Sunday, November 28, 2010

Doublethink

In his latest go at squaring the circle, reconciling religion and science, on Huffington Post, Clay Farris Naff insists that God is real -- because so many people say that He is.

"In reconceptualizing faith," Naff assures us, "you can liberate God from the ancient traps of theology."

I'm much more interested in liberating mankind from this kind of theological doublethink. Nineteen Eighty-Fouris a powerful, terrifying novel, but doublethink and doublespeak and the Ministry of Love and "Two and two are as many as we say" remind me so much more of Christianity than of any Communist institution past or present.

By Naff's standards, witches and the laws of alchemy and astrology were real almost everywhere as late as the late 15th century. Lynn Thorndike gives a fascinating account of how prevalent such beliefs were in medieval society in Chapter XXII of Volume VIIIof the old Cambridge Medieval History, New York: MacMillian, 1936. Universities published annual astrological predictions, physicians were required to own astrolabes and handbooks of astrology and vie for astrological prowess with the theologians, most leading monarchs employed court astrologers, as even leading humanists such as Aeneas Sylvius, the later Pope Pius II, urged that they should.

A scant five centuries and change, and look how such superstitions have been almost entirely overcome, and who would argue that this is not for the good?

As with one superstition, so with another.

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