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God preserve us from godless philanthropy

Let’s look at the historical track record of attempts by the “overtly godless” to replace religion with secular solutions to social crises.

(Image: Christine Roy |

How exactly will the British “keep calm and carry on” during the crisis caused by the coronavirus? This is the question addressed by British journalist and historian Simon Heffer in an article published in the UK’s Sunday Telegraph on March 15. He regrets that “[t]hings we have taken for granted all our lives – ease of movement and of assembly, freedom from pestilence, indeed the very salubrity of life itself – are threatened”. He continues: “Apart from the profound consequence that many will die before what was expected to be their time, we shall be forced back on resources of character we did not know we had, and made to change patterns of behaviour for the common good.”

This is no doubt true but also somewhat run of the mill and not itself worthy of comment. What is noteworthy, however, is Mr. Heffer’s criticism of the Archbishop of Canterbury for his conspicuous silence on the crisis, apart from the offering of mundane sanitary advice for church services. Why, Mr. Heffer wonders, is there such a worrying dearth of inspiring religious leaders to steer the United Kingdom through troubled waters? He then ventures to answer his own rhetorical question: “Perhaps [the Archbishop’s] inability to lead his flock in this crisis is the ultimate admission of the triumph of secularism … in which case he should go. It would be an ironic turn if it were left to the overtly godless – of which I am one – to form a new philosophy to console our people in a crisis whose most terrible impact is probably yet to come.”

It is true that the uninspiring and lackadaisical leadership of the woefully lackluster Church of England is indicative of the “triumph of secularism” within the Anglican Church, which has long since abandoned the Holy Spirit for the Spirit of the Age. What Mr. Heffer calls “secularism”, as it pertains to the Anglican Church, is more properly called theological modernism, which has been condemned as a heresy by the Catholic Church. It is the belief that religion needs to move with the times, succumbing to popular fads and fashions. History illustrates that the religious denominations that fall into this error begin to wither and decay. The reason for this is all too obvious: The Holy Spirit gives life, whereas the Spirit of the Age sucks the very life out of whoever worships it. “We don’t want a Church that will move with the world,” says Chesterton, “we want a Church that will move the world.”

Much more interesting than Mr. Heffer’s stating of the obvious about the Anglican Church is his naïve suggestion that the “overtly godless” can come up with a new philosophy capable of consoling people in a crisis, thereby replacing the need for religion or God. It is surprising that Mr. Heffer, who usually expresses good and solid political judgment, should be so gullible.

Let’s look at the historical track record of attempts by the “overtly godless” to replace religion with secular solutions to social crises.

In the late eighteenth century, the “overtly godless” revolutionaries in France sought to replace religion with “a new philosophy to console the people in a crisis”. They sought liberty, equality and fraternity, all laudable in themselves, and ended with the Reign of Terror and the invention of the guillotine to enforce their new philosophy. And then, throughout the nineteenth century, the “overtly godless” condemned religion for being the opiate of the masses, seeking to replace the sacrifice of the Mass with the sacrifice of the masses themselves on the altar of the “new philosophy” of dialectical materialism, as espoused by Karl Marx. After a series of abortive revolutions across Europe, this new philosophy finally seized power in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution, and then spread via revolution or military conquest across eastern and central Europe, China, Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, and beyond. The body count is in the tens of millions.

Parallel with the spread of “overtly godless” communism, the twentieth century also saw the rise of the “overtly godless” Nazi Party in Germany, whose ideas were rooted in Nietzsche’s desire to go beyond good and evil in pursuit of the übermensch. Again, the body count is measured in millions. Today, in the equally woeful twenty-first century, we see the ideas of Nietzsche morphing into the “overtly godless” Pride movement with its desire to go beyond good and evil in its insistence on radical “self-empowerment” at all costs. This includes the “empowerment” of the mother to kill her own children in the womb, right up until the moment of the child’s birth. Soon, if the radical empowerment of the Pride movement is able to take its course, we will see the right to kill infants in the weeks after their birth, there being no logical or biological difference between a full-term child in the womb and a child after it is born. We can also expect the routine killing or culling of the disabled, the sick and the elderly, especially those with genetic defects, the new untermenschen.

The body count of today’s “overtly godless” reformers is also in the tens of millions, and counting. It is nonetheless true that Pride precedes a fall, as the fall of the French Revolutionaries, and the fall of the communist and Nazi empires illustrate. The thing about “overtly godless” Pride is that, if you give its advocates enough rope, they hang each other, which is tragic in a comic sort of way; the real tragedy is that they always hang the innocent before they hang themselves and each other.

We can have little doubt that Mr. Heffer would insist that his own “overtly godless” new philosophy would not be like all the others that history has presented. Perhaps he will forgive me, should I consider him naïve. Perhaps he will understand that I prefer the hard lessons of historical experience over “overtly godless” wishful thinking.

