Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Lie of Progress

In this period of Lent, Christians are invited through prayer and fasting to examine their consciences and make an appropriate repentance. Why?

Every Christian should have the goal of becoming more Christ-like: each of us is to put on Christ and put to death the old man who lives only according to the flesh. It seems very reasonable that there is, for each individual Christian, a perfectly well-defined notion of progress in life. We progress by committing fewer sins and by co-operating with the grace we receive abundantly from Almighty God. Our end is our beginning: perfection in God.

How do we measure that progress, though? Saying, "I committed five sins yesterday and only three today," might give the illusion that progress is being made but yesterday is not the same day as today. You never step into the same river twice.

"Ah!" says my detractor, "you always argue that whatever is sinful does not change in Time. How can you argue this if each day is contextually different from the next?"

Sin is defined in relation to God. Sin always misses God - that's what the term "sin" means, a missing of the target. Since God is Eternal and thus changeless in Time, whatever misses Him must also be Eternal, in the same way that one quarter, the square root of two, and 𝜋 must always miss the set of whole numbers. The time at which these numbers fail to be whole numbers is meaningless. What may change is the gravity of the sin within temporal contexts: murder - that is, the unlawful, premeditated killing of another human being - is always sinful, but the reasons why that murder is committed will differentiate it from being malicious and being weak. Unlawful killing? Which law? Clearly, the law of the one who gave it - God!

Take God out of the equation and there ceases to be any form of universal law. The unlawfulness of murder can be decided by whatever human authority is appointed to decide what law is. One only has to look at the last century to see that it is possible for the extermination of various groups of people to become lawful in human civilisation.

Okay, that's last century. That won't happen today! We've made progress.
If you haven't yet read it, make sure you read and understand Orwell's 1984 and see how already we are being conditioned to think in a certain way.

We know that slavery is wrong, yet still it happens and people are prepared to sanction it. Big businesses paying children a pittance in some part of the world to sew together cheap trendy trainers for wannabe rich kids.

We know that sexism is wrong, yet still women are being treated as an underclass by those who seek to assert their dominance through maintaining sexual stereotypes which serve only to make both sexes caricatures of humanity.Yet, the Western Governments are passing laws by which even the safe spaces of women's restrooms can be used by men by redefining what "men" and "women" mean - or rather by legislating that a word no longer means what it already means by the abuse of grammar.

If the Enlightenment seeks the progress of human beings, what does it see as the goal of Progress especially if part of that "enlightenment" is the destruction of belief in God?

The only goal of an atheist progress must be some form of Utopia to which end human beings are to work. From what little I understand of such a worldview is that Science, Reason, and Humanism are the means by which the ills of poverty, disease, injustice. war, old-age and even death are eradicated. Thus, all human beings become a means to this end and nothing more. If my life ends with my death then,  by virtue of the fact that I would not see Utopia, only work that I do towards it will be my worth as I fade into oblivion. The humanity of those who will see this Utopia will not be shared by those who have died to realise it unless this Utopia possesses the ability to raise the dead. How would that be possible for those, like Blessed John Henry Newman, who have completely gone to dust?

Perhaps I am being selfish and, by refusing to work for Utopia, I am depriving my descendants of that goal just because I want to be pat of it. Is it not better to embrace my existence as a means to the joy of my descendants and, with my dying breath, feel pleased that someone else will have what I have worked for but never had?

It would indeed be worth working for, if it were possible, but I cannot believe that such a future humanist Utopia can exist, perhaps in the same sort of way that an atheist cannot believe in God and Heaven. Personally, I find that there is much more empirical evidence for the existence of God than there is of progress in human nature.

Here and now, there continue to be people who live in absolute (not relative) poverty in Africa and India. Frankly, I believe Our Lord when he says "ye always have the poor with you; but Me ye have not always." There has always been disease and even now we are at the mercy of drug-resistant bacteria and viruses. We still haven't eradicated the common cold. I fail to see how there can be any true justice without the existence of God since injustice continues conveniently unrecognised by the media. Science itself seems to suggest that we cannot naturally live past 120 years old and that this is genetic in nature. As for Death, the Universe itself is predicted to die out via Science. This planet will not survive the death of the Sun. Science fiction may give us the inspiration to go universe-hopping, but there is as much scientific evidence for the existence of other universes as there is for God. If there is a Utopia, it will not last and all the effort of those who strive for its realisation will be in vain anyway.

All I see of this Utopia is anodyne, unimaginative and, quite frankly boring. If they do invent a machine that can raise the dead, then count this as my desire not to be raised in this way. I don't want this resurrection because it won't be a resurrection - I doubt it wil even be me.

The whole idea of working for a Utopia is really a form of Pelagianism which seems to attract the SJWs among Christians. Of course, we need to follow Our Lord's commands and help those in need with the utmost care and love that the dignity of human nature has been given by its Creator. The poor need to be helped; the naked must be clothed; the bereaved need comfort and help. But we cannot pretend that we can work our way to building Heaven on Earth. That's not going to happen. The Kingdom of Heaven is with us now - right now - and this is despite the horrors that take place in the world. The only way to Heaven is to seek God now, accept His rule and await the resurrection of the Dead on His terms.

Unless there is clear evidence the human beings are changing for the better, that the old sins of murder, adultery, coveting, stealing and bearing false witness are dying out, I will remain unconvinced of any progress worth its salt.

1 comment:

Fr Anthony said...

Ideas are converging because you and I are getting to the bottom of the excesses of the Enlightenment and so-called “realist” materialism.

I have been finding some of the worst examples of the “Utopia” of which you speak. Stephen Hawking died yesterday. I can’t judge what happened to him, but what is sure is that it is not what he expected. He discovered consciousness and eternal life without machines, without human pride.

Take technology out of the picture, we are back in those chilling days of the 1790’s, the Terror and the emergence of Napoleon. Reason is good, but it must work with the heart and the imagination, with faith and love. We are conscious and spiritual human beings, and evidence suggests that all nature is endowed with these gifts of God’s Logos. We arrive at another end of the Enlightenment, and I am doing all I can to contribute to a new Idealist and Romantic movement to bring culture and humanity to Christ and the Kingdom within.

That “Enlightenment” is the one that takes every technological invention and makes it into a weapon of war! The world of Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins is no more than that of Reichführer Himmler and Dr Mengele. Hawking is now dead, and Dawkins will also be when his time is up, as for you and I. Supposing they did find a way to prolong bodily life indefinitely, it would be available only to the stinking rich and most other people would have to be killed to make place (Lebensraum) for the new Ubermensch. Thank God for death, because each of us can only take so much! If this world has to be run according to such principles, not only do I not fear for death, but I yearn for it – that I may do God’s will here and move on to a better world.

Hawking’s idea of finding another planet to live on is a complete illusion. If there is one, and it were possible to get there, the chances are that human “refugees” wouldn’t be welcome. It’s all academic and pseudo quack science. It’s all speculation and belief. If man did live on another planet, what happened to Earth would happen to it too. Anyway, the distances for beings existing in time and space make such an idea impossible. It would take thousands of years assuming that near light speed became possible.

We have to be ourselves, human, in order to relate to God and the natural world we live in and are called to preserve as best we can. We can’t roll back science and technology, but we can set reason in its human context of beings with hearts, imagination and emotions. We don’t need a planet millions of light years away – if it exists – but the Kingdom within ourselves. We need a new Christian humanism, a new Idealist movement and “new hearts for old” as in one of the prophetic lessons of yesterday’s Lenten Mass. Then there will be hope.