Thursday, October 6, 2011
Christopher Dawson: Excerpts from "Religion and the Modern State"
Saving Civilization From Itself:
Page 125- In spite of the oppression and cruelty that marked the ancient State and of the impotence of man to control the evil forces that manifested themselves in social life, men always felt that civilization did not merely exist to serve men’s needs and desires, but it ought to be a sacred order which rests not on the will of man but in the Law of God. When a civilization has entirely abandoned this belief, when it makes itself its own law and its own end and cuts itself off from its roots in the spiritual order, its days are numbered. It is doomed to destruction, not by any external fatality, but by the decay of its own energies and the loss of its social vitality.
But in so far as these social faiths themselves forward the complete secularization of culture, they are digging their own graves and that of the civilization which they dominate. As the religious passes out of them with the growing secularization of culture, they lose their power over men’s minds and descend to the level of practical politics, as for instance continental Liberalism has done during the last generation. And as the vision fades, society is left to itself with no faith or no hope to sustain it, and man is brought once again face to face with the vanity of human existence and the worthlessness of human achievement.
If this is so, it is clear that the true social function of religion is not to busy itself with economic or political reforms, but to save civilization from itself by revealing to men the true end of life and the true nature of reality.
Social Conformity and Mechanical Religion:
Page 126- If the light is hidden, we cannot blame the world outside of ignoring it. It is, of course, possible that men may know Christianity and still reject it, but in the great majority of cases the men who follow the new Secularist ideals of life and regard Christianity as discredited are men who have never known it as a living reality, but have been acquainted with it only at secondhand or in distorted forms.
Nevertheless, sectarianism is by no means solely responsible for the failure of religion in the modern world. An even more widely spread cause is the indifference and apathy which spring from a mechanical and lifeless acceptance of religion as a matter of course. When the practice of religion becomes a matter of social conformity, it is powerless to change the world. Indeed, the men who are religious because society expects them to be, will be irreligious for the same reason in a secular society.
Secularism in the Dark:
Page 127- Christians should remember that it is not the business of the Church to do the same thing as the State—to build a kingdom like the other kingdoms of men, only better; not to create a reign of earthly peace and justice. The Church exists to be the light of the world, and to fulfill its function the world will be transformed in spite of all the obstacles that human powers place in the way. A secularist culture can only exist, so to speak, in the dark. It is a prison which the human spirit confines itself when it is shut out of the wider world of reality. But as soon as the light comes, all the elaborate mechanism that has been constructed for living in the dark becomes useless.
Posted by Joe at 11:33 AM