A “Diversity of Religions” or a “Religious Sense”?

How today to evangelize an identity-politics collage of pre-Christian paganism, modern/historicist Progress, post-modern entropy—and the stillborn twins of exhausted Despair in the West and archaic Fatalism supervised under Islam?

(Image: Zac Durant | Unsplash.com)

More sweeping than the familiar tension between Faith and Reason, the Spanish and Basque poet, novelist, and philosopher Miguel de Unamuno proposes hope first, and then reasoning faith and finally charity. It’s not about rationality, but about the abyss we fall into with only rationality. Unamuno would reawaken a predisposing and universal “religious sense,” not an equivalent “diversity of religions”.

This, from his Tragic Sense of Life (1921), which is said to be his masterpiece:

’The wicked man hath said in his heart, There is no God.’ And this is truth. For in his head the righteous man may say to himself, God does not exist! But only the wicked can say it in his heart. Not to believe that there is a God or to believe that there is not a God, is one thing;

to resign oneself to there not being a God is another thing, and it is a terrible and inhuman thing; but not to wish that there be a God exceeds every other moral monstrosity; although, as a matter of fact, those who deny God deny Him because of their despair at not finding Him. (emphasis added)

By the “tragic sense of life” Unamuno means “religious despair.” The great triad of religious despair today: At one bookend, (1) abortion as the exemption from life; and at the other (2) physician-assisted suicide as a forced “exemption” from homicide laws; and in the middle the (3) homogenizing denial of human complementarity—the malignant homosexual subculture.

The fumes of Despair

Is it not a terrible and inhuman thing to lure a pregnant teen into thinking that abortion is a rite of passage into modernity? The deities of Baal and Aztec-land grin their satisfaction. The numbers are jading, but broadly worse for upcoming generations is a culture without any moral boundaries.

The Speaker of the House defends late-term abortions as “sacred ground,” extinguishing the Burning Bush of the living God! And marketing the more lucrative body parts!

Is it not a wicked lie in our Scientific Age to first sneer at how Galileo’s telescope was set aside, and then to withhold the ultrasound “telescope” viewing of a new child—an internal universe that lives and moves? Said Galileo, “eppur si muove” (nevertheless, it moves!). And, where Galileo saw mountains on the moon, modern science now shows us, equally, fingerprints on the pre-born baby.

A terrible and inhuman thing to conjure a “culture of death” wherein the young of each new generation are conditioned to kill their own children? The Lord of the Flies!

A wicked thing to rationalize against bringing any children into a messed up-world and—because technology is morality and the entire universe a cosmic accident—why not just walk back a tiny and unnamed accident?

And all of this, a world turned upside down, in barely half a century. Forty years after Unamumo (and after two World Wars) a renowned urban sociologist said this about hope for the future and the birthing of children:

As of today, this resurgence of reproductive activity might be partly explained as a deep instinctual answer to the premature death of scores of millions of people throughout the planet. But even more possibly, it may be the unconscious reaction to the likelihood of an annihilating outburst of nuclear genocide on a planetary scale. As such, every new baby is a blind desperate vote for survival [….]

The automatic response of every species threatened with extirpation takes the form of excessive reproduction. This is a fundamental observation of ecology. (Lewis Mumford, The City in History, 1961; emphasis added)

Only six years before Mumford, however, the ex-communist Whittaker Chambers in 1954 said much more on the collapse of the West:

[Western civilization] is already a wreck from within. This is why we can hope to do little more now than snatch a fingernail of a saint from the rack or a handful of ashes from the faggots, and bury them secretly in a flowerpot against the day, ages hence, when a few men begin again to dare to believe that there was once something else, that something else is thinkable, and need some evidence of what it was, and the fortifying knowledge that there were those who, at the great nightfall, took loving thought to preserve the tokens of hope and truth. (From a letter in Cold Friday, 1964, emphasis added)

A fingernail? A flowerpot? In the tens of millions, the aborted are either flushed, or bagged for the alley dumpster, or incinerated. Today, perhaps, that incinerator is where the martyred fingernails are now coming from? No longer thinkable is the morning splendor, or the delicate grandeur of each child brought into existence in the image of God—the irreducible sacredness of each and every human life.

Instead, the recently concluded Amazonian Synod proposes concern, yes also urgent, for an “integral ecology”. On our knees before Amazonia’s indigenous Pachamama, and instead of a mere “flowerpot,” we plant a cosmic tree in the Vatican grounds—and now await from tandem Germania the majoritarian anointing of an ersatz sexual morality and more.

