Secularists are known for dismissing religion as merely espousing a set of blind faith beliefs without any evidence to support them. The crudest among them will often do it in a snide and sneering way, holding that religious belief is imagination and fantasy—like a childhood fairy tale—in contrast to the “scientific” view that they espouse. Actually, they betray themselves as the truly ignorant ones. First, they pay no attention to the “evidence that demands a verdict”—to use the title of a noted apologetic book—about Christianity and the internal consistency of its teaching. They just want to explain away obvious manifestations of the Divine. As Pope St. John Paul II once said, the Church is not afraid of the truth; she readily subjects herself to a searching examination of the validity of her claims.
Second, evangelical secularists embrace a narrow, incomplete definition of “science” as just involving empirical study. They can’t fathom that philosophy is also a science, which operates from evidence and sound reasoning. They seem unaware of how non-empirical, essentially philosophical, principles stand behind their own perspective. They also can’t grasp that other principles that they embrace—such as a defense of human rights and a rejection of racism—could not possibly be derived from empirical science.
Third, they don’t even understand what philosophy actually is. Both the evangelical secularists and those in American institutions who have reflexively embraced their mindset—like the public school officials who think that, say, chastity education violates the separation of church and state—can’t distinguish philosophy from theology. They seem unaware of such basic philosophical principles as causality and of the capabilities of human reason unassisted by Revelation to approach the Divine. One readily thinks here of Aristotle’s philosophical proof of the existence of God and, for that matter, of an order of beings between God and man (what Christians and Jews call the angelic).
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Even as the secularists and the culture they have shaped scorns religion—and especially Christianity—as blind faith, one is awestruck by the catalog of their own blind faith beliefs. These are beliefs that often have no basis in the empirical science they claim to be devoted to, and sometimes even defy reason. We can find such blind faith beliefs everywhere in the secular culture. Christians have even unthinkingly accepted some of these because they have heard them so often. Here are some of the most obvious ones.
It is a given that there is global warming, to say nothing of the fact that its primary cause has to be the activities of people. This is in spite of the fact that in many areas we see very cold winters, colder than in previous years, and the historical record indicates that there are periods when average temperatures rise a bit and others when they go down. For the global warming enthusiasts, the actual weather, or the buffer of atmospheric phenomena like cloud cover, make no difference. We are just supposed to trust their computer models (even though this is supposed to be science, somehow conclusive empirical research really isn’t necessary).
What I call the “grand theory of evolution”—that man evolved from lower life forms—is an obvious example of a blind faith belief, again wrapped in the mantle of science. There is a hierarchy of scientific certitude: when a certain amount of evidence has been gathered but there is still considerable room for alternative explanations, we have a hypothesis; when the level of proof is considerably greater and the room for alternative explanations shrinks, we reach the level of a theory; when the evidence is indisputable and the realities clear, we have a law (such as gravity). People routinely call evolution a theory, and the evolutionists treat it essentially as a law. Frankly, with all the holes in the “grand theory,” the best that we could call it is a hypothesis.
Related to this is the age of the earth. It is taken as a given by writers, teachers, journalists, commentators and the like that the earth is billions of years old. Maybe this is correct, but the view that this is a certainty and that the scientific means to determine it airtight is simply untrue. The fact is that empirical research can go only so far in establishing something like this and the grand theory of evolution; there is a lot of judgment and, frankly, guesswork involved.
On sexual and family matters, we see a range of blind faith beliefs that have profoundly influenced American life. One of these is that sexual activity, so long as it’s carried out by mutual consent and birth control is used, has no consequences—even for minors. Closely related to this is that contraceptives are 100% reliable and, further, have no health consequences for women (abundant research suggesting the opposite is simply ignored). A similar blind faith belief is that women can resort to abortion without any likely physical or psychological effects (even serious regrets or guilt). Yet another blind faith belief is that it doesn’t make any difference what kind of family situation a child grows up in, so that not only is divorce not a significant issue—despite resounding recent social science evidence to the contrary—but two “parents” of the same sex is also no big deal.
Indeed, homosexualism has spawned such blind faith beliefs as that same-sex attraction is intrinsic from birth—again, the evidence clearly points otherwise—and even that there is a “gay gene” (this is completely in the realm of fantasy). Both homosexualism and feminism have generated the belief that men and women are completely interchangeable, and that the only fundamental difference between them is biological. Even the biological difference between men and women diminishes in importance because of another blind faith belief of the secular culture: that sex can actually be changed surgically or even by simply decreeing oneself to be of the other sex (even though every cell in a male body continues to have a Y chromosome).
One of the most basic blind faith beliefs of secularists, tied up especially with sexual morality, is that so-called “personal morality” in no way affects social mortality. So, they effectively claim—contrary to all human experience—that there is a “rigid wall of separation” between the individual and the life of a culture. Another is that an egalitarian ethos and public policies based upon it will not adversely affect human incentive and achievement. One of the most obvious of blind faith beliefs is in politics: the notion of uninhibited democracy embraced by Western secular culture believes that a mass of untutored voters—who may have very little citizenship or even moral formation—can necessarily make good and intelligent political choices (this is quite different from what the likes of Aristotle, our Founding Fathers, and Tocqueville thought).
From the classical liberal side of the secular culture, there is the long-time blind faith belief that economics works by rigid laws—as opposed to simply acknowledging tendencies such as supply-and-demand that reflect human nature—that work automatically for human good (the “invisible hand”). This Enlightenment-generated perspective ignores the fact that nothing happens automatically and helped sever ethics from economics and ushered in the one-time reign of social Darwinism.
These examples of secularist blind faith beliefs are just the tip of the iceberg; one could probably think of many more. The point is: blind faith characterizes secularism, not true religion.
(Photo credit: Al Gore in Poland, 2008; REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)