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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Three chief political substitutes for religion: Democracy, Socialism, and Nationalism

Vox Nova Friday, July 20, 2007 Displacement of the Almighty By Jonathan
Christopher Dawson: "Every living creature must possess some spiritual dynamic, which provides the energy necessary for that sustained social effort which is civilization. Normally this dynamic is supplied by a religion, but in exceptional circumstances the religious impulse may disguise itself under philosophical or political forms." (Progress and Religion)
He thought the three chief political substitutes for religion in the 20th Century were: Democracy, Socialism, and Nationalism.
"Democracy bases its appeal on the sacredness of the People – the consecration of Folk; socialism on the sacredness of Labor – the consecration of Work; and nationalism on the sacredness of the Fatherland – the consecration of Place. These concepts still arouse transcendent religious values or sanctions. It is religious emotion divorced from religious belief." (Prevision in Religion)
Russell Kirk, author and convert to the Church: "Although Church and State stand separate, the political order cannot be renewed without theological virtues working upon it...Although human beings live in time, there exists a timeless ground of being, with which our little lives and our mundane institutions are interwoven...The myths and symbols through which the truths about order are conveyed grow dim with the passage of world-time and many disrupting events. When those symbols have become opaque at best, restless men seek to erect new symbols of their own creation, and to establish a new order in which the revolutionaries exercise total power. But this denial and inversion of the symbols of transcendence does not bring forth a new heavan and a new earth: instead, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse bring fire and slaughter." (Rights and Duties)
The religious impulse, I think, cannot be suppressed. Without the fully God and fully human Christ, the source and summit of this impulse (ideally fulfilled in the Eucharist), we fill the void not with Love but with our false, empty notions of freedom. John Paul teaches us in Veritatis Splendor: Patterned on God's freedom, man's freedom is not negated by his obedience to the divine law; indeed, only through this obedience does it abide in the truth and conform to human dignity. This is clearly stated by the Council:
"Human dignity requires man to act through conscious and free choice, as motivated and prompted personally from within, and not through blind internal impulse or merely external pressure. Man achieves such dignity when he frees himself from all subservience to his feelings, and in a free choice of the good, pursues his own end by effectively and assiduously marshalling the appropriate means".
In his journey towards God, the One who "alone is good", man must freely do good and avoid evil. But in order to accomplish this he must be able to distinguish good from evil. And this takes place above all thanks to the light of natural reason, the reflection in man of the splendour of God's countenance. Thus Saint Thomas, commenting on a verse of Psalm 4, writes:
"After saying: Offer right sacrifices (Ps 4:5), as if some had then asked him what right works were, the Psalmist adds: There are many who say: Who will make us see good? And in reply to the question he says: The light of your face, Lord, is signed upon us, thereby implying that the light of natural reason whereby we discern good from evil, which is the function of the natural law, is nothing else but an imprint on us of the divine light".
It also becomes clear why this law is called the natural law: it receives this name not because it refers to the nature of irrational beings but because the reason which promulgates it is proper to human nature. Posted by Jonathan at 9:17 AM Labels: , Comments (3) Trackback

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