The Crutch of Disbelief

Many people believe either that Christianity is nonsense or that any form of it that would be recognizable to the Christians of the past is too out of step with the age and too politically dangerous to be tolerated. They believe these things, not because they have given much thought to them, but because it is a huge comfort to them to believe them, a crutch, a cozy little belief that helps them make it through the day and sleep at night untroubled by anything more serious than how to derive as much pleasure and comfort from life as possible and to make it last as long as they can.

If Christians were as patronizing as their contemporary critics often are, they might decide not to disturb the warm blanket of comfort in which many non-believers wrap themselves. But, alas, there’s too much at stake for that kind of indifference. Our children and grandchildren will have to live in the world that is being shaped in large measure by these reductionists. And, anyway, sooner or later the exigencies of life shatter our comforting myths, even and especially our comforting agnostic ones.

As the poet Philip Larkin put it: “What remains when disbelief is gone?”

The great French theologian, Henri de Lubac, has an answer, one worth keeping in mind when thinking about this issue – (I raised this in the earlier post about a Quetzalcoatl sculpture in San Francisco). De Lubac writes:

As soon as man ceases to be in contact with great mystical or religious forces, does he not inevitably come under the yoke of a harsher and blinder force, which leads him to perdition? It is what Vico called the age of ‘deliberate barbarism’, and that is the age in which we live.

(The Drama of Atheist Humanism, p. 90.)

(Note: this was first posted December 2006 on the ‘Reflections on Faith and Culture’ site www.gil-bailie.com)

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