Theologies of Ignorance

Religion, along with the object of its worship, is supposed to have died at the hands of the New Scientists and philosophes of the 17th and 18th centuries. Gone, at least for thinking men and women, were the twin authorities of church and king, both of which claimed their truths from the mouth of God. But it turns out, magical thinking is alive and well. It lives on in the minds and hearts of all shades of the political spectrum, sometimes in the name of Science itself.

Denis Diderot

A few years ago, 200,000 people, characterized in the media as “ultra-Orthodox” Jews, climbed a tall hill in Israel to commemorate a rabbi of sacred memory. On their way back down, almost 50 of them died in the crush that occurred on the narrow slippery path. There are and always have been numerous Christian communities with similar beliefs about their own leaders and their unique, divinely inspired mission. When they are short-lived like the Branch Davidians, immolated in 1993, or the Jim Jones group who willingly drank poisoned Cool Aid in 1978 so as to enter the gates of paradise without having to wait for a natural death, we call them cults. If they have a history longer than a couple decades, they become sects or denominations. If they catch on in a big way, they qualify as religions.

The last time I checked, the calendar said 2023. An intellectual revolution was waged 300 years ago to liberate humankind from a thousand years of what those revolutionaries saw as superstition and primitive, non-critical thinking. We moderns live in houses equipped with high-speed Internet and flush toilets thanks to the Newtons, Voltaires, Mendelssohns, Humes, Diderots, Leibnitzes, and their intellectual colleagues throughout Europe. We have them to thank for a nation run not by kings and clerics but, on paper at least, by ordinary citizens. They encouraged us to use our minds without preconditions or limitation. They achieved what they did by dint of a courageous passion for the truth. They were not, like many of today’s atheists, brought up in free-thinking environments, smugly scratching their heads at the folly of religious believers. The men and women of the Enlightenment largely came out of strict religious families and attended religious schools. Many of them had nuns and priests as close relatives. The father of the Jewish version of the Enlightenment, Moses Mendelssohn, was the son of a Torah scribe. Without him, the phrase “Orthodox Jew” would have no meaning today because there would be no Reform or Conservative—never mind “secular”—but only Orthodox Jews.

Yet in our time the word “science” has become a suspect, if not downright pernicious practice for a large part of a nation founded by some of those 18th-century revolutionaries. Tens of millions of Americans believe Evolution is just a “theory,” not a well-founded, rigorously-tested explanation for life on earth. Millions believe the universe was created 5,000 years ago, and the fossils we find in rocks are not the remains of life forms that existed hundreds of millions of years ago, but were put there by God to test our faith in his sacred Word….

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About Thomas J. Hubschman

Thomas J. Hubschman is the author of Look at Me Now, My Bess, Song of the Mockingbird, Billy Boy, Father Walther’s Temptation, The Jew’s Wife & Other Stories and three science fiction novels. His work has appeared in New York Press, The Antigonish Review, Eclectica, The Blue Moon Review and many other publications. Two of his short stories were broadcast on the BBC World Service.

Posted on April 25, 2023, in Politics, religion, Social Issues, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Excellent write-up / essay, as always, Tom — congrats!

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