Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Apostle of Common Sense Speaks

New Age mumbo jumbo is no substitute for faith in God

By David Quinn
Monday August 27 200 The Independent (Ireland)

Its reputed author is the great Catholic apologist GK Chesterton (aka the Apostle of Common Sense) . He said: "The danger when men stop believing in God is not that they'll believe in nothing, but that they'll believe in anything."

Chesterton wrote those words almost 100 years ago and he wrote them at a time when people like William Butler Yeats were devotees of the New Age fad of their time, namely theosophy. Clairvoyants, fortune tellers, palm readers and the most esoteric forms of Eastern mysticism were all the rage. Anything but Christianity was the order of the day......

It was against this background that Chesterton wrote those words. (Incidentally, the reason he is only the reputed author is because no one can actually find the exact quote in any of his known writings, although I stand to be corrected). In any event, the quote stands and it exactly described what was happening in his time and in our own.

Back then, side by side with the rise of atheism and scientific materialism came a new flourishing of beliefs the like of which had not been seen since pagan times and which were decidedly anti-rational. It was as though the decline of Christianity, precipitated by the 19th and early-20th Century versions of Richard Dawkins, had opened up a space not for rationalists like Chesterton himself -- I use that word advisedly -- but for new, or rather very old, forms of superstition.

Fast forward almost 100 years and we have the redoubtable Professor Dawkins presenting his latest series on Channel Four called 'The Enemies of Reason' in which he fires broadside after broadside at fortune-tellers, diviners, tarot-card readers and the whole panoply of magical and mystical practices to which countless numbers of people today have recourse.

However, what never seems to occur to people like Richard Dawkins and his fellow travellers is that, in a rich irony, people like himself have actually helped pave the way for the palm-readers, et al. Man does not live by scientific rationality alone and if you take from him Christianity, or one of the other mainstream religions, his spiritual side will have to go looking for other outlets. That is what happened in Chesterton's time and it is what is happening today.

Speaking at Knock on Wednesday, Archbishop Sean Brady might well have been thinking of GK Chesterton when he said that in modern Ireland the decline of Christianity has seen, on the one hand, a rise in shallow, empty, almost panic-stricken consumerism, and on the other a rise, or re-rise in various ancient, and at the same time, very New Age practices like astrology and fortune-telling. It was this second point that caught the media's attention.

Read more.


Anonymous said...

The quote you state is from The Everlasting Man by Chesterton .

Thomas Shawn said...

Thank you. about a year ago I tried to plow through Orthodoxy but it was too much for me. Dale Alquest, the President of the American Chesterton society, specifically recommended not to read Orthodoxy first.

Maybe I should go to Everlasting Man and save Orthodoxy for later.