Christianity and Western Civilization - Faith and Human Liberty

Jurgen Habermas is a well-noted scholar in the field of communication and the last of the philosophers of the renowned Frankfurt School in Germany. Joseph Ratzinger, also a noted German philosopher, formerly the head theologian of the Roman Catholic Church, is presently employed as the Roman Catholic Bishop of Rome. But most know him as Pope Benedict.

"The Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion", these two scholars present parallel essays which discuss the roles of reason and faith in contemporary Western democratic societies.

In the last two centuries, philosophers have been eager to proclaim that God is dead and that He has no role in contemporary society. Not surprisingly, this has gone hand-in-an attack on the belief in natural law - the guiding principles of democratic reforms which argue that rights are God-given and that governments exist to serve people, not to control and distribute power and money. Eager radicals such as Hitler and Lenin rushed in to fill the void with totalitarian societies in which the killing of millions in their quests for what they saw as the ideal. It was interesting to see even Habermas, a self-described "methodical atheist", who argued that "philosophy has good reasons to be willing to learn from religious traditions", admit that the trend of secularization reversing course:

There is an increasing consensus that certain phases of the "modernization of the public consciousness" involve the assimilation and the reflexive transformation of both religious and secular mentalities.

While Habermas recognized that Christian philosophical outlooks have a valuable role in contemporary society, he failed to explain how the guarantees of human liberty which are central to the beliefs of natural law can be replaced with equally-effective secular safeguards.

In response, Benedict's essay makes a number of points, beginning by pointing out that a free society had room for those without faith, but that a free society could not exist without faith and the philosophical foundations of natural law. In other words, Christians may not need athetists, but atheists need Christians.

The book is under 100 pages so it's something you can easily cover over a weekend, but packed with some very deep thinking that can make for some profound reading. It's well worth a read.

1 Response to "Christianity and Western Civilization - Faith and Human Liberty"

  1. right revv'ed up Rhino 5/6/09 09:07
    Despite the secularists' and moral relativists' claims, absent God, there is no meridian of good and evil. That measure has only two values, binary like the simplest operations of the computer you are using, good or evil, 1 or 0, no in betweensies.

    "but for me and my house, we shall choose the Lord"

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