Progress & Religion
Western Civilization was born from the Christian Faith and a Christian Way of Life. It was called Christendom for 1,000 years before it became known as Europe. Its heir is America.
In that civilization was born the Scientific Revolution; Capitalism & Free Enterprise; the Middle Class; the Industrial Revolution; literacy; the town school; the university; hospitals; hospice; the very ideas of equality, representative government, and Individual freedom; virtually all modern machines and technology—incredible levels of prosperity and an hitherto undreamed of standard of living.
No Civilization can afford to neglect the very foundation that produced its highest achievements—or allow that foundation to be purposely undermined by its enemies from within.
Culture is the way of life of a particular people, as defined by Christopher Dawson, and you may judge the strength of a culture by its institutions and the quality of its achievements.
America, built on an astounding new idea of self-government and self-determination, produced by far the most extraordinary advancements and explosion of wealth in world history in the 200 years or so following its founding, mostly due not because of scientists as from inventors. Many people confuse the two or give credit to science for what is created in the minds of inventors. One creates new things and services that people need or want; the other usually comes along later to explain how they work.
Now comes along leftist ideology to ravage Western Civilization and demolish its traditional institutions, leaving no roots to its past, unleashing parasites to plunder its treasures as it descends into decadence. Decay comes, stability is shattered, along with the spiritual decline, as we begin to emulate primitive cultures that are devoid of faith and morality, and barely rise above the level of beasts.
Unity is ruined as the community of thought is splintered, discipline discouraged, our common language ignored or distorted, and all we held dear is deprecated. A new concept of reality is spread that disparages our intellectual tradition but propagates bogus mythology denuded of significance, and often absurd and grotesque.
There is a Divine Purpose for the World
The fact is, real religious experience is a reality of profound depth. However, to the thinkers of the French Revolution, the Christian Faith was seen as a negative force much like ignorance, superstition, or even tyranny. They closed their eyes to the positive influence of Christianity on the course of human events and denied that progress owed anything to Christians in spite of the remarkable progress history bore witness to in their society—its whole life had a religious orientation.
God had enormously blessed the West. Instead, the Left extolls the primitivism of Third World peoples and their religion of Pantheism—worshiping the Earth and everything that lives on it.
Buddhism teaches that Salvation is to destroy desire, including the desire to live. There is no reality because the Cosmos is an illusion. Just like Atheists, and Buddhism is essentially an atheistic religion, they expect eternal nothingness when they die and call that Nirvana. You have no soul; you should extinguish yourself; nobody really exists anyway. At bottom, the import of this worldview to the West is connected to nihilism and existentialism.
All of the ancient world religions were linked with some great historical civilization whose traditions had been incorporated—except for Judaism.
The religion of Israel belonged to a tiny nation in a minute piece of land, with a civilization not particularly rich or technologically advanced, but with an extraordinarily high degree of literacy. It was surrounded by more highly developed, and much more powerful civilizations hostile to it. And yet tiny Israel was chosen to be given the divine law that governed the moral life of the individual with the ordinances of a personal God—the God of the whole Earth who hates sin and loves good—who taught that human history has a moral purpose—that what each person does has cosmic meaning and consequences—and what villages, cities, states, and nations do has cosmic meaning and consequences. Now, this was a revolutionary idea: THERE IS A DIVINE PURPOSE FOR THE WORLD!
The Christian Faith is founded upon the historical personality of Jesus the Christ—divine life entered the human race and the natural world.
Man is the crown of Creation, the center of the created Universe. Man the craftsman and artist; builder of cities and sailor of ships; the scientist and the philosopher; is the channel through whom Creation acquires consciousness, becomes spiritual, and participates in the divine life.
The Christian Faith became a dynamic moral and social force. Western Civilization was a religious creation based on spiritual unity, not political unity. European Man was a member of the Church of the Living God and had a far deeper loyalty to Him than to any state.
The Church took care of the sick and the poor, provided social welfare and education. Christendom, as Europe was known, was a marvelous religious commonwealth, a society based on membership in a spiritual community.
Man is the point at which the spirit world touches the world of the senses. Man is bound to matter in this life, and this puts him in constant danger of being dragged down to the purely animal life of the senses and passions.
Protestantism is a religion of action. The Reformation kicked off modern progress, launching a new science of experimentation and applied knowledge—technology.
Professor Alfred North Whitehead proclaimed induction itself rests on metaphysics, meaning that the very possibility of science rests on faith, faith in the ultimate rationality of the Universe and the belief that God structured the world mathematically.
By the time of the Enlightenment, the Christian Faith had so molded the thoughts and feelings of Europeans for over one thousand years that some of them no longer recognized the origin of their ideas. Thinkers arose who disparaged the supernatural but could not divest themselves of the Christian teleological concept of life.
