Pascal, Pensees (244):
“Why, do you not say yourself that the sky and the birds prove God?”
– “No.” –
“Does your religion not say so?”
– “No. For though it is true in a sense for some souls whom God has enlightened in this way, yet it is untrue for the majority.” –
There are quite a few religious bloggers who are quite shrill on the Internet, but my immediate complaint is with the number of pro-choice and atheist bloggers who seem to want to make any differing opinion a point of disgrace. I support attacks on Creationism and religious zealots who promote violence. When that abortionist was killed recently, a lot of people on Twitter said things that really should get one looked at with intense scrutiny by the authorities. I’ve also been clear that we’re happy to accept the practical benefits of science, while attacking the theoretical implications and the sense of wonder which accompany genuine learning: we can make education nothing but dogmatism if we like.
However, there are two major problems I see with the disdain for religion and the right to life online:
- The attacks usually take extremes and make all believers accountable for them.
- There is no acknowledgment that some people choose to believe in God because they already love, and want to be more loving.
Generally speaking, these two sorts of attacks reduce to one: there’s just a feeling I get from them that anyone who is religious doesn’t deserve to exist, that they should go kill themselves or something. Being pro-life also seems to mean that the only thing one wants to do is force values down other people’s throats – it’s simply not possible for someone to believe that children or a family is a good thing.
I realize that it is going to get harder to respect believers as the Right gets more problematic: I watched the opening of an episode of Glenn Beck recently where he was talking with “concerned Moms,” all of whom said that the Founders believed in God and were very devout and they seemed to argue the federal government now was a direct assault on God Himself. There, of course, is some truth to overzealous bureaucrats and political correctness finding new ways to offend those of us who are more traditional. But the fact that the principal Founders were deists and that the secular nature of the Constitution is simultaneously an assault on any given Church and a way of preserving everyone’s religious heritage seemed to be notions that were far above the ability of those crazies to grasp. Worse, they seemed emboldened by their sense of belief, and given that they were on television, one could even argue that they were empowered. In the face of all of this, it seems simpler to argue there is such a thing as “science,” and that it is in perpetual conflict with “religion,” and “science” should win this conflict.
But I know that philosophy and piety diverge partly because they address different aspects of the soul (or, if you like, “our natural proclivities:” I use “soul” without any necessary religious connotation). You can sort of see this in how someone can express wonder and love for Creation, and want to be grateful for all the beautiful things experienced. That wonder does not necessarily conflict with exploring new areas of knowledge, or one’s eagerness to learn something new. They sometimes seem to complement each other: we only have Plato and Aristotle because Muslims in the Middle Ages preserved those texts, and we all know Catholic monks worked very hard to make copies of ancient works and translate them when they could.