Jessica’s post yesterday was a useful, if painful, insight into something quite common nowadays. The notion we live in a secular age is not well-founded. The spiritual urge we see in mankind across the ages has not vanished. The notion, commonly-held by some athesists, that as science answers various questions, mankind will lose the need for God is curiously tone-deaf. At its heart is the view that religion served the need to know how the world was created or why the sun shone, but there is precious little evidence to suggest that our need for God comes from such a source; that is an atheist myth. The search for God comes from a search for an answer to something far less material than our atheist friends seem able to grasp; it stems from a need to worship.
Man is a worshipping animal. He will worship a tree, the sun, the moon, the wind, a footballer, a film star, a hero of one form or another; he will worship money, sex, rock and roll and drugs; he will find himself in thrall. That is our nature. If all else fails, he will worship himself and his intellectual independence. It is as though there is something within us that is not complete until we find it – as Augustine noted many years ago.
This is where Dawkins and company are doomed to go into the dak alone. Most of mankind for most of recorded history has needed to believe in something we could worship. For rest assured, we shall go into the dark in the end. To every man born of owman there is on fate we share in common – that the day is coming when the place where we are now will know us no longer. Those we love will carry on, but we shall not do so – and no man knows the time of that.
There is no use our atheist friends telling us we should not feel that way; it is like telling us we should not feel hungry when we do.
So, people like the person Jessica encountered come in a long line of those promising to fill that gap, and before we rush to condemn them (hand me a stone someone) we should, in humility, ask why the Church is not reaching them? As much as I abhor the syncretistic rubbish propounded by men like ‘Brother Ben’, I have to ask where the chaplains at my own university where, and why they asked this man when they could have spoken themselves?
Jessica and I are part of a group which has been running a class on Saturday afternoons on ‘Basics of the Faith’. It is Anglican and Catholic, and we steer clear of matters where we disagree. What is perfectly clear is that most of those who come in know very little indeed. There has been a catastrophic failure of catechesis by the Churches, and an equally bad effort at school level. Well, if we can’t or won’t reach out, we can’t be surprised that charlatans will fill the gap.