There is Always Evil that will Destroy what is Good
The fertile brain of Abbe de St. Pierre created most of the social projects to come: free education, including for females; the abolition of war and poverty; the unlimited possibilities of government action to establish paradise on Earth, which he likened to the Kingdom of God.
The French Revolution was meant to totally refashion society from its foundations, a clean break from the past, complete with a new revolutionary calendar for a New Age of Humanity. However, no Utopia was forthwith. Instead, what was produced by eliminating God was the atrocities of the Reign of Terror, failure and disillusionment, a grim commentary of the main idea of Rousseau that Natural Man is inherently good.
Revolutionary persecution of the Church failed to extinguish its light as planned. Moreover, this made men realize that Theophilanthropists and the Decadary Cult could not so easily replace the historic faith of Christendom.
Skeptics arose who wanted to kill supernatural dogmas but keep the moral teachings and social intentions of the Christian Faith. Among them was the atheist William Godwin, the father of modern anarchy, who foresaw a New Age: “In that blessed day, there will be no war; no crimes; no administration of justice, as it is called; and no government. Besides this, there will be neither disease, anguish, melancholy, nor resentment.”
Socialism was formulated to substitute Social Science for Christianity. However, America boomed without it, based on the progress that was not due to government action but government inaction; due to individualism, strict moral discipline, religious optimism, and enthusiasm for Christian social reform.
It had been Free Enterprise that launched the Industrial Revolution of 18th Century Britain and used the scientific achievements of devout Christian men such as Galileo and Newton to found the modern Science of Mechanics—Machines!
The initiative came from the religious traditions of English society. Industry and thrift were seen as virtuous and an unremitting duty; self-indulgence discouraged. A man had to work hard, be abstemious and conscientious because work is your religious vocation. A very high degree of social discipline and organization made it all possible. Production and transportation were revolutionized.
The Modern World
Great cities grew in America with millions of inhabitants, where 100 years earlier savage tribes were still living in the Stone Age.
Nineteenth Century Christians abolished the slave trade for the first time in the world. Christians also abolished torture and cruel penal codes, while they systematically fought disease and famine and hunger and social ills of all sorts.
Yes, progress proved fatal to the survival of primitive peoples, but that was never the intention of those who believed nothing but good could come from the substitution of books, modern goods, and knowledge of God for nakedness and cannibalism.
Modern civilization was entirely a creation of European Man. The Left is bent on undermining the foundation of this incredible civilization by destroying its spiritual traditions. No society survives without moral and religious harmony and cultural unity.
The mind of our age is divided against itself, dividing the common conception of reality. The greatest scientists of modern times have been devout Christians: Volta, Faraday, Pasteur, Mendel. The Left teaches a world that is merely a product of blind chance. However, the clock of the Cosmos moves in an irreversible direction. The Universe had a beginning; it will have an end. On this, all scientists now agree.
Galileo said that mathematics is the script in which God wrote the open book of the Universe. If the laws of mathematics are nothing more than the invention of the human mind, they are no guide to the ultimate nature of things. Physical Science is the measurement of the Eternal Laws of the Universe. If there are physical laws, why should there not be moral laws?
Progress & Religion
Some biologists and psychologists persuade people that one of these days natural science will explain everything. Moreover, these are the people our culture currently broadcasts. However, biologists cannot even explain the nature of life. Still, they have popularized the erroneous notion that natural science is the sole source of our knowledge of reality—forgetting transcendent realities such as consciousness, beauty, and humor.
Science has served humanity well, but since it is entirely indifferent to moral considerations, it is no substitute for religion.
The Left refuses to acknowledge a hierarchy of habits. It promotes living for the moment in the chaos of pure sensation. It is animated by a spirit of destruction and spiritual alienation. It is because the Christian Faith is the foundation upon which Western Civilization was built that it is under demonic attack.
The religion of a society expresses its prevailing attitude toward life and its ultimate conception of reality. The destruction of Christianity by the Antichrist is not progress but social disintegration; proposed humanitarianism divorced from the traditional religious beliefs upon which it is founded. Science needs to be directed by a moral purpose it does not possess.
Europe owes its very existence to its common spiritual society of the Christian religion. As Nietzsche wrote: "Let us not forget, in the end, what a Church is, and especially in contrast to every 'state'; a Church is above all an authoritarian organization which secures to the most spiritual men the highest rank, and believes in the power of spirituality so far as to forbid all grosser appliances of authority. Through this alone, the Church is under all circumstances a nobler institution than the State."
The Left has pushed religion and spiritual convictions out of the mainstream, wrongly claiming it must be a source of strife when the Antichrist is the real source of conflict. This has impoverished our entire culture and society.
This article is adapted from the book Progress & Religion by Christopher Dawson, published in 1929.