Those who think that religious types should never comment on anything but religion might want to go somewhere else for a while.
I asked the question why religious types were upset by an article in Newsweek (see blog for January 3), but the larger question is “why do the powers that be, the press, academe, certain politicians, have to keep going after the religious types to get them upset in the first place?” It is well documented that “religion” is doing fine in the United States, but Biblical Christianity, is almost dead. Why the need to keep piling on the Bible and those who believe that it is the “only rule and norm for doctrine and life?”
If you are into vast historical conspiracies then the “Enlightenment” fits the bill. We are, all of us, whether we know it or not children of the Enlightenment.
The term “Enlightenment,” rooted in an intellectual skepticism to traditional beliefs and dogmas, denotes an “illumined” contrast to the supposed dark and superstitious character of the Middle Ages. From its inception, the Enlightenment focused on the power and goodness of human rationality. Some of the more characterisitic doctrines of the Enlightenment are: 1) Reason is the most significant and positive capacity of the human; 2) reason enables one to break free from primitive, dogmatic, and superstitious beliefs holding one in the bonds of irrationality and ignorance; 3) in realizing the liberating potential of reason, one not only learns to think correctly, but to act correctly as well; 4) through philosophical and scientific progress, reason can lead humanity as a whole to a state of earthly perfection; 5) reason makes all humans equal and, therefore, deserving of equal liberty and treatment before the law; 6) beliefs of any sort should be accepted only on the basis of reason, and not on traditional or priestly authority; and 7) all human endeavors should seek to impart and develop knowledge, not feelings or character.
The conspiracy part of the above is that the Enlightened figured out early on that “humanity as a whole might be lead to a state of earthy perfection” but not everyone can be in charge. So the Enlightened want you to be free as long as you do what they say and follow their direction. You can be religious all you want as long as you keep your religion to yourself and keep it out of the public square. The fiction of the separation of church and state is a result of the Enlightenment thinking and has nothing to do with the Constitution that simply says that Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Deep in the writings of Enlightenment thinkers is the notion that the progressive State really is God and therefore religion for the masses is fine as long as it keeps them in line. If they get uppity the progressive state must, for the common good destroy their religion by embarrassing them or making them seem like they are extreme. Coercion is not out of the question but shunning is preferred. Labeling as “sectarian”, “bigoted”, or fundamentalist will do the trick.
The fundamental doctrine of the Christian Faith is that Christ came to save sinners and all have sinned. Enlightened thought says that all feelings, actions and desires are fine as long as they do not hurt anyone else. To say that your feelings, actions and desires are sins and worthy of damnation are by Enlightenment standards not to be tolerated. Hence the enlightenment pushes “rights” not responsibility. Feelings trump moral authority. Self esteem beats accomplishment and your story trumps the facts. If you feel abused and disrespected your feelings trump any verifiable evidence. Morality and ethics disappear into the maw of the greater good. Reason is what any reasonable person defines it to be but remember what human beings think is reasonable based on original sin. You might have to go back and read Genesis 3 but that might, according to the author of the Newsweek article, force you to make others feel miserable.
The real truth is that the Enlightenment was all about ridding the world of what the elite believed was a great cosmic bully, a kind of Almighty busybody. It was a reaction to the moralistic excesses of the Roman Catholic tradition, and the Reformation emphasis upon the centrality of the Scriptures. It was a reaction to the sinner’s default position that sin is doing bad things and that you can make up for the bad by doing good.
Paul saw the enlightenment coming when he called the Gospel a scandal and a stumbling block. For the Enlightenment to work sin must be redefined. If there is no sin as defined a whole life turned inward on itself rather than turned toward God, there is no need for a Savior. No need for a Savior no need for Jesus. The progressive State is God and Lord and King and Savior. The progressive State defines reality, wealth, happiness, progress, ability, health, sickness, poverty and just about everything for us. The State includes the educational institutions, the press, the entertainment, and everything that makes up our public life. The State will say that is out of the private sector and doesn’t interfere, but ask yourself what the “private sector” really means. Ask a simple question – “Who really lives in the private sector?” The State will allow you your religion as long as you keep it to yourself and never under any circumstances use it to make others miserable.
Strangely enough it was the Enlightenment that brought about one of the greatest moral/religious upheavals in history and that was the great awakening. How that turned out …….. later.