The Real Threat of Secularism
The loud threats of secularism are real and present in our society today. Lots of press is given to vocal attacks on Christianity by the likes of Christopher Hitchens and others. It is fashionable for the Hollywood types to claim atheism and for making snide, belittling remarks about Christians and the things they support. For Christians this is nothing new. There have been those that have wished for the demise of Christianity from the very beginning and many actually tried to crush the fledgling church in the early years.
Secularists are those who claim that science is a replacement for the divine. They believe that science has most of the answers, or will have them soon through our deeper understanding of the material universe.
One of the secular heroes of the 20th and now the 21st century is Charles Darwin. Much of Darwin’s teachings have been co-opted by the social sciences and by the modern philosophies of relativism, positivism and utilitarian ethics. But I want to share a quote with you that comes from a wonderful book titled. “Small is Beautiful” by E.F. Schumaker. He quotes from Darwin’s own autobiography and I think it speaks for itself as to what a totally materialistic, secular, scientific world view can do to the one who believes in such things only. The quote follows:
“At the age of thirty, or beyond it, poetry of many kinds…gave me great pleasure, and even as a schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare, especially the historical plays. I have also said that formerly pictures gave me considerable, and music very great, delight. But now for many years I can not endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also lost almost any taste for pictures or music…My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of fact, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive… The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.”
The human mind, a gift from our God, is capable of “grinding general laws out of large collections of fact,” but it is also capable of yearning for, and understanding things far beyond the material world. We were made by our God to be transcendent beings, not mere matter. There is a part of us that is eternal, that is made for the eternal, that transcends the limits of time and space. St. Augustine says in his autobiography, titled, “Confessions”: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
The modern secularist is restless too, but is not able to find rest for there is nothing in the material world, nothing in mere things, not even in the obvious grandeur of nature and the universe that can give the true rest that the heart desires, except God. Only the humble recognition that we are created beings, that the Creator loved us and all that is seen and unseen into being, will bring us the rest we desire in our hearts.
Darwin seems to be mourning a loss of happiness in this quote that is directly related to the “atrophy of that part of [his] brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend…” He recognizes, too, that it is possibly injurious to his intellect, and (more importantly) to his moral character.
The human mind is made to understand the deep mysteries of the material universe, but the mind with the heart is made to be open to the transcendent. Augustine again says, “Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning.”
The truth about secularism is that it has no life within it. It is not open to the yearning for the Mystery beyond things. The secular mind may indeed be in the process of atrophy, for it is concerned only with finite things. Only the heart that recognizes that its restlessness can be quieted only by the One who breathed life into all of creation will find that rest it so naturally desires.
Dan Doyle is a retired professor of English and Humanities. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology. To read more of Dan’s work, click here.