Lesson 53- Rise of Secular Humanism
So far in my recent programs, I have been talking about the erosion of our Judeo/Christians norms as a result of a Cultural War which, it appears, so many of us are either unaware or unconcerned. As a result, publications like TIME MAGAZINE have referred to our present age as the post-Christian Era or the Age of Secular Humanism. In other words, our Judeo/Christian heritage is dead and the only thing that remains is the funeral. However, I would like to believe that, like Mark Twain, the report of our death has been greatly exaggerated.
Yet, there are times when I wonder when the Silent Majority of Christians in this country are ever going to wake up and begin to realize that we are in a battle for our survival. When are we going to tell the advertisers that we will not buy their products if they continue to support programs that fill our airwaves with trashy programs that undermine our basic values? When are we going to tell our schools and libraries that we will not tolerate a misuse of the First Amendment to justify the exposure of our children to alternate lifestyles that are inconsistent with our Judeo/Christian heritage? (It was recently reported that in one school district that elementary school children were given books in which the Prince fall in love with another Prince and they kiss and marry at the end.) When are we going to let our politicians know that we will not support them or their party if they support abortion and gay marriage which violate our basic values? When are we going to inform so-called Catholic schools, colleges and universities that we will not send our children to their institutions nor support their appeal for funds until they demonstrate that they are more than nominally Catholic? When and how are we going to register our protest against agencies like the United Way which have decided to deny funds to the Boy Scouts of America because they oppose sodomy? When are we going to tell our government that we are tired of judges who manipulate the Constitution and state and federal laws to reflect their own political and philosophical agendas? When are we going to demonstrate that we are a potent political and economic force that is willing to use our votes and our dollars to support our values? In other words, when are we going to walk the walk and not just talk the talk by remembering that at our Confirmation we received a slight tap on our cheek to remind us that we had now become full-fledged warriors in the battle between Light and Darkness. Maybe, if the bishop had slapped us harder, we would have understood that this was a call to have the courage to stand up and defend the Gospel of Christ.
Perhaps the problem is that we dont know or dont believe that there is a Cultural War going on between the Christian churches and the forces of Secular Humanism. I know that at one time, I didnt want to believe it because I detest conspiracy theories because they put me in a mental framework of distrusting the motives and actions of my fellow humans. I like to believe that everyone acts on pure motives and that no person or group would actively work towards the overthrow of our Judeo/Christian culture. However, as a Social Studies teacher, I eventually had to admit that there was and is an historical movement whose aim was to do exactly that.
Anyone who has studied the French Revolution would realize that it aims and purposes were far greater than those of the American Revolution. In fact, the American Revolution would be better described as the American Evolution because it involved minor shifts in the status quo in terms of power and structure but the basic Judeo/Christian premises of society remained intact.
The French Revolution, on the other hand, was out to overthrow Christian civilization which had been the cornerstone of European society. It didnt set out just to remove a king; it set out to remove Christianity and to replace it with a return to the pagan civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome. James H. Billington, noted historian and the Chief Librarian at the Library of Congress, wrote in his book, The Fire in the Minds of Men
The faith (of Secular Humanism) was incubated in France during the revolutionary era within a small subculture of literary intellectuals who were immersed in journalism, fascinated by secret societies, and infatuated with ideologies as a secular (replacement) for religious belief.
He argues that the revolutionaries to which the history books attribute the French Revolution were simply the pawns of these intellectual journalists who developed the theories which these leaders carried out. For example, Karl Marx, who developed Marxism, was a newspaperman and writer who inspired the Communist revolutions that Lenin, Stalin, and Mao Tse Tsung later implemented in Russia and China.
Professor Billington further writes: The flame of (this secular faith began) its migration a century earlier (in) 1761 when some European aristocrats transferred their lighted candles from Christian altars to Masonic lodges The new reality that they sought was radically secular (or non-religious) and simple. The ideal was not the balanced complexity of the New American federation, but the occult simplicity of its great seal (found on the back of the dollar bill): an all-seeing eye atop a pyramid over the words Novus Ordo Seculorum. (The New Order that will last forever). In search of primal natural truths, (the) revolutionaries look back to pre-Christian antiquity- adopting pagan names like AnaxagorasPythagoras.
In other words, they wanted to return to the good old days of pagan Greece and Rome before Europeans had been infected with the moral values of Christianity.
How this came about is a complex story which I cant cover completely here. But allow me to at least give you a general understanding of what happened. Part of it was the results of the influx of new ideas and part of it was the fault of the Christian churches.
