Sunday 17 July 2011

Worldly-neglect by the worldly: prophecy, disaster and repentance


We live in a wholly worldly public sphere; and what the modern world shows is that worldliness does not, apparently cannot, defend the world.

A focus on 'this world' by those who believe only in this world, is leading to the utter loss of this world.


Throughout the decades of atheist adult life, I used to worry that belief in other-worldly religions (especially among political leaders) would lead to neglect of this world.

That 'crazy Christians' would lead us into terminal wars over imagined spiritual conflicts, would lead to mass poverty in pursuit of delusional spiritual goals, would destroy this actual planet and most of the people on it because their attention was focused on an imaginary afterlife.


I feared that a concentration on the salvation of souls would lead to a neglect of bodies and minds.

I feared that seeking happiness in heaven would lead to the neglect of preventible misery on earth. 


However, it turns out that the worldly neglect by the worldly is far, far worse than the unworldly religious have ever attained: blinder, more perverse, more lacking in worldly wisdom.

And for this there is neither reason nor excuse.


The reckless, futile squandering of this-life by people who supposedly believe there is only this-life.

The utter lack of common sense by those whose religion is common sense.


It seems that to believe there is only this world and only this life is in practice to render everything futile; to encourage recklessness by the absence of any conceivable strategic good.


What a paradox! That the irreligious for whom the world is everything yet accept and actively assist in the destruction of this world; and that the religious - who are trying to focus on the next world - are among few who perceive that this world is on the verge of destruction.

The paradox is not new - the Old Testament has examples of prophets who fortell  the destruction of cities of corruption; who simultaneously approve this destruction as merited by sin, yet also try to prevent it.

The worldly cannot see this approaching collapse - it is only the spiritual prophets who realize the incipient reality of physical destruction and its physical terribleness.

So holy and spiritual prophets seek to terrify worldly sinners with prophecies of wordly consequences - how could it be otherwise?


The paradox is thus apparent, not real; the prophets seek not to save the world for more worldliness; but to bring the wicked to repentance using the only language which the wicked understand.

And if there is repentance then destruction is delayed.



The Crow said...

It is necessary, not optional, to live asif there was eternal consequence. Even were there not, this way of life would be preferable to the one now lived by most.

Daniel said...

The Crow is right of course, as are you, Dr. Charlton. But the atheist this-worlders will respond that they do have long-term concerns about the earth, and that they are desperately worried about environmental destruction — their own kind of Gaia-eschaton.

The thing is, they are right to be worried about environmental destruction. It is a serious problem, and a great crime, that modern humans destroy everything lovely and beautiful about the natural world as fast as we can. Perhaps global warming is the scam it seems to me to be (though perhaps not, I'm not 100% convinced there's no "there" there). But even without global warming alarmism, one cannot deny the horrible effects of industrialization and hyper-capitalism on the world that God created.

But the very way in which atheist environmentalists (or their New Age Gaia-ist cousins) go about their earth-crusade belies their essentially unserious thought. Because the end goal of extreme environmentalism is a clean environment (which I would certainly welcome)... but then what?

If every toxic spill was cleaned up tomorrow, and every endangered species returned to full health, we'd be left with the same problem: what is the point of this-worldly existence? There can be none according to their view. In fact, it is the very prevalence of their own this-world-only thinking that made such ugly environmental destruction thinkable in the first place.

Plus, and I think it's been mentioned on this blog before, the truly thorough and logical atheist environmentalist can have no other goal than the suicide of all humanity (with no afterlife). This is the logical end-game of committed atheism. All human meaning must end so that the (human-desired) pristine earth can come into existence. What a hopeless confusion!

Bruce Charlton said...

@Daniel - well said.

When environmentalism comes to mean recycling, 'energy-saving' light bulbs, 'sustainable architecture', Cap and Trade/ carbon markets, and scrapping a perfectly good car to buy a Prius.

When - in other words - environmentalism means strategically getting rid of existing old stuff and using more time, effort and energy to re-use, build and buy ever more *new* stuff, then that tells us everything we need to know about it.

The Crow said...

Interesting tack, Daniel.
It would appear that environmentalists desire only to have a pristine earth in order that they may then go and use it for their own eco-tourism entertainment.
As usual, it is not the stated goal that is the real goal.
It is not really about the earth, but about them.
I wish I were wrong about this.

If you would have a perfect picture: remove yourself from it. Leave it be, to be itself.

Bill said...

Disasters come from trying to do the impossible. Immanentizing the Eschaton is impossible. Since orientation to the Eschaton is built in to us by God, denying a spiritual Eschaton leads us to immanentize it. And that's pretty much it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Bill - I think I understand - is it a version of the (?Oedipus Rex) idea that it is the attempt to evade prophecy in a literal sense that leads to its literal and disaterous fulfillment - but if the prophecy is accepted as a judgement, then its fulfillment will be symbolic (and perhaps beneficial).