Monday, March 19, 2012

Neigh Sayers

The creed of materialism is that the irrational stands at the beginning… Reason is a by-product of the irrational… This makes man the assembler of the world, which he designs according to the criteria of his goals.
A Turning Point For Europe?, 105
Reflection – Atheistic materialism of the Dawkins/Hitchens/Dennett variety normally touts itself as the great voice of reason and science as opposed to religious nonsense, superstition, and unreason. Ratzinger in this short passage, which in its brevity contains several key themes of his life’s work, shows the fragility of this New Atheist rationalism. It is a matter of strict logical argument: if one is an atheist materialist, then reason is not at the center of reality. The universe somehow just happened or is just happening, or has always been happening—for no reason. Literally this must be so. As soon as one interjects ‘reason’ into the origin or structure of the universe, one has posited a ‘god’ of some sort, and this is the one thing a materialist will not and cannot do… and remain an atheist.

So reason, if it exists, comes from unreason. Again, strict logical necessity here. The universe is irrational from the beginning. We are not from the beginning by any account of things, so our ‘reason’ comes out of unreason. Reason, far from being supreme, is an accidental byproduct of unreason.

Essentially, this means that everything collapses into unreason. The rational efforts of human beings, including Dawkins, Hitchens, and Dennett, are of no more significance that the clucking of a chicken or the mooing of a cow. Chickens cluck, cows moo, horses neigh, and human beings write long learned tomes about how everything is meaningless. The women of River City in The Music Man are quite correct: pick a little, talk a little pick a little, talk a little, cheep, cheep, cheep! We are all just common fowl.

Anyhow. Now the atheist materialist may counter with, essentially, “Yeah, and so what?” The universe is meaningless, you’re meaningless, I’m meaningless. It’s an ugly picture, but that’s reality.” The argument would be, then, that religious people flee from this meaningless ugly picture into a fantasy land of gods and laws, while the courageous Brights face the stark truth without fear.

But this is nonsense. Because of course in doing this sort of thing atheists project a whole field of meaning of their own onto reality. They are the brave ones; we the cowardly. They the progressive ones; we the backward. They smarties; we dumb. You Einstein; me Tarzan. Ugh!

Anyhow. A whole ‘meaningful’ understanding of human life and the human project is present throughout the atheistic literature. Why do they get so irked at religion? After all horses neigh, cows moo, and human beings, among other things, theologize! If its all just clucking, why is one kind of cluck ‘good’ and another cluck ‘bad.’

They argue that religion causes violence (which is laughable), but if meaninglessness is king, then what’s wrong with violence? Bears are violent, and so are wolves—why not us? Cows eat grass, humans kill one another in wars. If the universe is, as they claim, vacant of any ‘law,’ what’s the problem?

The truth is, we cannot not seek meaning. We cannot avoid value judgments of good and evil, even if we contort ourselves to avoid using those specific words, freighted as they are with religious overtones. And the truth is, the position of materialist atheism is not a result of clear logical analysis, but of emotion-driven arguments. They don’t want God to exist. So they say nay (or neigh) to it. But even without God, they posit meaning, right, wrong, having only cut off the possibility of these things having any rational or solid basis.

Atheism, far from being the bastion of reason it claims to be, is a tissue of emotion, sentimentalism, and irrational prejudice. And the God hypothesis remains as the most rational, simplest explanation of human experience, particularly the human experience of the universe as a meaningful, rational, and moral entity.

What do you all think of that?


  1. Your post has tempted me beyond what I can bear! (Not really, but I rationalize!) Anyway, I swore off commenting online since the beginning of Great Lent, but NOBODY ELSE has commented onthis post, and I can't stand it! Benedict XVI is a great man, and your post is an excellent expostion of His Holiness's point.

    1. Heh. Sorry to be an occasion of 'sin' (?) for you, but glad you like the post. We are one in our unqualified admiration of BXVI! Happy Easter Triduum to you.

  2. Hi, Fr. Denis,
    Thanks for your great post. I'm new to your blog but have already bookmarked it!

    I am interested in your dismissal that "religion causes violence" and would love you to comment a bit more on that. Somewhere I vaguely remember Chesterton saying something like [and this might be a mistaken memory]: of course religion is reason people go to war: people are only prepared to defend with their lives what they love passionately.

    Wishing you a Blessed Triduum and Easter,

    1. Hello, and sorry to be so slow answering you (a week is eternity in blog-years, I realize). I was sick...
      Well, Chesterton was writing in a different era with slightly different ideological opponents. The 'religion causes wars' meme was alive and well in his time, but few were arguing for a suppression of religion as a consequence, as is becoming alarmingly common these days.
      I would respond to Chesterton with the distinction (oh so Thomistic!) that it is passion that causes war, and that (pace GKC) war is an evil in human history and so it is our disordered passions that drive it - wanting what we want at the expense of the lives and well-being of vast multitudes of our fellow men and women.
      I do realize the deep complexities of political-military realities, and the tragic reality of 'just wars' here and there, but would stand by that as a basic principle. Much more could be said, of course.


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