Skip to comments.Religion? Phoo-ey: Society has been hurt far more by philosophy
Posted on 09/08/2003 3:05:17 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
I SENSED A KINSHIP with Martin Luther when reading Professor Thomas L. Johnson's comment ["Truly free? Not as long as religion plays a role in government," Aug. 19]. When Luther read Erasmus' diatribes he responded: "Your workstruck me as so worthless and poor that my heart went out to you for having defiled your lovely and brilliant flow of language with such vile stuff.It is like using gold and silver dishes to carry garden rubbish or dung."
Johnson assumes we experience philosophical ideas only in the philosophers' writings. This is erroneous. We meet these ideas in movies, television, and the lyrics of music.
They are in books such as Hillary Clinton's "It Takes a Village." The raising of a child is too important to be left to the parents; it takes a village. This belief is from Plato's "Republic." Movies and television have often portrayed the "anti-hero hero"--the individual who makes his own way and his own laws, and refuses to submit to authority. This is the "superman" of Nietzsche.
Johnson's own polemic on Christian "virtues" betrays the influence of Nietzsche's "Will to Power." These ideas are found in marketing: Get it here and now because here and now is all you have.
One does not have to read the philosophers to encounter the ideas they have promulgated. Even the U.S. Army has kowtowed to philosophy with the slogan "An army of one."
The contemporary church, as well, has been shaped by the philosophers. Rudolf Bultmann turned to the atheistic existential philosophy of Heidegger as the way to interpret the Bible, pushing many into a subjective approach. But perhaps it was Immanuel Kant in his "Critique of Pure Reason" who had the greatest impact on culture and church when he built his wall between the transcendent (God, the self, and essences) and the world as we perceive it. The Christian community abandoned its traditional rational arguments for God and turned to leaps of faith. Thus the church, like the culture, found itself separated from God, the self, and essences, and the answers to the important questions: What is Good, Beautiful and True? We have all bowed the knee to Father Kant and his disciples, even if we have never heard their names.
The history Johnson asserts is more wretched than his views on philosophical effect. In ancient Rome, Christians were executed for not worshiping the emperor. Christians stopped the practice of infanticide. It was the church's opposition that ended the games where people were butchered for the amusement of the mob.
Throughout history Christians have resisted tyranny--at Runnymede and the signing of the Magna Carta, in central Europe when the German Princes opposed Charles V, and in the Dutch war of independence. All these events were carried out by Christians. Parliament's victory over the King in the English Civil War was the work of Christians, as was the American Revolution. The history Johnson offered, of Christians as docile, willing servants of despots, is at its best abject knavery, at its worst odious slander.
The dictatorships of this past century, of which Johnson took little notice, were nearly all anti-religious. These opposed Judeo-Christianity and adopted Karl Marx's creed "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his need." Lenin and Stalin attempted to exterminate religion. Communist China's human disasters ("The Great Leap Forward" and the "Cultural Revolution") were not the result of Christian complicity. These tragedies, along with those perpetrated by the Pol Pot regime and numerous others, lay with proponents of anti-religious, anti-Christian socialism.
Johnson protests that both political parties are making government bigger, and they are. We have only ourselves to blame, having become enthralled with the politics of envy, greed, and guilt, justified by Marx's creed. This is the result of the marriage of agnostic socialism and 19th-century liberal theology, which is not Christian, as J. Gresham Machen so ably pointed out in "Christianity and Liberalism."
Professor Johnson may assert the contrary, but with God banished from, statehouse, schoolhouse, and courtroom, Caesar is now on the throne. Where humans rule rather than the law, tyranny will follow. Big government is the heritage of this exile.
We all suffer from Pascal's dilemma of being able to think of a better existence than we have, but being unable to bring it about. We as a culture have turned to a human institution, government, for our needs and wants. Many are ready to lay covetous hands on the public treasury. This is the legacy of the 19th- and 20th-century socialist movements, which abandoned the orthodox teachings of Judaism and Christianity.
The threat to freedom is not from the community of faith. It is from the culture's desire to have the state meet our desires and free us from accountability. In a family environment this would be called codependency.
The late Vince Lombardi, observing the American scene in 1970, said, "People no longer understand the difference between liberty and license." I see in Professor Johnson's diatribe that lack of understanding.
Yes, but that is because Kant had no other choice, when given the skeptical premises of the naturalist philosophers. All of what we know comes from experience. This is common sense; Hume, Locke, etc. made it clear and showed with force how this is so. Yet this is the premise that forced Kant - and God - into the box of the metaphysical. For the extent to which anything we can know from experience (and not apriori) requires an ability, even hypothetical to experience and verify. Kant justified faith with reason, or rather justified kinds of "necessary truths" akin to faith as based on reason, yet by using philosophic reason as the axiom; just as Auqinas and the scholastics justified faith with reason, yet the scholastics took faith itself as axiomatic.
Faith is the Will to Believe. The Will to be Wise. We've lost that and only the Will to Power remains. But there are 3 wills: The Will to Power (existence), Will to Knowledge (Faith,Reason) and Will to Virtue. The philosophers havent figured that out yet (I have).
And yet is Kant so wrong? If God works miracles, physical miracles, then he is part of the world, and we can experience him. If he works only through the laws of nature, then we can only experience him through that veil of nature. The modern critique of Kant is not to release God from metaphysics, but to dissolve the metaphysical entirely. "The Remnant" of Christian faith holds on to but a plot of barren land holding out against materialism, and the positivists and existentialists are ready to evict.
The real culprit in history has been the rationalist faith in ideas - pure ideas - as something real and with more meaning than experience. This was the heart of Plato's rationalism, and was carried on by philosophers after Descartes. After him and into the 20th century, the post-Christian rationalists created ideologies immune to empirical inspection yet without the goodness of Christian virtue.
It is a good article and a good retort. And yet the fineness of Christians past and mean-ness and danger of atheistic ideologies is not an argument that addresses the core truth of the matters.
I liked the comment of Blaise Pascal. We feel what is possible but we cannot experience it. Perhaps he saw it before many of us, the denouement of irreligion and its dissolution of hope in the human spirit. But how to recapture that? You can only fight philosophy with philosophy, truth with truth. That means a defense of the proper sort, attending to matters of knowledge, virtue and existence.
Whether they know it or not, every human being has a philosophy they live by, and a large number of individuals live, in part, to their personal religious philosophy.
It is also a fact that certain religious philosophies have proven themselves evil -- the evil within the 9/11 attack, for instance, has a religious base.
It's just one of those 1-pagers you have to turn in if you skip a philosophy class and don't want to drop a grade.
As for where we encounter philosophy? Each sentient being is engaged in its pursuit from his first waking hour, after coming into this world. We just get a little better at the pursuit as we grow towards adult hood. Thereafter, some continue to get better at the pursuit--that is called wisdom;--but many get set in certain mental traps, and stagnate. The worst of those mental traps--because it not only causes mental stagnation, but a neurotic rejection of truth itself--is what we call "Liberalism" today--that Socialist denial both of the realities of human life, and the awesome nature of the Creation (the Natural Laws that govern all objects, animate and seemingly inanimate).
William Flax Return Of The Gods Web Site
Modern Secularist Religion.
Not to mention Vince Lombardi and The American Scene.
He left out Lenny Bruce, Bach and Shakespeare. Maybe you have to read his book to cover everyone.
'20 or so words.' What, you're too lazy to scroll and count the exact number?
This very same thing demonstrates itself on threads about trade here at FR. One would easily find statements against those who have money and speak and/or think strictly in terms of class warfare. Envy and covetousness are the root of such thought.
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.