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A Response to Enemies of the Faith

Charlie Brown and Linus are sitting on the floor, looking at something in a book and laughing. Lucy comes up to them and asks what they are laughing at. They show her, and she asks, “Why are you laughing at it?”

“Because we don’t understand it,” they say.

In old days, people among the intelligentsia who rejected the Christian faith were not entirely ignorant of what they were rejecting, even if they were usually also not deeply learned in Christian history, art, literature, philosophy, and theology. Sometimes they were learned, as was Henry Adams, who compared the cathedral to Our Lady at Chartres favorably to the “dynamo,” the most impressive invention on display at a great scientific exposition in Paris. Sometimes, like the sad and humane Matthew Arnold, they knew that the Christian faith had brought to the world the highest and noblest morality that man had ever found, and they wanted to preserve and even enhance that morality, if such a thing were conceivable, even while they could no longer accept the faith itself. Sometimes they were embittered enemies, like Nietzsche, who still understood, though in a monstrously distorted way, the grandeur of the God whose death they declared.

None of that is true now. None of it. We must say it to ourselves over and over. The enemies of the faith are no more learned than are all too many of our fellow believers. One Ta-Nehisi Coates, a self-described atheist, and a recipient of a popularly called “genius award” from the MacArthur Foundation, caused something of a stir a year ago when he admitted, without embarrassment, not only that he had never read Saint Augustine, but that he had never even heard of him. The self-styled “new atheists” do not read Thomas Aquinas, or John Henry Newman, or Etienne Gilson, or anybody, except perhaps once in a while in snippets detached from the whole and misunderstood. It’s downhill from there, if you are talking even about college professors in the humanities, let alone professors in the usually hostile social sciences, professors in other fields, school teachers, television personalities, journalists, and everybody with a computer and an account on social media.

Read more at Crisis Magazine. 

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