When the Roman Empire collapsed in 476 A.D., following the invasion of Germanic tribes, the only institution left standing to pull its fragments together was the Roman Catholic Church. Thus during the so-called Dark Ages, which spanned the period from about 500 A.D. to 1000 A.D. the Church fought to restore civilization by converting first the Germanic barbarians and later, around 700 A.D., the Norsemen or Vikings. Their success, considering the conditions, were pretty impressive since they lacked our modern communication skills and had to depend on missionaries who risked their life and limb to go among hostile barbaric groups. Yet, little by little, they managed to return Europe to some semblance of civilization by converting kings, such as Clovis in France, to the Gospel of Christ.
However, these conversions had one great flaw which the Church couldnt help. The idea of a personal decision by an individual, which is a left lobe concept, had not yet developed among these people. People at that time had group identities, which is a right lobe concept that we can witness today in sport fans whose identities are so wrapped up in their team that they paint their bodies with the teams colors, wear jerseys with the number of their favorite idol, and rise emotionally to great heights or sink to great depths with the victories and losses of their team. Thus, the quickest and possibly only way to convert these barbarians was to convert the leader and everyone else would follow.
Obviously, such a method was greatly flawed because a true conversion requires an internal change in ones heart and total outlook. Nevertheless, it was the only method available under the circumstances. Thus, it would be fair to conclude that many of the Europeans were nominal Christians who, while paying lip-service to the principles of Christ and the Church, continued to act out their pagan inclinations.
Thus, the history of the Church, like the history of ancient Israel, was the constant story of backsliding and reform. Like the ancient prophets of old who were sent to call the Hebrew people back to the worship of the true God, saints were sent to pull the Church back to it original calling.
Despite this problem, the Church managed to institute civilizing restrictions on their barbaric impulses by creating traditions designating places and times where non-combatants could seek safety and sanctuary. You might remember how Quasimodo in the Hunchback of Notre Dame was protected from the crowd by seeking sanctuary in the church. They also encouraged the idea of chivalry in which warrior, now called knights, were bound by a code of honor to protect woman and children rather than raping and killing them.
However, the influence cut two ways because as the Church civilized the barbarians, the barbarians influenced the Church. It was from the ranks of these semi-Christianized barbarians that the Church was destined to draw some of its own people.
Anyway, by the year 1000 A.D., Christian Europe began to emerge from the Dark Ages when in 1095 A.D. the pope called for a Holy War or Crusade against the Muslim who were in control of the Holy Lands. There were a series of Crusades which were mixed with piety, cruelty, and outright ambition and greed. However, the real impact on Europe was that it brought them into contact with the culture of the Muslim Arabs in the center East and the cultures of India and China in the Far East.
Whenever cultures meet, whether through war or trade, there is an exchange of cultural artifacts and ideas. Thus, the Crusaders returned to Europe with silk and spices which created a demand for trade with the East which would eventually cause Columbus to discover America. However, even more important was the fact that the Arabs, who had a high level of civilization, brought European thinkers into contact with the writing of the Greek and Roman philosophers. It would be these Greek and Roman philosopher that the intellectual leaders of the French Revolution wanted to follow instead of Christ.
Whenever any society goes through changes there emerge three groups who all play an important role. There will be conservatives who will fight for what already exists and resist any attempt to change it. They are like the immune system of the body whose job it is to preserve its identity. There will be liberals who fight to change the existing system by discarding what existed in the past. And, finally, there will be moderates, who, standing between the conservatives and liberals, try to preserve what is good in the old, while grafting on to it what is good in the new. They are the backbone of any society which sees itself as developing towards any futuristic goal because they know the laws of organic growth.
Thus, Europe, following the Crusades, experienced the influence of all three groups. The conservatives, concerned that the new influx of ideas would undermine their faith in the Bible and the Church, turned a deaf ear to the writing of these pagan philosophers. The liberals, drunk with the excitement of the rationalistic perspective that these philosophers introduced into their worldview, wanted to cast off everything that rested on faith and dedicate themselves only to that which could be established by reason. These people would become the Secular Humanist of the French Revolution. The moderates, represented by people like St. Thomas Aquinas, clung to the faith of their fathers, while they pondered the new perspectives that were being introduced by people like Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates. Where they found compatibility between the old and the new, they used it to deepen their faith and understanding. Where they found incompatibility, they ignored or discarded them. Thus, the Church declared that God, the Creator of the Natural World, could be known through faith in the Church and Scriptures and also through a reasonable understanding of the natural world which was controlled by natural laws. Thus the two pillars of Catholicism were faith and reason.
The Dark Ages are sometimes referred to as the Age of Faith and the period following them is sometimes referred to as the Age of Reason. Where some people see these as diametrically opposed ages and try to paint religion as a mindless activity for morons, the Church saw them as logically compatible and necessary in our pursuit of the truth. As St. Ireaneas once said, The glory of God is man fully alive! and that meant that God intended us to use the mind that He gave us.
