The Devil and the Deep Blue Schools

Monday, May 12, 2014

Two apparently unrelated articles show us that, despite the fact we are surrounded by the technological trappings of a highly advanced civilization, our culture is really just a few steps removed from its superstitious past.

And it is regressing.

First, we learn that the current Pope takes (or at least treats) belief in the Devil far more seriously than many of his predecessors did.

Although it is difficult to measure, Vatican officials talk about a resurgence of mystical rites in the church, including exorcism -- or the alleged act of evicting demons from a living host. Cardinals in Milan; Turin, Italy; and Madrid, for instance, recently moved to expand the number of exorcists in their dioceses to cope with what they have categorized as surging demand.

But by focusing on old-school interpretations of the Devil, some progressive theologians complain, the pope is undermining his reputation as a leader who in so many other ways appears to be more in step with modern society than his predecessor.

"He is opening the door to superstition," said Vito Mancuso, a Catholic theologian and writer.
Regarding Mancuso's complaint: too late. The moment one accepts something as true on faith (i.e., arbitrarily), one has done that. The pope is just being more honest about it. Furthermore, I have to agree with the speculation in the article that the Pope "may simply be correctly reading the winds of the Catholic Church". To the extent that the religion is affected by Western culture, the Pope is much more "in step with modern society" than many would care to contemplate or admit. Before we consider the evidence, it is worth recalling Ayn Rand's words about faith and force as destroyers of the modern world:
I have said that faith and force are corollaries, and that mysticism will always lead to the rule of brutality. The cause of it is contained in the very nature of mysticism. Reason is the only objective means of communication and of understanding among men; when men deal with one another by means of reason, reality is their objective standard and frame of reference. But when men claim to possess supernatural means of knowledge, no persuasion, communication or understanding are possible. Why do we kill wild animals in the jungle? Because no other way of dealing with them is open to us. And that is the state to which mysticism reduces mankind--a state where, in case of disagreement, men have no recourse except to physical violence. And more: no man or mystical elite can hold a whole society subjugated to their arbitrary assertions, edicts and whims, without the use of force. Anyone who resorts to the formula: "It's so, because I say so," will have to reach for a gun, sooner or later. Communists, like all materialists, are neo-mystics: it does not matter whether one rejects the mind in favor of revelations or in favor of conditioned reflexes. The basic premise and the results are the same. [bold added]
Second, regarding communists and abandonment of the mind, one need only consider the miserable state of intellectual discourse in our universities, which the left took over decades ago, and from which cultural trends emanate, to see who really "open[ed] the door to superstition":
... There followed several emails apologizing for the delay and finally a message acknowledging that no one could be found to take the pro-feminist side. Evidently, one of those asked had responded: "What is there to debate?" No wonder those who admit no legitimate opposition to their ideas feel duty-bound to shut down unwelcome speakers.

Because conservative [i.e., non-leftist --ed] students do not take over buildings or drown others out with their shouting, instructors feel free to mock conservatives in the classroom, and administrators pay scant attention when their posters are torn down or their sensibilities offended. As a tenured professor who does not decline the label "conservative," I benefit from this imbalance by getting to know some of the feistiest students on campus.
That is, the leftist establishment, having long ago abandoned any pretense to reason, responds to intellectual challenges not with appeals to reason, but with force. In their hands, our culture is moving away from one in which one seeks (and is expected to provide) rational justification for one's views to one in which one is encouraged to believe he is "free" from such a necessity. The marginalization, ill-treatment, and worse that anyone who disagrees receives is par for the course. The next logical step is that those with the greatest force at their disposal (or who imagine they can acquire it, for example, by being widely recognized as authorities), will seek to become dominant in society by such brutish means.

The fact that Pope Francis  panders to the most irrational people he can find, be they communists or shoppers for exorcists, is not a sign that he is a trend-setter or a reason to be concerned about him. On the other hand, the fact that he feels comfortable doing so is cause for concern.

-- CAV


Steve D said...

I love the first two comments;

1) "he's opening the door to superstition." Really, isn't it all superstition?
2) The Devil is Christianity's Prometheus, punished for giving humans one of our biggest gifts.

In all of Greek mythology Prometheus was the only good guy.

Gus Van Horn said...

Hah! Those are good. Thanks for pointing them out.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,

The humorous aspects of the Pope and the Devil article are Legion. (heh!)

We could start with, "And you know, the Pope is Catholic!"

I'll bypass Ambrose Bierce and Daniel Webster and Charlie Daniels ...

Next up: Bears really do defecate in the woods.

c andrew


"Really, isn't it all superstition?"

Careful now. Some people got sensitive feelings.

Gus Van Horn said...

Hmmm. I wonder if "superstition" appears on a list of banned words somewhere...