Towards the end of his brilliant and devastating critique of contemporary new-atheism, David Bentley Hart writes, of professional academics:
“Admittedly, I am still talking about only a small number of particular individuals here, and those manifestly moral idiots. Living in the academic world, moreover, I am acquainted with their kind to a perhaps unhealthy degree. Some of them are, however, influential, and it is not entirely insignificant that their ideas – which at one time would have been rightly regarded by almost anyone as the degenerate ravings of sociopaths – are strangely palatable and even compelling to many of their fellows.
Their voices may, then, be acute manifestations of a more chronic condition. If nothing else, their ideas demonstrate how easy it is even for educated persons today to believe – for no reason other than unreflective intellectual prejudice – knowing that how genes work is the same thing as being authorized to say what a person is or should be.
This is one of the many reasons that I suspect that our contemporary “age of reason” is in many ways an age of almost perfect unreason, one always precariously poised upon the edge of – and occasionally slipping over into – the purest barbarism. I suspect that, to a far greater degree than we typically might imagine, we have forsaken reason for magic: whether the magic of occult fantasy or the magic of an amoral idolatry of our own power over material reality.
Reason, in the classic and Christian sense, is a whole way of life, not the simple and narrow mastery of certain techniques of material manipulation, and certainly not the childish certitude that such mastery proves that only material realities exist.
A rational life is one that integrates knowledge into a larger choreography of virtue, imagination, patience, prudence, humility, and restraint. Reason is not only knowledge, but knowledge perfected in wisdom. In Christian tradition, reason was praised as a high and precious thing, principally because it belonged intrinsically to the dignity of beings created in the divine image; and, this being so, it was assumed that reason is always morality, and that charity is required for any mind to be fully rational.
Even if one does not believe any of this, however, a rational life involves at least the ability to grasp what it is one does not know, and to recognize that what one does not know may not be the only kind of genuine knowledge there is.”
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