These changes that were taking place in Europe became known as the Renaissance, which is a French word that means rebirth. The rebirth that was taking place was in art and science. It is interesting to note that art is connected to the right lobe of our brain and science is connected to the left lobe. Thus, we could logically conclude that it was rebirth of the interaction between the two hemispheres of our brain.
Anyway there were other changes taking place that was impacting on the European culture. During the Dark Ages, where survival from barbarian attack was the major concern, there was very little trade going on. As a result, the merchant held a very low position in society. However, after the growth in trade with the East following the Crusades, the merchant became a rich and highly influential person. He, and the bankers who provided the cash for his commercial ventures, began to rise in economic and political power. Although the theory at that time, which was based on royal succession, blocked them from direct political power, they had great influence over the reigning kings who more and more depended on the merchants and bankers to provide the money that they needed to maintain or extend their power and to live in the style to which they were accustomed. Eventually, when the rule for acquiring political power changed, the merchants and businessmen would be allowed to assume direct political power in the democratic republics which would replace the monarchies.
The changes occurring during the Renaissance cut both ways because change itself creates a spirit which feeds on itself. The more things change, the more people try to change things until, if left unchecked, the whole thing ends in chaos. Later, Ill have something to say about the rules for change.
As power and wealth shifted, there were winners and losers and, as a result, there were conflicts between those who were rising and those who were descending.
Public T.V. presented a series entitled The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance which I dont recommend that you watch unless you have a strong faith and a good understanding of history. The series tells of the rise of the Medici family in Florence through their involvement in banking. As the story unfolds, the viewer is exposed to the politicking, intrigues, deception, and violence of Italian politics during that period. It is not a pretty picture as religion, politics, and personal ambitious intertwine to create an unholy alliance. Eventually, the Medici family provided the Church with a sixteen-year-old Cardinal and two popes. St. Peter must have been turning over in his grave and God must have been gathering thunderbolts to hurl down upon those who had so desecrated his Church.
It shouldnt surprise us, that this was happening just before the Protestant Reformation of 1517 A.D. And what were the Medici popes and their family noted for? Art! They were great patrons of the arts and were responsible for some of the greatest art pieces that the world has ever known. They were the ones who hired Michelangelo, Leonardo DeVinci and others to carve and paint the great artistic masterpieces for which Italy became renowned. However, these artists were another example of the humanistic forces that were looking back to the glories of pagan Rome and Greeces for their inspiration. In fact, we might even say that the Medicis themselves were closer to being Secular Humanist than they were to be Christians.
Now I dont wish to diminish the artistic achievements of these artists or their patrons but I have already mentioned in a previous program that although the artistic right lobe is a creative genius, you do not want artists or the artistic community to be in the leadership of society because they hate rules and laws and find it very difficult to be limited by them. Thus, we could rightly say that the Medici popes were more interested in art than they were in theology and that it was their abuses that brought the Protestant Reformation to a head. In fact, the Protestant Reformation may have been the first thunderbolt that God threw to punish those who had led His Church astray.
Like many right-lobers, the Medicis were fond of high places, wealth and rank and because the Church had become rich in all three, it was only a matter of time before they sought to infiltrate the Church.
By 1517 A.D. serious Christians, like Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, had become disgusted with some of the practices that were promoted by the agents of the papacy. He complained about the selling of indulgences which was a violation of the Churchs own rules since the selling of any sacred object is the sin of Simony.
When he didnt get sufficient satisfaction from the leaders of the Church, he went a step further and posted his now famous 95 Thesis on the church door in Wittenberg. The pope excommunicated him and the Protestant Reformation was on.
Only it wasnt a reform movement, it was a rebellion since Luther expanded his original complaint to include many other complaints which were in direct contradiction of established Church doctrine. When he declared the right of every Christian to interpret the Bible for himself, he opened up a Pandoras Box which eventually splintered the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church into thousands of fragments, each one declaring that their interpretation of the Bible was the one inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Establish doctrine like the Trinity, the Divinity of Jesus, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, the Baptism of Infants, the Existence of Purgatory, and others all came under attack by one group or another. When he declared that we were saved by faith alone, he undermined the position of the Church which, like St. James, declared that you couldnt separate faith from works.
As people sided either with the Church or Luther, religious persecution broke out all over Europe. As I previously mentioned, the rule was that everyone had to have the same religion as the leader and if he remained Catholic, those under him had to remain Catholic. If he became a Protestant, than those under him had to become a Protestant and anyone who refused to follower the leader was subject to persecution.
