Unreality of the secular

Now it is not the business of Christianity to defend our secularized Western culture from the menace of social or political revolution. From the Christian point of view there is not much to choose between passive agnosticism or indifferentism and active materialism. In fact, both of them may be different symptoms of the same spiritual disease. What is vital is to recover the moral and spiritual foundations on which the lives of both the individual and the culture depend: to bring home to the average man that religion is not a pious fiction which has nothing to do with the facts of life, but that it is concerned with realities, that it is in fact the pathway to reality and the law of life. This is no easy task, since a completely secularized culture is a world of make-believe in which the figures of the cinema and the cartoon-strip appear more real than the figures of the Gospel; in which the artificial cycle of wage earning and spending has divorced men from their direct contact with the life of the earth and its natural cycle of labor and harvest; and in which even birth and death and sickness and poverty no longer bring men face to face with ultimate realities, but only bring them into closer dependence on the state and its bureaucracy so that every human need can be met by filling in the appropriate form.

Christopher Dawson, The Crisis of Western Education, p. 175

Freedom of the Church

It is necessary that Christians should remember that it is not the business of the Church to do the same thing as the State — to build a Kingdom like the other kingdoms of men, only better; nor to create a reign of earthly peace and justice. The Church exists to be the light of the world, and if it fulfills its function, the world is transformed in spite of all the obstacles that human powers place in the way. A secularist culture can only exist, so to speak, in the dark. It is a prison in which the human spirit confines itself when it is shut out of the wider world of reality. But as soon as the light comes, all the elaborate mechanism that has been constructed for living in the dark becomes useless. The recovery of spiritual vision gives man back his spiritual freedom. And hence the freedom of the Church is in the faith of the Church and the freedom of man is in the knowledge of God.

Christopher Dawson, Dynamics of World History, p. 273

Review: Christ and Prometheus by William F. Lynch

Lynch here, as elsewhere, presents a vision of the world and of man that is thoroughly incarnational. For Lynch, the event of the Incarnation, in which God became man in the person of Jesus Christ, as the event that indicates and determines the entire structure of the cosmos and of the microcosmos (the human being).

In this book, Lynch focuses on the tension between the sacred and the secular in the modern world, proposing a view of these as essentially Christological categories that must be brought into unity. Just as the ancients had to struggle to reconcile the primitive in man with civilization, the new struggle is to reconcile the religious and the secular impulses and their respective projects.

Lynch’s answer to this tension is to bring the two into a harmony in which neither swallows up the other. Rather, there must be a unity of human experience in which both impulses take part. Man must find his freedom in a world of objects and his whole being in a world of more and more minute specialization. Man, the whole man, must achieve unity and purity of experience.

If God didn’t exist, everything would be possible

When we speak of forlornness, a term Heidegger was fond of, we mean only that God does not exist and that we have to face all the consequences of this. The existentialist is strongly opposed to a certain kind of secular ethics which would like to abolish God with the least possible expense. About 1880, some French teachers tried to set up a secular ethics which went something like this: God is a useless and costly hypothesis; we are discarding it; but, meanwhile, in order for there to be an ethics, a society, a civilization, it is essential that certain values be taken seriously and that they be considered as having an a priori existence. It must be obligatory, a priori, to be honest, not to lie, not to beat your wife, to have children, etc., etc. So we’re going to try a little device which will make it possible to show that values exist all the same, inscribed in a heaven of ideas, though otherwise God does not exist. In other words — and this, I believe, is the tendency of everything called reformism in France — nothing will be changed if God does not exist. We shall find ourselves with the same norms of honesty, progress, and humanism, and we shall have made of God an outdated hypothesis which will peacefully die off by itself.

The existentialist, on the contrary, thinks it very distressing that God does not exist, because all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him; there can no longer be an a priori Good, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it. Nowhere is it written that the Good exists, that we must be honest, that we must not lie; because the fact is we are on a plane where there are only men. Dostoievsky said, “If God didn’t exist, everything would be possible.” That is the very starting point of existentialism. Indeed, everything is permissible if God does not exist, and as a result man is forlorn, because neither within him nor without does he find anything to cling to.

Jean-Paul Sartre, “Existentialism is a Humanism”