Monday, July 24, 2006

The Sun has always risen.

Faith and fatalism are opposites, the one being an act of courage, the other a practice of cowardice. I don't know faith. I'm not the man to turn to for anything about it. I know Tertullian, Kierkegaard, Frankl, and Primo Levi. No, I don't know faith. Neither am I coward.

Reading David Hume makes me laugh out loud. Even skepticism dies at the point of his quill. There is little left but a hollowness where there could be faith if only there were authority. And where, we ask, is the authority of the moral? To stand upright amid the wreckage is not courage.

Idiots, Presbyterians, Episcopalians and an awful assortment of flakes and Death Hippies flock like geese to any soulful slough for forage. They flap for death cults, the squawk for crumbles of the Moral. What to do?

We are leaving behind the world of Man as we have known it, and we move into a future we cannot yet grasp the meaning of. Things left behind are lost to us forever, and we must find new reality in the wreckage and the wastelands we will improve as we carry on into the world next. Not everyone is coming with us. Many, in fact, would rather see us dead, even if they too must die to prevent us from our journey. Ours is a path that leads from the life of man as farm animal to that of man as Man. One cannot go without faith.

The introductory paragraph from Pew Forum below echoes nicely the work of Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom.

In an agrarian society you're living in a world dominated by nature; you are at the mercy of inscrutable forces beyond your control. You pray, you submit; you don't control whether it rains or not, whether a plague of locusts come, whether the crops fail. You need a sense that the world is in the hands of a benevolent higher power. This is psychologically highly functional. Without it you tend to despair, to give up, not knowing how to cope with a world beyond your control. I would say religion, among other things, has a tremendous function in giving people a sense that somehow it will work out; it will continue in the face of this uncertainty.

Industrial society is a very different world where production moves indoors. Instead of being at the mercy of these forces of nature, when it gets cold you turn up the heat, when it gets dark you turn up the lights. When you want to produce more, you invent a better machine, and it may double or triple productivity. It's in your hands and it gives rise to a rather different worldview that it can all be solved by human ingenuity, by scientific rationality. This was the dominant spirit of Marxism and of all kinds of social analysis that, among other things, held that religion was dying off. I would say it is quite clear that in the industrialization phase there was a decline in the hold and salience of religion. It once had a dominant position, culturally, intellectually and philosophically. It lost ground to social science and ideology, and to many kinds of materialistic ideologies that proclaimed the way out was through human ingenuity. And Marx's plan for scientific socialism seemed to be the end state. The logical end state would ultimately be an economy run by experts, not left to market forces, and a world run by rational, scientific socialism.

...The world is changing in a way that is clearly not going back to the old-time religion in which a priest tells you how to live your life. But it is a world in which spiritual concerns are becoming more important. So, where we find, in the World Values Survey, declining emphasis in the rich countries on traditional religious beliefs, we find growing concern for the meaning and purpose of life. In this broader sense, spiritual concerns are growing, not shrinking, and a different kind of religion may be playing a bigger role. A simplified view would be that religion is resurging all over the world. It's simply not true. But the politics, even of advanced industrial societies, is shifting to one in which religions issues are more relevant and value questions are much more central.

There is courage, and there is recklessness. There is bravery and there is rashness. There is calm regard and there is cold apathy. There is faith, and there is plain old stupid.

Blaise Pascal writes: "The heart has its reasons Reason knows nothing of."

We are at one step along the path to profound Humanness, and we could stumble. I recall another French writer, Dumas, who writes that Porthos has set a bomb to breach a wall, has lit the fuse, and in the running away has a thought that to run is to lift ones foot into the air and to fall. Captivated by the thought, he dies in the explosion.


Pastorius said...

For a guy who doesn't know faith in God, you sure do have a lot of faith in truth and righteousness.

dag said...

I see those as given, though why, I'm pressed to show proof of. I argue that the authority of the Moral is objective and universal, and I can't back it up to my own satisfaction; hence, I write, and write about nearly nothing. My last position on this subject is that one tries to satify the most rigourous elenchus and arrives at aporia.

Until we invent or discover a metaphor of moral calculus I stay convinced that our best option till then is to remain uncommitted to the moral, to keep on thinking, to keep trying, to resist rashness or cowardice, and to wait with eyes as open as our minds till we can be sure. Until we know, then my faith in Truth and righteousness remains unshaken in that there is something that we simply do not yet know, something obvious as the wheel, as clear to all as fire if only we could envision it. In that I have complete faith.

maccusgermanis said...

Nice post.
I have found it useful to draw a distinction between faith and belief. This post has reopened that line thought.

Faith is the small glimmer of hope within doubt. It cannot dispel doubt as a fatal belief can. But being a separate thing from belief, it can never be disproven.

I was thinking along similar lines when I chose, the admittedly cliched, title Forlorn Hope for my blog. Unexpected, unlooked for, yet still resilient hope. Faith is what I was actually surprised to find that I still had, after religion had been consumed by doubt.