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Friday, 29 May 2015

To convince a newborn babe

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Now most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities. And Mr. Shaw and such people are especially shrinking from that awful and ancestral responsibility to which our fathers committed us when they took the wild step of becoming men. I mean the responsibility of affirming the truth of our human tradition and handing it on with a voice of authority, an unshaken voice.

That is the one eternal education; to be sure enough that something is true that you dare to tell it to a child. From this high audacious duty the moderns are fleeing on every side; and the only excuse for them is, (of course,) that their modern philosophies are so half-baked and hypothetical that they cannot convince themselves enough to convince even a newborn babe. This, of course, is connected with the decay of democracy; and is somewhat of a separate subject.
G K Chesterton – What’s Wrong With the World (1910)

As he does so well, Chesterton uses a rose-tinted view of the past to probe a genuine canker in human affairs. One obvious response is that we have a problem where modern philosophies are so half-baked, because of our increased awareness of myths and uncertainties.

On the other hand, Chesterton makes a telling point in that our awful and ancestral responsibility has also seeped away into the swamps of relativism and moral uncertainty. Possibly connected with this:

Were it possible to induce the masses to adopt atheism, this belief would exhibit all the intolerant ardour of a religious sentiment, and in its exterior forms would soon become a cult.
Gustave Le Bon - The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1895)

Is atheism a cult? Not in itself perhaps but something secular and cult-like has arisen since Le Bon's time.

6 comments:

Demetrius said...

God forbid.

Sackerson said...

You keep mining pearls.

graham wood said...

One of the main objections to atheism is that is a negative and largely devoid of content. Interestingly in his devastating critique of atheism F Turek in his new book makes the justified claim (IMO) that atheists have to argue their case on premises which assume the existence of God !
(Stealing from God - Why atheists need God to make their case)
A labour MP once suggested that atheism should be taught in schools - yes really! The trouble with that is that a lesson on atheism could only last a few minutes at most!

Sam Vega said...

"It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities."
That's an excellent sentence.

Roger said...

What's Wrong With the World, surprisingly modern but still a bit empty. We are left with 'what truths do we tell children'. I suppose children have to be told things as 'truths' that adults discover are not quite so universally true. All that misplaced innocence dissolved when Freud, Le Bon and Bernays blew a hole in Chesterton's comfy assurances. BTW, the period 1900 to 1912 must have been rather pleasant if you had a few bob.

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - He doesn't seem to.

Sackers - I need one which really connects with that ad.

Graham - it is negative and that's a problem atheists can't grasp for that reason. It leaves a power vacuum too.

Sam - it is. We are probably more timid than we need be, even now.

Roger - life is rather pleasant now if you have a few bob.