“The great sociologist of religion Emile Durkheim called the contrast between the sacred and the profane the widest and deepest of all contrasts the human mind is capable of making,” wrote the late Robert Nisbet. “Everything above the level of the instinctual, Durkheim concluded, began in human veneration, awe, reverence of the sacred — be it a god, spirit, grove of trees, or lake or stream. Religion in the sense of gods, churches, liturgies, and bibles emerged in due time from the primitive sacred essence. So did the rest of human culture, its signs, symbols, words, drawings, and acts.”
A fascinating observation. I happened to run across it while I was marveling at the curious evangelical zeal of those who want Darwinism taught in the public schools but want to ban the teaching of intelligent design. Why do they care so much? Apparently nothing is holy, but Darwin is Holy Writ.
I used to believe in evolution myself, but I took no joy in it. Who could? If atheism is true, then nothing really matters — not even atheism. Even as a kid I could see that. In my atheistic days I thought nothing quite as silly as the militant atheist. I loved the story of Jesus and the Catholic Church, I regretted losing my faith, and I couldn’t understand people who could be enthusiastic about living in a cold, godless universe. I tried to make art — especially Shakespeare and Beethoven — my consolation prizes for the religion I’d lost. At least they made me feel as if I had a soul, even if the cheerless dogma of Darwin said otherwise.
Then, as a young adult, I met two astounding people who might as well have come straight from heaven on wings of angels. They were my first two children. I could believe that the rest of the human race, myself included, were accidents of mere matter, but it was soon obvious to me that these two had immortal souls, and that I was responsible for them. Life undeniably had a purpose after all — not survival, but love.
It wasn’t just that I loved these kids; far more important, God loved them and expected me to teach them about his love. Not to do so would have been the worst form of neglect. And in teaching them that God loved them, I realized that he loved me the same way, and always had, even when I hadn’t thought about him and denied his existence.
Now why would anyone want to teach kids that they are ultimately worthless? I can see reluctantly believing that, maybe. But teaching it eagerly?
Modern atheism, waving the banner of Science, has the emotional character of a perverted religion, taking a morbid pleasure in preaching and converting and, in its intolerance, demanding a privileged place in education. This isn’t just “separation of church and state” — two things that are separate by nature anyway. The glee with which Darwinists attack and insult Christianity tells you what they really want, and why the idea of evolution appeals to them.
Like its nineteenth-century twin, Marxism, Darwinism demonstrates the profound truth of the adage that misery loves company. Spoiled souls always want to spoil other souls, as the drive for “sex education” also shows. If I can’t be innocent, neither can you! “Ye shall be as gods.” The Lord and the serpent both promise that the truth shall make us free, but one of them is lying.
Survival isn’t the purpose of life, just the necessary condition of finding its real purpose. The universal sense of the sacred that Durkheim noted is separate from the urge to survive, and often at war with it. Biology can’t explain the idea of the holy, which we all share and, in varying degrees, understand, though nobody fully comprehends it.
For Darwinism, the sense of the sacred is just awkward excess baggage, possibly even a threat to survival. After all, atheism’s only commandment is “Thou shalt survive,” and from its perspective what could be more absurd than sacrifice and martyrdom, losing your life in order to save it?
But denying a mystery is no way to solve it, and we are stuck with the mystery of the human soul, which loves all sorts of useless things, as long as they are true, or good, or beautiful. Any philosophy that ignores our deepest loves is too crass to be interesting.