Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Reason versus repentance (reason is useless)


For much of my life I was a kind of rationalist, using reason, logic, evidence to persuade both in person and in polemical articles.

And the internet is full of such people - in particular the secular Right pins everything on the strategy of reasoned and evidential debate as a way of changing things, of getting good decisions and policies.

Well, it doesn't work - not even a little bit.


There are many many situations of which I have in-depth knowledge and in which I have been involved - where the rational position is crystal clear and unambiguous; the evidence and logic are irrefutable; the argument is won - yet this makes no difference at all.

And I mean zero difference.


Evidence, logic, reason - this just isn't how humans work...

(except for short periods of time among a tiny and self-selected elite in specialized domains).


Certain it is that people do not make sacrifices for the future well being (comfort, peace, safety, security) of their culture and civilization.

(Because if you live for comfort, peace, safety, security - than that is what you live for; and you will not be willing to sacrifice sure and certain, here and now and personal c.p.s.s. for the mere hope of a possible share in future social c.p.s.s.)


We all know that our civilization is destroying itself actively and purposefully; but we should also know that reason is absolutely definitely and for sure not going to stop this from happening - it will not make any difference at all, may well make matters much worse (by raising antibodies against itself).


Only one thing could reverse our suicidal trajectory, and that is repentance: an explicit admission (to ourselves and to others) that we were wrong, wrong, wrong.

Wrong, that is, about (pretty much) everything core - everything fundamental and of the greatest relevance.

A seismic upheaval of repentance would be necessary to reverse the massive inertial decline, the multiple self-inflicted fatal woundings that are afoot.

Short of this, nothing will have any effect.


This is why the secular Right is deluded by its own rationality: it is not a matter of tactics - the secular Right is futile in principle because it misunderstands the wellsprings of human motivation and action.


Only religion could save us - yet of course religion must be embraced because it is true; not because it would (perhaps) save civilization.

(And, of course, to save this culture and civilization the religion would have to be Christian.) 


It is not that a religious revival would necessarily save civilization, of course not!

But that without religious revival civilization certainly will not be saved.

Because without religion, men are not motivated to make the vast necessary sacrifices.

Men of reason and utterly without religion are men without chests, men of straw, sub-men - they cannot sustain or save anything at all - except their own skins, in the short term. Certainly not a nation or a culture.


But will it happen? Will culture, will civilization be saved by repentance and Christian revival?

Here in the UK it certainly does not look like it, not at all: I see neither signs nor glimmers of this.

I see rather a population of psychotic leaders, and psychodramatic self-absorbed masses - united only in relentless hedonism and a desperate, hourly search for self-esteem.


On present trends the UK, England, will lose culture, civilization and Christianity.

England will simply break-down, break-apart, and each fragmentary bit get dominated and filled-up by something else altogether.

But if anything is to be saved, the first step must be Christianity and after that - we shall see...



JP said...

"without religion, men are not motivated to make the vast necessary sacrifices."

When I attend my community church, I take note of the fact that the men are, almost without exception, poorly dressed. Scores of men apparently think it is appropriate to wear cargo shorts, tee shirts, and flip flops to church! These men have religion - nominally, anyway - and yet they are not motivated to make the very small sacrifice of dressing well for a couple of hours on the weekend. I doubt they are motivated to make vast sacrifices; I suspect they are simply there in order to make their wives happy, not from any sense of religious conviction.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP - well, of course, attending church is not being religious in the way that moves mountains.

It is a major part of our problem that our society weakens and subverts Christians unless they are (eg like the Amish) more or less cut off from the mainstream - hence what Christianity there is tends to be feeble (me not excepted).

For instance, there are now approximately zero Saints among a billion people in the UK and Europe; in Anglo Saxon times there were scores of them among just a million or two people in England.

Anonymous said...

Completely agree but I don't see any repentance or conversion. People are becoming more and more anti-Christian. And it's not only the elites but also ordinary people.

Some time ago, secular people were satisfied by not being religious. Now they want to shame and insult religious people. They want Christianity banned from public and private life. They are outraged when some non-secular opinion is expressed. Anti-Christians are becoming more and more bold.

Today, I open the newspaper. A TV actor who has been brave enough to define himself as a practicing Catholic receives a death threat from a left-wing blogger in Twitter. The same blogger that labelled the World Youth Day as a "coup d'├ętat" and said that the people in the World Congress of Families should be put in prison.

I don't know where so much hatred comes from. When I was an atheist, I didn't have any kind of hate towards Christian people or Christianity in general.

The way things are going, I wonder if we Christians are on our way to the concentration camp. Maybe not us, but our children or grandchildren.

As much as I love the Western civilization, this civilization deserves to die and the quicker the better. We once had Michelangelo, Bach, Newton, Aquinas, NotreDame, families, children, people who strove for the good. Now we only have decadence and rottenness.


Bruce Charlton said...

@Imnobody - I agree that if our civilization lasts, it will become actively anti-Christian.

Where does the hatred come from?

This is Peter Kreeft

"Who, then, is our enemy?

"There are two answers. All the saints and popes throughout the Church’s history have given the same two answers, for these answers come from the Word of God on paper in the New Testament and the Word of God in flesh in Jesus Christ.

"Yet they are not well known. In fact, the first answer is almost never mentioned today. Not once in my life have I ever heard a homily on it, or a lecture by a Catholic theologian.

"Our enemies are demons. Fallen angels. Evil spirits.

"So says Jesus Christ: “Do not fear those who can kill the body and then has no more power over you. I will tell you whom to fear. Fear him who has power to destroy both body and soul in Hell.”

"So says St. Peter, the first pope: “The Devil, like a roaring lion, is going through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Resist him, steadfast in the faith.”

"So says St. Paul: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers of wickedness in high places.”

"So said Pope Leo the XIII, who received a vision of the 20th century that history has proved terrifyingly true. He saw Satan, at the beginning of time, allowed one century in which to do his worst work, and he chose the 20th. This pope with the name and heart of a lion was so overcome by the terror of this vision that he fell into a trance. When he awoke, he composed a prayer for the whole Church to use to get it through the 20th century. The prayer was widely known and prayed after every Mass—until the ’60s: exactly when the Church was struck with that incomparably swift disaster that we have not yet named (but which future historians will), the disaster that has destroyed a third of our priests, two-thirds of our nuns, and nine-tenths of our children’s theological knowledge; the disaster that has turned the faith of our fathers into the doubts of our dissenters, the wine of the Gospel into the water of psychobabble."

Wm Jas said...

Well, as you say, religion must be embraced because it is true, and repentance must stem from an understanding that one actually is in the wrong -- so reason would still seem to have an important role.

Repentance will turn a person to religion only if he already believes that religion to be true. Intellectual assent comes first.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - sort of. But I think humans are built such that we mistrust our own intellects - so we always seem to require that intellectual assent is backed up with something else, or more than one thing.

Indeed, intellectual assent turns out to be trivially easy to manufacture by propaganda, advertising, mass art, education, fashion etc. - and trivially easy to subvert by the same means.

If reason is so important, how come Aquinas has been subverted by every major philosopher since? - starting with the very next generation of Scotus and Occam. How come, having failed to produce anything as good (never mind better) the philosophers after Aquinas did not repent and repudiate their own efforts.

Scotus and Occam may have felt they could do better, but their reaction to their won failure, the reaction of 1000 years of philosophers to their own failure, indicate pride as the primary motivation - more powerful than intellect or reason.