We are so constituted that we believe the most incredible things; and, once they are engraved upon the memory, woe to him who would endeavor to erase them.
Johann Wofgang von Goethe
Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.
(Photo credit Alamy – The Goddess Reason enthroned by the French Revolutionaries in Paris)
Everyone lives by faith, by trust. We cannot avoid it. To live without trust in anything or anyone is despair. That is why the early secular existentialists conceded that, without God in the picture, humans must still choose something to trust in, to have faith in, in order to give their personal existence enough meaning to keep on living. (See William James above.)
That is why Nietzsche, the icon of modern philosophy, resolved that, having killed God, we must have the will to assume the godhead ourselves and raise the human race to the pinnacle of wherever evolution may take us. If we cannot do that, we do not deserve anything more than the fate of the dinosaurs.
As Goethe observed “we are so constituted that we believe…” Because we have no choice in the matter of believing in something, when nothing reasonable and probable (at least to our way of thinking) presents itself, we will, inevitably, choose “the most incredible things.” The more outrageous something is at first blush, the harder we have to work to convince ourselves to believe it. Paradoxically, once we have done that hard work, “once they are engraved upon the memory, woe to him who would endeavour to erase them”.
Hence the unshakeable conviction in the most bizarre ideas of what the USA was about to apocalyptically become of the wannabe saviours of the Great Republic in January 2021. Hence the ineradicable fables of Holocaust deniers, or of those who say the Lunar landings were all staged, and on and on. Evidence to the contrary be damned – no matter how mountainous! “My mind is made up; don’t confuse me with the facts!”
There is more than a small element of fable and fantasy added when the truth-brigades from the other side of the spectrum lump in all those who hold to trust in the Creator and the Christian Story with the outer-limit fringe. This lumping in even goes as far as saying that, because so many of the conspiracy-addicts seem to come out of fervent religious sects, it must be due to the essentially lunatic nature of religious (and especially Christian) faith in the first place.
Circa 200 CE, the ancient Christian theologian and apologist Tertullian once told the Roman opponents of Christianity: “It is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd.” This oft-quoted pithy paradox is almost always taken out of context and fired at Christians as evidence of the absurdity of their faith. Tertullian was actually side-wise referencing the Apostle Paul’s declaration to some early Greek disciples about how God’s apparent foolishness puts all human-based wisdom and expectations of how reality works to shame. (See Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapters 1 and 2 in the New Testament.)
Tertullian’s point was that relying on forms of wisdom which exclude the Creator as the final source of truth maroon the seeker in the empty desert of forever chasing new propositions, forever seeking another savant with the next level of understanding, and forever discovering yet another dead-end road with no food for the empty heart and soul. A very fair-minded man, Tertullian criticized Christian deviants as vehemently as he took apart the nonsense the secularists of his day spouted against Jesus and his followers.
In the 21st Century West it is a given that science and faith are incompatible and are even at war with each other, at least in public discourse (or lack thereof). Science purports to be the search for truth and understanding rigorously pursued according to certain “objective” criteria. The only reason this has been turned into a “war” with faith is that it is not admitted that science requires great faith and that all faith has a foundation that is not primarily “scientific”. That is the paradox at the core of science.
Setting up the rules to exclude certain categories of knowledge, experience, and findings a priori proclaims a rigged game which allows the rule-makers to declare the forbidden forms of evidence and conclusions based upon them “out of bounds”. It is a case of the pot calling the kettle “black” (in a non-racial sense). True that the Christian Church(es) used to treat secularists in a similar way – as the famous case of Galileo illustrates as we are repeatedly reminded. But we now find the scientific establishment meting out the same treatment to thinkers and scholars who dare deviate from its established doctrines, especially when it comes to the kind of explanation for any phenomenon science cannot account for.
The assumption in such cases is strictly one of faith according to the dogma of science that someday reason and “science” (a sort of super-entity now possessing a kind of supernatural ability to someday explain what is cannot presently explain) will reveal and explain all. This smacks far more of theology than of evidence-based conclusions. “Science” in this way has attained a religious status, a sort of personified stand-in for the ultimate power of human rationality and ingenuity. We are well on our way to a trinity here. Science sits on the throne, or perhaps it is Reason. Like the Father and the Son in Christian doctrine, but supposedly emptied of the mystique and the mystical.
Yet they have betrayed themselves. The doctrines are there, the dogma is in place, the first two powers or forces of this Secularized Trinity sit on their thrones. We are just lacking the parallel to the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity. Where to look? If the Holy Spirit in the Christian Trinity is the personal power of God in action, then the Holy Spirit of Science is the personal power of the Human Mind.
And there we have it – the religion of science made in the image of the dethroned, defrocked, demoted ideology, theology, and worldview of its great rival which has apparently been defeated once and for all! Father Science depends on the incarnation of the Son Reason, which operates in power through the Holy Spirit Human Mind! An astonishing and unwitting reversal and doubtless unintentional imitation!
“Imitation is the highest form of flattery,” as the saying goes.
But perhaps there is something far more subtle and deep at work here than mere coincidence, or even unacknowledged imitation. Perhaps it is rooted in the very fabric of reality itself, the signature of the Creator manifesting itself even in the creature’s attempt to wipe the knowledge of the Creator from human consciousness.
Ultimately, the creature cannot deny its own nature, especially the human creature which, it has been said since time beyond memory, is made in the image of the Creator for the express purpose of personifying and signifying the will and presence of the Creator in the very warp and woof of His/Her manifest handiwork. For the signature of the Creator is in every part of the creation, in every being, in every star, in every atom.
The efforts of the human species to deny, efface, and erase this Presence in order to take the Creator’s place and be unaccountable except to itself cannot wipe out that intended purpose no matter what we do – including creating the ultimate “non-religious” paradigm. When we boil it down to its essence and uncover its deepest inner workings, it betrays itself as one more manifestation of who and what we really are and it only points us back to the One who made us to be in relation to Him/Her.
TO BE CONTINUED
 Incidentally, dinosaurs still exist. They have been right in our faces since humans appeared on earth. The current iteration just doesn’t reach the same size as their ancient predecessors, and are in far less variety. We call them reptiles. Some of them, like crocodiles and alligators and turtles and monitor lizards, are virtually unchanged from their remote ancestors. This picture does not fit the narrative our modern scientific faith propounds.