The abyss of Despair

Sent forth by Christ with only a staff and one pair of sandals, instead we now:

• Transplant the 11th-century Investiture Crisis into Communist China which, we are tutored by a Vatican purple hat, is “best implementing the social doctrine of the Church”;

• Exchange an integral and alter Christus priesthood for a merely functional priesthood, and this within the new and morally elastic context of “integral ecology”;

• Obsolesce in pastoral practice (never in doctrine!) the binary complementarity of sexual persons with a spectrum of options and homogenous sameness—the usurping homosexual subculture; and as a fig leaf use “pedophilia” to hide the gangrenous infestation in the Church itself.

At the terrestrial level, demographic suicide across a spiritually-imploded West leaves a vacuum readily filled by resurgent an engulfing Islam. The religion not of the Logos, but of a distant and arbitrary divine Will. An historic collision between the twins of Despair and Fatalism. The spiral of Despair: Secularism takes God out of the Public Square and then mosque-state Islam takes the Public Square out of Man.

Against both Despair and Fatalism, Unamuno would at least create from within, a God of primeval hope, and then of faith and charity:

To believe in God is to long for His existence and, further, it is to act as if He existed; it is to live by this longing and to make it the inner spring of our action. This longing or hunger for divinity begets hope, hope begets faith, and faith and hope beget charity. Of this divine longing is born our sense of beauty, of finality, of goodness. (emphasis added)

Unamuno’s “religion” turns some theology upside-down: Do we really create God, or are the three theological virtues gifts rather than spiritual endorphins? But, poised on Unamuno’s platform, are we possibly ready to receive contact with the divine self-disclosure given from the Other?

A self-disclosure from outside of ourselves—given by the Triune Oneness in the Incarnation. And, which in the Resurrection is more than Unamuno’s caricature as only a “pact between monotheism and polytheism.” (That Triune Christianity is polytheistic also is bubble-apologetic of monotheistic/monolithic Islam, versus for all of our finite minds the Christian revelation that 1+1+1=1).

Awaited now is an unapologetic (so to speak) New Evangelization of the Trinity and the Incarnation—and that does not conjure a discordant “new paradigm” parsed by social science from data-dumps/trendlines nominated by the “right side of history;” not a New Church of “anthropological cultural change” and, specifically in pastoral practice, not the mating of nature’s fecund male and female with a third option.

Cut from the same cloth as Unamuno—but more completely as a rationalist-atheist than a hoping-Christian—was the late Italian journalist Ariani Fallaci. Fallaci held flat-out that man fully creates God, not the other way around. But, like Unamuno, that man does this out of Despair. But (she continues) that Christ even as only a man is ever Phoenix-like, ever rising up to renew his claim for freedom, and in this way “seduces” even her (Fallaci) into belief:

[As a] Christian atheist … [she finds that] Life always resurrects, Life is eternal . . . That most seduces me. Because in it I see the rejection of Death, the refusal of Death, the apotheosis of Life which can be evil: yes. Which is also evil, which eats itself. But its alternative is Nothingness. And let’s face it: such is the principle which leads and feeds our civilization. (The Force of Reason, 2004).

Of revelation and epiphany, the theologian Luigi Giussani remarks:

… yes, religion is in fact that which man does in his solitude; but it is also that in which the human person discovers his essential companionship. Such companionship is, then, more original to us than our solitude…Therefore, before solitude there is companionship, a companionship that embraces my solitude. Because of this, solitude is no longer true solitude, but a cry calling back that hidden companionship. (The Religious Sense, 1990; emphasis added)

The entire Western trajectory into Despair—forgetting the past, negating the future, and culling an unborn current generation—dates back at least to such post-Christian romanticists such as Jean Jacques Rousseau in his Social Contract as well as rationalists such as Thomas Hobbes’ in his Leviathan. The state replaces the family. Instead of escapism into either the mythical past or the gnostic future and the state, Unamuno would have us “become centered on [interior] ourselves again, we return to ourselves, only by suffering” (emphasis added). The mystery of suffering and the Scandal of the Cross.

Unamuno places the religious sense prior to religion:

Faith, then, I repeat once again, is faith in hope; we believe what we hope for [….] Hope is the reward of faith. Only he who believes truly hopes; and only he who truly hopes believes.

Despair in the West—this is the abysmal sin against the gift of hope in the Holy Spirit (and not any lesser sin against the Logos or the Father). In harmony with Unamuno’s very personal and lyrical monism, man is himself finally created and redeemed by Another—the gloriously Triune mystery God: “Christ the Lord…by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (Gaudium et Spes).

Hope and belief

Unamuno laments that we do not hope, because we do not believe; and we do not believe, because we do not hope. But, without mixed messages or alloy, how today to evangelize an identity-politics collage of pre-Christian paganism (Pachamama), modern/historicist Progress, post-modern entropy (Germania)—and ultimately the stillborn twins of exhausted Despair in the West and archaic Fatalism supervised under Islam?

