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The sublime forces outside our control

 

When we are constructing our spirituality, the experience of the sublime also makes us powerfully aware that our lives will always be, at times, very much at the mercy of powers outside of our control. The classical Greek world was very much aware of this ancient wisdom. They symbolized it by speaking of the power of Fate and Fortune, and by talking about gods and goddesses whose whims and jealousies and petty quarrels brought woes innumerable upon the heads of powerless human beings. Aphrodite was the uncanny power of the natural sexual urge, which drives even the modest and most intelligent human beings, at times, into doing unbelievable foolish and self-destructive things. Hephaestus was the power of the volcano, like the one that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum. Poseidon was the power of the ocean, his power could leave sailors tossing helplessly in a raging storm, smash their ship to pieces and drown them all, no matter what they did.

Western atheism that began appearing in the 1840’s, denounced God as a product of fantasy and illusion and wishful thinking. That kind of atheism derived its power by replacing God with a different kind of fantasy and illusion and wishful thinking, namely the claim that modern science would tame the entire universe and bring it under human control. Modern atheism is a control fantasy and a control neurosis. They made good on some of their promises. I would not be alive to write this book, were it not that, at two points in my life, modern science saved me from something that would have killed me only a century ago.

But let us look at all of the record, and not just the parts that atheists of this form want us to look at. Modern science gave us no power to divert hurricanes that almost completely destroyed the city of New Orleans in 2005. Science may someday find the secret to the AIDS virus, but for many years now, countless human beings all over the world have died from that disease. And mutant forms of tuberculosis have now developed, which cannot be controlled by the kinds of medication that once promised to remove that disease from the human race. The point here is that modern science is not always as great, even at best, as the fantasies of modern western atheism would have us believe.

Modern atheism loves to foster fantasies about reversing the aging process and enabling human beings to live forever. The principle problem here is that medical science already has developed more ways to prolong human life than our economy can pay for. We could beef up the world economy to pay for such folly, but our resources would be better spent cleaning up the air before pollutants and exhaust emissions ultimately render our climate unable to support human life. Atheist who point towards continual progress of modern science in order to spin fantasies of total control over nature, do not like to be reminded of economics. But the study of economics is also a science, which uses mathematical formulas and careful analysis of data. Atheists of this naive sort like to think of themselves as “materialists,” but the study of economy is a materialist view of the world par excellence.

In spite of the scientific advances of the last three centuries, human beings still remain at the mercy of forces over which they have no control. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato spoke of the power of what he called anake, “necessity,” which meant that in the material world, attempts to produce a better situation in one aspect inevitably ran into problems at another level, so that the best we could ever do would only be a compromise which produced what we decided were the least bad consequences. No matter how much progress science makes, there will always be brute realities over which we will nevertheless be left powerless…

The Waynedale News Staff

The Waynedale News Staff

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