In the aftermath of August 25, 1900, some clever person probably added, signed God, to the notice of Friedrick Nietzsche’s death. After all, it was the controversial German philosopher who had declared that God was dead. However too many thinkers and non-thinkers alike have misunderstood or misconstrued what he really meant. The eternal Being had not died but since the Enlightenment had made man the center of the universe, the Deity had been replaced in all of His roles with the sole exception as the Prime Mover and Creator of the Universe. Consequently, no educated person had any cause to believe in His existence.
To deified Man, God had been relegated to the periphery of the universe and could continue with his eternal Seventh Day of Rest. This is the essence of the declared religion of many of the intellectuals, and some of our Founding Fathers. It was called Deism. They believed in a disinterested God, who had no bearing on anything in the world of man. He certainly was not the Catholic God of a personal Lord
As Science’s understanding of the Universe increased over the centuries, the irreligious were still shackled with God’s remaining creative role. It stuck in their collective throats like an unchewed piece of beef. Somehow God had to be stripped of His last role in the story of creation as were His Son’s garments on Calvary. Intellectuals wanted God’s memory erased from the pages of History. With that in mind, they amended Nietzsche’s Divine death notice to read that God had never lived. Theology was nothing but superstitious mythology, a paganism elevated to a higher status among the unwashed and uneducated peasants. This was what Karl Marx meant when he called religion the opiate of the people.
But they still had to blunt the cause-and-effect argument. Enter Charles Darwin, the English naturalist, whose voyage on the Beagle in 1831-36, led to the development of his Theory of Evolution. He later published his ideas in the iconoclastic book, The Origins of the Species in 1859. In 10 years, his peers had accepted his theory as fact, despite the fact that most was more speculation than actual proof. Over 150 years later, President Barack Obama declared Evolution, like Man Made Climate Change, to be irrefutable facts that could never be changed. This is unparalleled for a president and the Scientific community, which knows that the book of science is always open, no matter what the issue. The only science it represented was political, not biological nor meteorological.
While it took several years for Darwin to lose his faith in God, other scientists had no hesitancy in using Evolution as an alternate theory to that of the Edenic Story of Adam and Eve and also as an excuse to jettison any belief in God. Even if Evolution was true, that still did not explain how the universe started. A godless Science has and will always be in conflict with Christian Metaphysics. Pope Francis joined the debate earlier this year when he proclaimed Evolution was possible but not without God as the Creator. To answer their conundrum, another generation of scientists created or discovered another random act of nature they called The Big Bang as an explanation of the origins of the universe. It really explains nothing but among scientists, their faith in Evolution will always trump any belief in God. Their Pantheon is just too small to hold Him.
I believe Evolution defies reason, the laws of cause and effect and makes a mockery of the science it purports to emulate. It holds that our beautiful world that has inspired thousands of painters, poets and writers over the centuries happened by chance. Though it has become weathered over time and attacked for years by popular atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, I still believe the Watchmaker as a great illustrator of the fact that all things come from something else. If one found a watch on the beach that was in perfect running order, two things could be deduced. Its owner must have dropped or left it and it had been made by a skilled watchmaker. It could not have randomly evolved over the years from a crystal of sand.
I once did a radio interview with a man who had made a DVD documentary on the Monarch Butterfly. While he would have been better served on TV, I did my best to paint verbal pictures for our listeners. In addition to the beautiful colors of the Monarch and the story of its migration south, the butterfly’s most salient feature was the delicate structural precision of its eye. I believe the US Army used its composition to design a sight for its bombers during World War II. Could anything but an eternal all-powerful Being have done this?
The latest statistics I read is that today about nine in 10 scientists profess Atheism as their religion. This statistic quickly reminds me of the interchange between Eve and the devil around the fruit tree. He said that she and Adam would be like gods if they obeyed him. In a similar vein I have often quoted the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist, who survived Auschwitz. His thesis revolved around his belief that everyone believes in some sort of deity, material or otherwise. Scripture says where your treasure is, so will your heart be. Frankl identified this as man’s existential vacuum. Since nature abhors a vacuum, each one of us must fill our emptiness. People use religious faith, or something called spirituality and mindfulness while others use philanthropy, family, nation, politics, drugs, alcohol, sex, acquisitions, greed, sloth etc.