How might the Apostolic Church evangelize the Scandal of the Cross? Perhaps, the universality of the prior “religious sense”our baked-in, gut-level hope deep beneath both Abu Dhabi’s “diversity of [natural] religions” and the higher and revealed Faith in the singular Person of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Lord of History.

God, from all eternity cannot change, but He can freely choose to elevate and participate in our suffering in a “fallen world.” Fallen not by a flaw in His creative freedom, but by abuse of our responsible freedom, made as we are in “the image and likeness of God.”

Real hope in the Scandal of the Cross: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8).


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About Peter D. Beaulieu 9 Articles
Peter D. Beaulieu earned an interdisciplinary doctorate in urban and regional planning from the University of Washington (1975), is a member of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists and author of Beyond Secularism and Jihad? A Triangular Inquiry into the Mosque, the Manger & Modernity (University Press of America, 2012) and A Generation Abandoned: Why 'Whatever' Is Not Enough (Hamilton Books, 2017).

9 Comments

  1. As the article says so wisely, the Recycled-Anti-Religion-False-Religion hates all religions, but hates the Truest Religion, the Catholic Faith, infinitely more. True Catholicism exposes the failure and desperation of blind, fanatical, self-righteous rebellion against God. I remember some members of my family that were living on the worst side of it, telling me when I was young that I “made them look bad” because I was choosing to live on the better side of our family.

    Likewise, the True Catholic Church is SO, SO, SO supremely above every other religion, belief, atheism, etc. that all those and many others are consecrated themselves to D.T.D., dilute-then-destroy the Catholic Church through Pachamamarian environmentalism, tolerance of abortion, homosexuality, women “priests”, etc. All those sentimentalism delusions lead straight and always to desperation and failure under tyranny.

    That’s why our holy Catholic ancestors preferred humiliation, persecution, torture and death rather than compromising our Holy Truth, for total true love of others. Only those that hold on to Authentic Catholic Truth are holding on to Immortal True Love. Do likewise!! Only that Most Authentic Catholic Love will save the world from despair and failure, even if they hate us with the darkest of darkest hate “for making them look bad”.

  2. Phew! Dr. B, What a well-written and insightful article. I am in my 50’s and cannot beleive how fast Christian Civilization has deteriorated. As a professional in the facillities management and planning industry we hold safety in high regard and are trained to be vigilent against the creep of “Normalization of Deviance” in the work place. Policies and procedures are in place to protect the individual and the company. In our business deviance from the P&P WILL create a downhill slope of no-return to eventual disater. So I see to my deep chagrin, dismay and despair the slow creep of normalization of deviance in contemporary Christendom, as sucinctly discussed in the article, and unless Management can get its act together soon I fear that a big event will happen and that will put the whole organization in jeopardy.

  3. A welcome tour de force between truth and fiction. Similarity is seen in Edith Stein’s Gottingen U treatise On the Problem of Empathy that explains empathy as a “religious consciousness” a perception sui generis. A form of sensing highlighted by essayist Beaulieu. We speak of sense here as an inner perception. A sensing due to knowledge elicited from the physical. That is why Aquinas identifies an inner sense, an apprehension not the product of casuistic reason rather inherent interior insight that distinguishes the human soul. What unifies Man. His ability to identify common ground for distinguishing good from evil. Sunday’s office of readings [breviary] excerpts Joel. The Faithful Remnant atop Mount Zion besieged by the adversary. Not weaponless. Indeed possessing the matchless. Embrace of the Cross of Christ with Christ.

    • Thank you, Dr. Morello. Stein’s “On the Problem of Empathy” was a difficult read for me (written in 1916, prior to Stein’s conversion/baptism in 1922). Your comment turns a light on with regard to Islam (which I mention only too briefly). Some questions. . . .

      Is the universal “religious sense” a BETTER LABEL than the more juridical “natural law,” and then might this more palatable term serve (hypothetically) as the elusive “common grammar” between Christianity and initial Islam?
      That is, “Empathy [….] is the experience of foreign consciousness” (Stein) including consciousness of the Other (for Muslims: Allah). Does Islam too-simply CONFLATE the universal religious sense toward the Other with the full package of Islam, viz the a-historical (“uncreated”) Koran together with historical accretions such as tribal jihad renewed immediately after Mohammed’s death, and then later assimilation of aggressive invasion ethics from the Seljuk Turks, then the Mongols, etc.?

      What will it take for Muslim scholars to disentangle the interior/universal and better-termed “religious sense” from insular, package-deal, and engulfing Islam—as if it is NOT simply/inseparably proto-Islam? Possibly still not less than another millennium or two? (All political heresies are theological in origin.)

      . . . .But this is a different question than for the secularized and de-Christianized West to try superficially to secularize Islam. Instead, was the DIFFERENTIATION in the West of inborn natural law from the gratuitous self-disclosure of the Divine (Revelation) made possible only by the historical fact of the Incarnation as fully two distinct natures—-divine but also fully human—-in the one Person, Jesus Christ?

