Plato, a man not usually considered a Jew or Christian, who IIRC came up with the idea of the four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude. If atheists are capable of being virtuous, they are capable of building a virtuous state. Theism is not needed for that. There is a lot of sound advice in ANE wisdom writings that does not depend on theism. And if men do not need faith in God to be virtuous, does a society of them ? Christian societies have always fallen short of being totally Christian – why should atheists be held to standards beyond their attainment, if Christians are not ? If flaws in a society full of Christians do not count against Christianity, why can the same reasoning not apply to flawed atheist societies ? 

    The problem with religion is that, humanly speaking, worshipping the puppets on “Sesame Street” is no different from worshipping the Christian God. Praying a novena to Ernie for success in an exam would be – humanly speaking – identical in every way to praying a novena to the Sacred Heart for the same purpose. Prayer to an old sock would be reprehensible from a Christian & Jewish POV – but no more of a waste of time, from the POV of an atheist, than  going to Mass. As a means of relieving stress, it might even be superior to Christian prayer. Only from the POV of the believer, and in the eyes of God, is there a difference. Humanly speaking, theism is just another human occupation, with nothing good about it that cannot be attained by unbelievers as well as by believers.

  • Oconnord

    My use of “irrelevant” presumed knowledge of christianity, otherwise I’d have used the word “unknown”, or at a pinch, “not understood”, if referring to the many, many centuries after, or/and in other areas. 

    Never before, in history, have so many people known the “Catholic Message” and chosen to ignore it. Catholics simply ignore church teachings in their lives. Although they remember some, they often choose charity above chastity. (Which shows they learn the better “teachings”)  

    The church has never before had to deal with being ignored or dismissed by the very people it claims.   

  • Oconnord

    No, as the person who “should have been offended”, or insulted… or objected. That wasn’t the case. A mild joke and inference was treated like a direct insult.  

    I admire the CH for the freedom it allows it’s poster’s.