It was not a pretty pictures to see the followers of Christ arguing, beating, burning, and killing each other and their bad example was not lost on the Secular Humanistic forces that had already ideologically broke with their Christian roots and were leaning more and more towards the ancient pagan past of Greece and Rome. Religion, these forces concluded, was not part of the solution, it was part of the problem and therefore they yearned to create a New World Order based on the secular principles of Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality which became the battle cry of the French Revolution.
But the revolution turned out to be anything but Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality for those involved since it turned into a Reign of Terror as one group after another decapitated the group that preceded them. But true to their word to destroy Christianity, the revolutionaries arrested and killed nuns and priests, destroyed or expropriated Church property, changed the calendar and the days of the week and built a statue to Human Reason which they worships. Their attitude could be summed up in the Secular Humanistic statement, There is no God to save Mankind; Mankind must save itself
The ironic thing about this is that, according to my analysis of the right and left hemisphere of the brain, the left hemisphere, which is the intellect that separates us from the animal kingdom and the source of human reason, is the Logos that St. John says is found in every human being. And that Logos is Jesus Christ. So the revolutionaries who were trying to over thrown Christ ended up worshipping him. It is this Logos, which is the source of all logic, science and technology, that has been leading Humankind out of the Kingdom of Darkness and ignorance. In other words, out of Gehenna.
With the failure of the French Revolution, the revolutionaries regrouped and decided that other revolutions in the future would be necessary to bring about the New World Order.
Professor Billington writes: After the revolution turned to terror in 1793 and to retreat in 1794, many realized that the revolutionary process would not automatically bring deliverance and social harmony. History required a second, final revolution and a new type of man dedicated to serving it. The full-time revolutionary profession began not with the ruling politicians but with the intellectual activists
He further writes: In the ensuing Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, a critical spirit began to regard Greco-Roman antiquity as a kind of secular alternative to Christianity.
What Professor Billington is saying is that a group of intellectual writers, disgusted with Christian European civilization, yearned to create a New World Order which would return us to the pre-Christian world of the ancient Greeks and Romans. To accomplish this, it was necessary to overthrow the existing order through revolutionary means and their archenemy was the Christian religion in general and the Roman Catholic Church in particular. Their battle cry was that of the French Revolution: Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality.
One of these intellectuals was Adam Westhauf, a Bavarian professor, who created a group known as the Illuminati, or Enlightened Ones. At first, the group attracted loyal Christians who, interested in reforming society, thought that they and the Illuminist were talking about the same thing. However they soon discovered that although they often used the same words, they meant entirely different things by them.
When the authorities realized that what they intended was to overthrow Christian society, the group was forced to go underground. Realizing that the New World Order would not come immediately, they began to plan and organize for future revolutions that would bring it about. According to Professor Billington, they chose the Masonic Lodges of Europe to become a recruiting ground for the people they would need to accomplish their goal. The Masonic Lodges were ideal because:
First, the Masons were a trade guild from the center Ages composed of craftsmen who built structures and the Illuminist were revolutionaries who would build a New World Order.
Second, it was a secret society with rites and rituals which its members had to go through to rise to higher levels within the organization. Thus, this provided a method for weeding out those who were not in tune with their ultimate objectives and for advancing those who were. Only those who reach the top level would ever know the ultimate goal of overthrowing the existing order and creating a New World Order.
Third, it attracted the shakers and movers of society who often would join simply for business or professional contacts. Thus, it was a perfect instrument for gathering together men from all walks of life- bankers, politicians, writers, teachers, intellectuals, corporate leaders etc- who had the ambition, the talent, the vision and the power to bring about a New World Order.
Thus the Masonic Lodges of Europe were turned into a recruiting agency for idealistic, ambitious, powerful men who had the talent and the power to overthrow the existing order, which was Christianity, by creating a New World Order, which was the secular state. And the beauty of it all was that even those who were recruited to the cause were not fully aware of its final goal because the words that were used and the things that were said sounded like Christianity. The creation of a New World Order based on a brotherhood of man in which everyone would be free and equal. Isnt that what Christianity was all about? The problem is that although the words are the same, the intent is different.
I have already mentioned that John Lennons song, Imagine is a musical blueprint of what they meant by a New World Order. Listen to it now and understand what it is saying. Play the song Imagine:
Imagine theres no heaven; its easy if you try
No hell below us; above us only sky.
Imagine all the people living for today.
Imagine theres no country; it isnt hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too.
Imagine all the people living life in peace
You may say Im a dreamer, but Im not the only one.
I hope someday youll join us, and the world will be as one.
Imagine no possessions; I wonder if you can.
No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of Man.
Imagine all the people sharing all the world.
You may think Im a dreamer, but Im not the only one.
I hope some day youll join us and the world will live as one.
Well, I see that my time is up. Heres Dom.