Friday, June 3, 2022

"A very dangerous inversion"

This morning, discussing today's religious right, Kevin Williamson quotes from T.S. Eliot's 1939 The Idea of a Christian Society:
...[W]hat is worst of all is to advocate Christianity, not because it is true, but because it might be beneficial.... [We] experienced a wave of revivalism which should teach us that folly is not the prerogative of any one political party or any one religious communion, and that hysteria is not the privilege of the uneducated. The Christianity expressed has been vague, the religious fervor has been a fervor for democracy. It may engender nothing better than a disguised and peculiarly sanctimonious nationalism, accelerating our progress towards the paganism which we say we abhor.

To justify Christianity because it provides a foundation of morality, instead of showing the necessity of Christian morality from the truth of Christianity, is a very dangerous inversion; and we may reflect, that a good deal of the attention of totalitarian states has been devoted, with a steadiness of purpose not always found in democracies, to providing their national life with a foundation of morality — the wrong kind perhaps, but a good deal more of it. It is not enthusiasm, but dogma, that differentiates a Christian from a pagan society. ....
T.S. Eliot, The Idea of a Christian Society, 1939.

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