      The hadiths (the sayings of Mohammed) carry this intriguing line: “There is not a child that he or she is born upon this fitrah, this original state of the knowledge of God [RELIGIOUS SENSE?]. And his parents make him a Jew, a Christian, or a Zoroastrian . . . and if they are Muslims, Muslim.”

      The “(in)born” religious sense in itself is not yet any religion—-and not every religion is the Faith (largely from which the West developed). Is a “diversity of religions,” as such and as “willed by God,” no more than the stillborn predisposition (and definition?) of a-historical and yet culturally-engulfing Islam?

      • That Ms Stein wrote on Empathy prior to her conversion does color her understanding as you suggest Dr Beaulieu. She sought to resolve Husserl’s dilemma in attempting to find ground for verifying external perception as apodictic knowledge. Although Man possesses prescient knowledge of the eternal such as more or less, true or false actualized in the act of apprehension. We first and foremost however apprehend the existence of things [Ibn Sina as is quoted on this first premise of all knowledge by Aquinas in the beginning of De Veritate] intuitively rather than by reason. Except God because he transcends the physical. Islam also presumes beyond that inherent intuitive capacity regarding Allah [who is spirit]. We call that faith regarding Christ reason regarding God. Man finds cause for belief in God in the nature of things thru reason. Whereas Edith Stein [as well as Husserl, Scheler, Heidegger who also lectured at Gottingen] locked into the false Kantian phenomenon noumenon premise recognizes a religious element leaning toward concern or compassion. An interior certitude that is religious in nature. Grace is always as work as it was with Ms Stein during her early years. Muslim presumption of the existence of Allah however is not structured on reasoned inquiry. Can the Muslim’s belief in Allah then have affinity with Stein’s thesis on Empathy? With grace? Insofar as recognition of internal states of others grace is not required. We cannot deny however that since all mankind made in God’s image with the inherent propensity to worship Him can in various forms whether by reason inquiry as Socrates, Aristotle or simply internal predilection as perhaps Anselm, beauty as did Bonaventure come to a ‘similar’ belief. At least as recognized in Lumen Gentium. The vast and definitive difference for Catholicism [Christianity in general] is faith given as a gift in Jesus of Nazareth who alone reveals God. Who God the Father is. The only peg holding that truth in place for the non Christian is simply belief there is a God. The Nature of God is what matters. Consequently it is a mistake [more succinctly error] to say that Islam can be incorporated as an equal within the Christian milieu [or visa versa] beyond the strictures of reasoned knowledge and variations of human speculation. The trademark Natural Law philosophy of Catholicism substantiates this since Catholicism complies fully with the Natural Law as a reflection of Divine law.

        • My meaning is yours—-that it is an error to hold, “that Islam can be incorporated as an equal within the Christian milieu [or visa versa]…” A clarification is in order…

          My point is that Islam as a religion has eclectically absorbed part of innate natural law without detecting the difference between this and fideistic Sharia Law. (It is axiomatic to me that the REAL and innate natural law–within each human heart as part of the “transcendent dignity of the human person”–is to be distinguished from any school of thought ABOUT natural law.)

          As for Islam, the Qur’an reads: “The true believers, both men and women, are friends to one another. They enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil . . .” (Q 9:71). So far so good, but to my knowledge, in its many borrowed references from the Old Testament and specifically from Moses (i.e., the Ten Commandments as the natural law), the Qur’an repeats only the first four commandments, but not the other six….Instead, the mosque-state is simply supervised by “executors” of the engulfing divine law as Muslims understand it (I oversimplify).

          Islam—a patchwork religion that Muslims believe to be both the completion of cumulative partial revelations (imperfect, even with apostasies along the way, until finally “the Prophet”), and at the same time to be “uncreated” and timeless because directly “dictated” (not inspired) from on high.

          My point—-to what extent do the followers of Islam confuse their own real and internal “religious sense” (as human persons) with Islam/Sharia as an externally constructed “religion”? To recognize the former as real would begin to put a dent in the latter. That is, the real autonomy of the human person need be punished as a dichotomy and blasphemy against the divine autonomy of Allah. One might convert individual Muslims, but not Islam.

          • Yes it’s true Islam borrows from natural law as does most attractive ideologies. Your last paragraph highlights the problem of religious sense within a construct Islam v liberum arbitrium [not simply fee will rather deciding correctly] the hallmark of Christian humanness.

          • Typo in my most recent final sentence: “That is, the real autonomy of the human person need NOT be punished as a dichotomy and blasphemy against the divine autonomy of Allah. One might convert individual Muslims, but not Islam.”

        • Corrections: Third sentence Man possesses prescient knowledge of the EXTERNAL; Final sentence Natural Law as a reflection of ETERNAL Law.

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