Brothers-in-Arms? Secular Humanism and Religious Faith

I have a favorite recent First Things post. Edward Oakes explores a mostly unknown T.S. Eliot essay which he recently stumbled upon.  Eliot, writing in 1930 in an anthology on the modern condition, suggests secular humanism, even aggressive anti-Christian skepticism, challenges the religious person to clarify and refine their faith, thereby serving as an ally for truth.

[V]ery little knowledge of human nature is needed to convince us that hierarchy is liable to corruption, and certainly to stupidity; that religious belief, when unquestioned and uncriticised, is liable to degeneration into superstition; that the human mind is much lazier than the human body. . . . If we cannot rely, and it seems that we can never rely, upon adequate criticism from within, it is better that there should be criticism from without.

Eliot then demands more original secular critiques!

Oakes adds:

Even a passing glance at what I have earlier in these pages called “pop atheism” is enough to show how pathetically mediocre are the recent apologetes for atheism. Going from Nietzsche to Bertrand Russell to Richard Dawkins and ending with Sam Harris is quite a declension.

I appreciate this type of thinking because it uses a broad view of history’s dynamics and appreciates the contributions of multiple “camps” that appear to be in endless, unproductive conflict,  This is the vision I want for my research, teaching and writing.

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One Response to “Brothers-in-Arms? Secular Humanism and Religious Faith”

  1. The Gentle Exit » Another secular word Says:

    […] our time, Secular has become or is seen as a coherent movement, a here-and-now that fights the eternal Muslim or Christian. […]

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