Fewer and fewer people are using the Catholic faith to fill their spiritual void. While our churches seem to have rebounded from the Covid, I sometimes wonder, given the brazen attitude of the faithful such as President Joe Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, if many of them are not CINOs, or Catholics in Name Only, the so-called cultural Catholics. How many still believe in the true Faith? I have expanded on this idea in a prior essay, A Dry Martyrdom.
This leads me to the incident that inspired this essay. I was at a social event months ago. I started talking to a college sophomore who was the daughter of some of our friends. She had recently finished her course of study for her first year at a leading secular university in a rigorous curricula that might be generically described as Pre-Med. When I had a classroom, I often tried to draw information out of a student using what might be called the Socratic Method of questioning. Though I really had no intention of trying to teach her anything, I just wanted to explore what she was studying and what she had learned.
With God as my witness, I had no intention in getting in a heated debate with her. We were going along fine and I was practicing my listening skills, which had not gotten too much use, when she said something that totally threw me from my train of thought. I can’t remember exactly what it was but it had something to do with metaphysics, causation and Darwin. I tried to explain to her that Evolution was no more provable than the theory or allegory of Creation. I said I thought Evolution was basically a silly idea that all of this beautiful creation happened by chance.
I tried to give her my three-part historical perspective of Man’s relation to God in history from the first 15 centuries when God was the center of the known world, followed by the Enlightenment and ending with Darwin. Before I could finish, she interrupted with the silly notion, you believe in this old guy up in the sky…? This impudent comment knocked me off my train again. I shot back with what are you an atheist? I followed with just what do you believe in? Neither of us was angry but I didn’t like where we were going, so I suggested we both agree to disagree.
The whole thing was upsetting for me because I knew this young woman was the product of 12 years of Catholic education. I started to wonder if her professors, especially the scientists she studied under, had brainwashed her because it seemed as if she had lost her faith in such a short time or was it weak to start with? Is Science now the god she worships like so many scientists do? Has it filled her existential vacuum? Is the Church failing to give our kids enough strength of faith and character to withstand the accusations and false reasoning of their professors? Or are they spending too much on appealing to their sense of altruism in fighting the perceived injustices of the world, which often have a politicized secular quality? Do too many of our young and old think that everyone is guaranteed a spot in an idyllic Heaven or do they disregard that notion entirely since Science seems to regard us as products of a Marxist materialism with no souls to worry about?
Fortunately, around the same time I had a polar opposite experience to counter this one. Our waiter at a pizza place one night, bore a striking resemblance to the actor, Treat Williams, when he was a much younger man. In addition to his manly good looks, he wore a crucifix that hung on the outside of his work shirt. I have seen many, mostly women, wear plain crosses as ornamentation more than a religious statement. But a crucifix is different. It has the salvific Christ on it, adding a whole new dimension. I will not go anywhere without mine unless I am at the swimming pool, where I wear it under my shirt. After dinner, I accosted him away from our table. I asked him if he wore it out of religious conviction or practiced a faith. He said he was a Catholic. Ah, a kindred spirit in the flesh! After a few pleasantries, I told him how we were the target of a toxic culture that hates our very being.
I felt energized by this young man who had no fear of what people might say as he was truly proud to be Catholic. It was obvious to me that he benefited from the faith and encouragement of his family and maybe a priest or teacher to strengthen his belief. But are there enough of us? That thought hounds me. As I was writing this essay, I could not get the Paul Simon lyrics out of my head from his Mrs. Robinson. I cannot explain but I was drawn to them.
And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson,
Jesus Loves you more than you know;
Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio…
A lonely nation turns its eyes to you…*
While the excerpts are enigmatic to me, they read like a paean to religious faith. Perhaps Joe DiMaggio is a Christ figure and the world has turned away from him in a torrent of blasphemy and denials that raise the question of His being there when we really need him. I certainly hope so because these are very trying times for Christians. Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, the Left has gone to the streets with the express purpose of unleashing a firestorm of violence on us. Only God can help us because it is obvious Joe Biden will not lift a finger.
*First two lines of first stanza and first two lines of last stanza.