A severe empiricist reveals his deepest longings.
(Page 2 of 3)
It’s all pretty improbable. We know of no aspect of selfhood that does not depend on functioning brain matter. From the point of view of simple psychology, though, it is easy to see why such ideas should be widespread. The hope of something better in a new life to come has kept innumerable souls slogging forward through drudgery and pain. This medieval peasant, for example, struggling from his lice-ridden bed in the damp half-light of an English morning to slop out the pigs:
Hierusalem, my happy home,
When shall I come to thee?
When shall my sorrows have an end
Thy joys when shall I see?
No dampish mist is seen in thee,
Nor cold nor darksome night;
There every soul shines as the sun,
There God himself gives light.
Similarly with the Other Place, though it is now somewhat out of favor. (There has even been a school of modern theologians, led by Hans Urs von Balthasar, who argue that hell is empty.) Resentment at the misbehavior of others is a natural instinct in any social animal; yet the most cursory acquaintance with this world reveals it to be a place where the wicked prosper while the righteous perish in their righteousness. We need some balm for our resentment. Our imaginations dutifully supply it. “I hope you burn in hell!” screams the wife of the deceased as the convicted murderer is led from the dock, and we all sympathize with her hope, even if we cannot share it.
However, the less-simple psychology unearthed by researchers of this past few decades has shown us that the human mind is a great self-deceiver, with an apparently limitless capacity to cook up stories to make sense of the world, and even, post facto, of our own actions. The suspicion arises that heaven and hell belong to the class of these self-spun tales—-psychologically healthful perhaps, evolutionarily advantageous even, but without any foundation in reality.
Kreeft tackles this in Chapter Five:
Whatever the origin of the idea of heaven, doesn’t the idea actually function as escapism?…The first and simplest answer to the charge that belief in heaven is escapism is that the first question is not whether it is escapist but whether it is true.
Aha! Here should come something worth reading: an explanation as to why one would think the idea of heaven relates to a true fact.
Whether it makes us happy or not, we must believe only what is true.
We must be clear about this because we are about to embark upon a survey of many psychological advantages of belief in heaven, in answer to the charge of escapism; none of these is a valid reason for believing it.
Right! Of course not! So the reasons for believing it are…?
Philosophical arguments, intuitive wisdom, faith in divine revelation in the Bible and the Church, and above all the resurrection of Jesus.
In short, woo: stuff which, if you’re that way inclined, you will believe, and if not, not. Nothing in the way of actual…evidence.
Kreeft follows the master in attaching momentous words to trivial responses. What to (I imagine) most of us is worth at best a few seconds’ idle reflection, is to these ponderers “terrifying,” “awe—inspiring,” or “a sadness larger than the world.” (Which, the author tells us, lies “at the heart of our greatest pleasures.” Speak for yourself, pal.)
Imagine God appeared to you and said, “I’ll make a deal with you if you wish. I’ll give you anything and everything you ask…Nothing will be a sin, nothing will be forbidden…You will never be bored and you will never die. Only…you shall never see my face.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?