Sunday, May 24, 2009

May 30, 1940. New York

Instead of having faith, which is a virtue, and therefore nourishes the soul and gives it a healthy life, people merely have a lot of opinions, which excite the soul but don't give it anything to feed it, just wear it out until it falls from exhaustion. 
An opinion isn't one thing or the other: it is neither science nor faith, but has a little bit of either one. It is a rationalization bolstered up by some orthodoxy which you happen to respect which, naturally, starves the mind instead of feeding it (and that is what people who have no faith imagine faith does, but they don't know what they are talking about, because faith is a virtue and active habit which cannot even pretend to rationalize anything it seeks what is beyond reason).
In this situation, where there are hundreds of people which no faith, who don't really believe anything much, long inquiries are constantly being carried out as to what various persons "believe." Scientists, advertising men, sociologists, soldiers, critics, are all asked what they believe inasmuch as they are scientists, advertising men, etc. Apparently there is a separate belief appropriate to every walk of life. Anyway, they all answer with brisk one thousand word articles stating some opinion or other that they have picked up somewhere. The result is enough to make you break down and sob. 
H.G. Wells has tried to spend his whole life telling people "what he believes." that is, trying to get them to accept his own confused opinions about the purpose of human life, if any. Since, from what I hear, he isn't even a particularly good scientist, he hasn't even got the basis he thinks he has for all his other statements: but even if he were a good scientist, his science isn't a sufficient basis for the metaphysical and moral statements he tries to make. At the same time he complicates his position very curiously by denying that metaphysics or morals are really relevant at all. His life work would be a spectacular failure if there could be anything spectacular about someone so completely unimportant as H. G. Wells.
It should be the great pride and strength of every Christian that we have no ready, ten-minute, brisk, chatty answer to the question what we believe, except in the words of the Apostle's Creed which are not really comprehensible to scientists anyway. It should be our greatest strength that we don't have, on the end of our tongues, a brief and pithy rationalization for the structure and purpose of the whole universe, only a statement that, to a scientist, is a scandal: an article of faith. God created the world and everything in it for Himself, and the heavens proclaim His glory. It should be our greatest strength that we don't have any rationalizations to explain the war "scientifically" and have no "scientific" solution to all our economic problems.
The greatest weakness of Marxists, for example, is the readiness with which they can explain absolutely anything in brisk and chatty and pseudoscientific terms. They have not yet begun to feel ridiculous since their explanations have taken to contradicting themselves completely from one day to the next: they still believe that the are being scientific. Surely, the faith that science can contradict itself and still be science is a faith that doesn't honor science at all, because the only value science pretends to have is that it is certain and cannot contradict itself.
Faith on the other hand is always contradicting itself, because everything we say about God is so inadequate that it always runs us head first into a paradox.
In certain things, it is even more the glory of the Catholic than that of the skeptic to say "I don't know."
As a matter of fact, the true skeptics doubts in order that he may know. If there is no other certainty, he doubts so as to reduce everything to the level of his own, human, and fallible notions of certainty. But a Christian believes in order to submit all the products of his own fallible judgement to the test of a revelation that is infallible and divine and eternal-- as obscure as it is infallible, obscure and mysterious because it is as simple as it is divine.

Thomas Merton-Run to the Mountain, page 126-27

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