Monday, September 17, 2012

Perfectibility of man

“We have witnessed the development of a new doctrine which is to deliver the final blow to the already tottering structure of prejudice. It is the idea of the limitless perfectibility of the human species.” –Marquis de Condorcet

The tyranny of nature is the one unavoidable tyranny. By tyranny of nature I mean two things: 1) the laws of the observable universe, and 2) the flawed human condition. In our lives there will be no respite from these. Together they comprise a tyranny as fixed in ourselves and around us as the God that authored it.

Some people accept this tyranny. They see it as more than an inescapable fabric constricting mind and body. It fuses their lives into a long, rich tradition, from which they can draw wisdom in times of inevitable want and despair. Wisdom offers perspective and simplifies the seemingly random, infinite universe for the finite human mind.

Others are not so blessed. They reject the tyranny of nature and impose their own ideals on top of it. Whether or not they explicitly reject God is secondary. One can be an atheist and still recognize the eternal truths.

The great irony is the rebellion against nature is itself written into nature—human nature, that is. Deep in all our hearts is a noble yearning for freedom. To no one is the world as it should be.

When God made us in His image, He gave us free will so we might freely obey Him (or not). Some disobey with a religious fervor. For them, the logic of their vanity leads to humanist ethics. The secular world’s anger at “conservative” religious denominations stems from the view that conservatives, by stodgily touting an antiquated, tyrannical belief system, impede progress, impede the perfectibility of man.

That’s why Marx called religion the “opiate of the masses” and Lenin wrote “[socialist] propaganda necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism.” Their humanist philosophy not only rebelled against the laws of nature. It waged all-out war against religion, that supposed repository of “old prejudices.”

Whether the war against religion is won or not, all humanist ethics fail because they cannot overcome the tyranny of nature. Eventually humanist societies tire out from swimming against the current and flounder.

What separates those who begrudgingly accept the tyranny of nature, despite their anger at God, and those who reject it? I believe it is pride. Pride forbids us to admit that we are not the answer to ourselves. The answer to ourselves, to our original sin, is God.

“We savor freedom because it is the condition for the possibility of pursuing the good in a responsible way.” –Father Robert Barron

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