Did the Enlightenment negate God?

I’d argue no… in fact, I’d argue that the Enlightenment, while enforcing rational investigation into the nature and existence of God, did God a favour. Although the Enlightenment was great at showing us our human limitations, it brought us no closer to God than any other religious faith. And really… didn’t the Enlightenment just trade one religion for another (Mnotheism for Scientism)?

The Enlightenment is seen as the “Age of Reason”, which has led to the diminishment of church authority in the political and academic realms of society. The Enlightenment marked the transition from medieval “faith” to modern “knowledge”. Enlightenment thinkers concerned themselves with “rational thought”, which led to scrutiny of all things within the natural world. A newfound skepticism arose during this period. Questions of worldview (metaphysics) and what we can know as humans (epistemology) came to mark this period. From Descartes’ “cogito, ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am) to Kant’s “Metaphysics of Morals”, the Enlightenment saw a great deal of thought pertaining to the nature of our world and our place within it.

In previous generations, education and religion typically ran hand in hand, with one defending the other. Following the development of the printing press and the revolt of the Protestant Reformation, the church’s hold on academic thought dissipated significantly. Francis Bacon’s (1561-1626) scientific method provided an early framework for later Enlightenment thinking. Voltaire’s Dictionnaire Philosophique continued this tradition. And, Voltaire’s wry caricatures of the religious leaders of his day (Candide is a great read in this regard) lent more fuel to the anti-religious fire that was burning during this time.

There was a tremendous focus on the material world during this time. Rational thought tended towards that which could be measured (empiricism) or explained (rationalism). It was important to be able to explain events within the limitations of the natural world, as opposed to the traditional spiritual explanations given by the church. This led to great debates on the nature of miracles (see Hume’s “On Miracles” in particular) and the value of religion in personal life.

While skeptical thought did negatively impact the church, it did not disprove the necessity and value of religious belief, nor did it supplant it with anything other than a new religion, namely “scientism”. I find it ironic that the last of the Enlightenment giants, Emmanuel Kant, offered a newfound explanation for God through his idea of moral justification. So much for the skeptical death of God provided by his contemporaries…


All the rage

The irony in this article is too good to pass up. You have to give it a read:

All the rage from The Walrus Magazine.


The End Is Coming!

I was reading the following article tonight and it prompted me to write:

Praying for the Apocalypse

People have been claiming that the end is sight ever since… well… since people could say those words. I still find it surprising though that people actually bank on that kind of a worldview. From global warming to nuclear war, the pessimists out there have been calling out like Chicken Little for as long as I can remember. I find this disappointing, because, while I do have the occasional negative day, I don’t sit and dwell on the end times at the expense of living in the present.

Last time I remember, Jesus gave us instructions to stick around and to live our lives according to God’s rules. We weren’t to pack up and wait for Jesus to come back. Some instructions:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. […] And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.'” (Matt 22:37-40)
“I am going to send you what my Father has promised, but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

I could quote numerous other passages, but the point is this: Jesus directs us to live according to his principles in the world. As we read in John (John 17:14-19), we are in the world but not of the world. We are all visitors here on Earth and we are here for a brief amount of time. As visitors, should we foster a positive or a negative perspective towards others?

Church history is full of urgent appeals based on the understanding that the end is near. Unfortunately, these battle-plagued end times scenarios have never turned out well for anyone. The end times have yet to arrive for the persecutors, and the persecuted suffer as a result. And, more importantly, the persecutors that once demonized the targets of their aggression end up looking like the demonizers. This begs the question: “Who is the real demon in all of this?”

We have a responsibility to live responsibly under the guidance and spiritual presence of God. We, as Christians, have moral obligations to love our neighbours and to make the world a better place. Even those that are not Christian agree that our moral compasses are fairly well aligned when it comes to good and evil.

Be on guard against temptations to become a demon in the name of religion. Be responsible and follow Jesus’ calling to wait out his return in loving and caring fashion. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be caught compromising my values in the name of religious justification. And raising our hands in violence in the name of Christ would definitely be compromising those values.

Todd Dow