Friday, November 9, 2012

Escaping the eye of judgment

Decades ago conversation with someone who had "lost" faith convinced me that at least one reason for atheism is the desire not to be held to account. David Conway provides an interesting and extensive review of Roger Scruton's The Face of God. Scruton, and then Conway:
‘[In] the culture that prevails today… belief in God is widely rejected… But… we lose [more than merely it]… when we lose that belief… [because] atheist culture… is not only an intellectual phenomenon… but also a moral phenomenon…[While] atheists can be thoroughly upright people… there is more than one motive underlying… atheist culture… and the desire to escape from the eye of judgment is one of them. You escape from the eye of judgment by wiping away the face [of God].’
In these opening remarks from his 2010 Gifford Lectures, Roger Scruton suggests something more, and more worrisome, than mere changes of prevailing belief are impelling the West’s current headlong rush towards ever greater secularity. What lies behind it, he intimates, is not simply the intellectual repudiation of God’s existence, but rather an attempt by many to evade the moral corollaries attendant upon its acknowledgement. Among these corollaries, the one from which many are seeking to escape, Scruton is claiming, is the consciousness of always being scrutinized by an all-seeing eye who discerns and judges our every thought and deed. The salutary moral influence of such a form of consciousness was well described by Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiments, when he wrote:
The idea that, however we may escape the observation of man, or be placed above the reach of human punishment, yet we are always acting under the eye… of God… is a motive capable of restraining the most headstrong passions… The religious man… never acts deliberately but as in the presence of that Great Superior who is finally to recompense him according to his deeds. [Part 111, ch. 5, section 12.]
To evade recognition of that all-seeing eye, contends Scruton, demands expunging all trace of God from our world, and since God’s presence may be detected, at least potentially, wherever beauty and goodness reside, whatever possesses either attribute must be defaced by those seeking to evade Him. The result today, according to Scruton, is the increasing defilement and pollution of our physical and moral world in the endeavor to remove from the face of the earth all trace of God.

Atheists, of course, will deny anything save error becomes lost when religion is abandoned. Scruton disagrees, although he acknowledges individual atheists may possess as much moral integrity as believers. .... [more]
Till We Contemplate Faces | Online Library of Law and Liberty