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About Joseph Pearce 34 Articles
Joseph Pearce is the author of Faith of Our Fathers: A History of 'True' England (Ignatius Press, 2022), as well as of numerous literary works including Literary Converts, The Quest for Shakespeare and Shakespeare on Love,Poems Every Catholic Should Know (TAN Books) and Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know (Augustine Institute/Ignatius Press), and the editor of the Ignatius Critical Editions series. His other books include literary biographies of Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. A native of England, he is Director of Book Publishing at the Augustine Institute, editor of the St. Austin Review, editor of Faith & Culture, and is Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. Visit his website at


  1. Isn’t it ironic how the “overtly godless” seem to be always searching for “something”? How difficult they make it for themselves…

  2. “Today, in the equally woeful twenty-first century, we see the ideas of Nietzsche morphing into the “overtly godless” Pride movement with its desire to go beyond good and evil in its insistence on radical “self-empowerment” at all costs. This includes the “empowerment” of the mother to kill her own children in the womb, right up until the moment of the child’s birth.”

    I’ve noticed something, as I’ve watched interviews on TV with people who can’t work. Lots and lots of them are women saying things like “I have three children; if I can’t work, what am I going to do?” Not a word about a husband, case after case after case.

  3. Zeitgeist. Makes a splash. German zeitgeist more intriguingly scientific, lethal sounding like some new Krupp explosive delivery system. Trouble is cryptic Zeitgeist disease has already spread within world and Church more insidiously than coronavirus [to demonstrate acumen journalists prefer covid 19]. Zeitgeist Synonym Globalism features ecological sovereignty, condemnation of plastic straws, abhorrence of excessive child bearing [the rabbit analogy] and accord between Pontiff, Jeffrey Sachs, George Soros, the retrieval of ancient Andean goddesses, Amazonia synods even Vatican lawn goddess parties. Church historian Roberto De Mattei sees the hand of God in the latest plague, the inevitable dismantling of social structure, and the hoped for death of globalism. Trouble is small fries like Simon Heffer and the scions of Godless Philanthropy have their own idolatrous gods. The real battle is within. Didn’t the Apostle warn we are at war with the Spirit of the Air.

  4. We read that “What Mr. HEFFNER calls ‘secularism’, as it pertains to the Anglican Church, is more properly called theological modernism, which has been condemned as a heresy by the Catholic Church.”

    And, what underlies (under-lies! a fitting term) this “theological modernism? Eric VOEGELIN offers a clue in his essay “On Classical Studies.” He contrasts the (secular) “climate of opinion” with “philosophy as the science of the nature of man.” So, before we even get to any theology, there’s the compounded and septic narcissism whereby we even retreat from our isolated selves.

    In addition to restored theology, then, where too is the re-cognition of natural law (not as one or many accreted schools of thought about natural law, but) as the baked-in, innate and incarnated reality about our very selves?
    Morality isn’t true because it’s taught; rather, its taught because it’s true. A “godless pride” is also a humanless pride.

    Voegelin restores education as Plato’s “art of turning around,” not simply as the art of “adjusting people so solidly to the climate of opinion […] that they feel no ‘desire to know.’”

    BERNANOS also gets at this lost desire: “The modern world will shortly no longer possess sufficient spiritual reserves to commit genuine evil. Already . . . we can witness a lethal slackening of men’s conscience that is attacking not only their moral life, but also their very heart and mind [!], altering and decomposing even their imagination [!] . . . The menacing crisis is one of infantilism” (cited in von Balthasar, Bernanos).

  5. Why pick on England? We should be moving heaven and earth to make access to the Mass (if not Holy Communion for all there participating) possible, and churches unlocked, as if our Army trains to fight a war in a Nuclear/Biological/Chemical warfare environment, surely we can come up with a way to avoid a mainly contact and cough/sneeze spread virus.

    Space people properly, have one person doing door opening and closing, remove common contact points such as fonts, passed baskets, hymnals/missals, wipe pews with disinfectant….heck, everybody wear playtex gloves…WHATEVER IT TAKES.

    I have volunteered to pull hymnals, wipe pews, sit in an ooen church (ours is normally locked solid except for Mass) for half a day daily and handle the door for visitors, wipe down where they sat/knelt, and offered to use the other half of day fetching groceries for the frail and scared.

    And would you care to guess our office/legal liability manager bishop and local priest response? Not even the courtesy of a reply, not even from the local priest, whether to a verbal or written offer.

