The Amazon Synod has displayed a bewildering array of images representative of various values and aspects of indigenous cultures. Some images, such as a woman suckling her own baby as well a fawn, evoke a sense of eco-religion that has many Christians confused about the kind of dialogue the Church is seeking with the world right now.
Yet it’s worth stepping back from the particulars of these controversies to consider that the Catholic Church has a stronger view of creation than either the native spiritualism of eco-religion or the skeptical materialism which our contemporaries toggle between today.
I want to suggest that the rising secular fascination with eco-religion is, in fact, an unexpected byproduct of a scientific materialism that mistakenly excludes belief in God. The scientific method is brilliant at arriving at an understanding of material things under set conditions, but it is often reductive. The method itself cannot exclude God, but many scientists, or those who claim to be scientific, are quite insistent, with Pierre-Simon LaPlace, that they have no need of that hypothesis called God. And perhaps, in a very limited sense, this is true. They come to a certain understanding of the material world without ever considering metaphysical causation, or God. But as they look for larger explanations for how all the material parts fit together, the way they see how all the parts fit together will eventually sound religious.
Thus it is not uncommon for a person today to sit with two contradictory views: on the one hand they will regard the natural world to be of infinite value. For some, the fawn will be even more valuable than a human child suckling at her mother’s breast; and yet at the same time they will also believe the created world is the result of haphazard chance without any intelligent directive agent which we could call God. This contradiction is almost unbearable for the animal who is religious by nature. And so the philosophical materialist and the religious naturalist will, in a certain respect, eventually, call out to each other in a secular world.
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