    And so utterly abandoned are the majority of parishes in the USA….”you’re on your own pal. see you when this is over,”….except they will see a lot less people when this is over, and am not talking about fatalities from the virus, but those who see these parishes are filled with only walking dead functionaries not there for them in a time of crisis, and whose first instinct always and everywhere is to lock it down, whether for fear of theft and vandalism, or fear of disease…

    • Similar experience; I only suggested private prayer though. Some Protestant churches are allowing that.
      Our bishop’s decree said nothing about allowing people to come in to sweep, dust, etc. Our “mission parish” does not have any paid staff to clean, yard keep. We are all volunteers. This is typically about the time a few of us get together to clean for Easter–which has been “cancelled.”
      I emailed. Silence.

    • Bob,
      I hear you. It’s a very strange world out there.
      Initially when I was reading early news about the Wu Flu the whole panic-mode tone made me a bit skeptical.(People fighting over the last roll of toilet paper, etc.)

      I’m not a scientist nor have a single credential to stand on but I have followed news articles about NIH Director Dr.Francis Collins & I know his family from years back. I’d really recommend looking at his recent interviews about the virus. But not right before going to bed like I did last night. Big mistake.

      I know Dr. Collin’s is legit & I don’t believe he’s pushing a political agenda. He may be wrong-I hope he is-but if our states follow his type of quarantine recommendations -as CA & NY apparently are- we’re going to be in a very difficult situation economically & practically speaking.
      And I also heard early on that this mostly affects the frail & elderly. It’s true that the morbidity rate in those populations has made up the overwhelming number of deaths, but much younger people are in ICU in Italy now. Please God, they’ll survive but they’re in a very serious condition gasping for air.50% of the patients in one Italian ICU are under 60 yrs old. It’s terribly disturbing to watch.
      So, I know this isn’t the Black Death, it too will pass & most children & young people will be ok, but the rest of us need to be very careful. At this point I’m good with drive thru Confessions & whatever other innovations our dioceses can come up with. I want to be around to celebrate Easter next year.

      NIH Director: ‘We’re on an Exponential Curve’

  6. Like the self-proclaimed by Reinhard Marx “catholic church of Germany” (lower case because of their lower-case Catholicism), the Overtly Godless have a long, historical, super consistent, solid record of FAILURE. They worship FAILURE and promote FAILURE as a “heaven on earth for all”, “justice”, “equality”, etc. Being limited, faulty humans, our Real FAILURE always comes through one single road: both lack of True REPENTANCE before God and UNFORGIVENESS. Guess what the very popular, “Divinized” Glorified Failure movement furiously promotes at its very core?

    That’s the main aim of the Overtly Godless as they do their “society/world saving” activism and their defamation, infiltration and destruction of Christianity (the simply atheistic not included here)! Who needs repentance and forgiveness when you can worship yourself, the State, the elites, Pachamama, a heretic and/or homosexual Catholic prelate, a power-hungry “ordained” woman, or anyone or anything else you want? It’s Total Insanity and that’s the age we live in now.

    As the Book of Revelation describes, this Total Insanity refuses to repent and forgive even when Jesus’ Return and Judgment becomes absolutely obvious: “And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk [Pachamama, etc.]: Neither repented they of their murders [abortion, liberal society], nor of their sorceries [rising occultism, false religions, cults], nor of their fornication [sexual revolution, homosexuality, transgenderism, etc.], nor of their thefts [popular collectivist socialism]”, (Revelation 9:20-21).

    The worship of FAILURE in any way, form or manner is SUICIDE and feeds the hateful, murderous hunger of Satan: “And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration”, (Revelation 17:6). This is what the Overtly Godless and also the Uber-Failed “catholic church of Germany” DO. They step on and spit on and drink the blood of those who gave everything for Jesus and His Truth, like delirious vampires, in order to worship FAILURE. Remember this every time the propaganda of sin, which is the worship of FAILURE, comes knocking at your conscience pushing you away from God and the Sacrament of Confession/Reconciliation and into comfortable, popular mediocrity! Mediocrity is not a “choice”, it is DEATH!

  7. Leslie ,
    Perhaps times like these remind us why 2 parents are needed in a home.
    I think the lack of genuine want for so many decades caused us to forget about what’s actually critical for families.

  8. I am a Roman Catholic priest residing in Maui County Hawaii, retired from the Diocese of San Diego. Public celebrations are banned in my state. I celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass daily at home with the intention of relief from the pestilence and return to public worship. If someone requests the Sacrament of Penance, I celebrate it for them in a safe manner. There are ways to bring people to God when secular and ecclesial authorities suggest otherwise. On the web I have seen drive through confessions, confessions outside in front of the church and even a Mass in a giant parking lot with the faithful in their vehicles and the priest in a trailer.

  9. Thank you for all your work and great articles and books.

    I am concerned with the contents of your article regarding England rededicating themselves to Our Lady and the prospect of resurrecting the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. Has the coronavirus halted these plans or are they going to go forward?

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