The following excerpts on Positivism, Pantheism, Materialism, and Atheism come from Most Rev. Francis Clement Kelley, D.D., Ph.D., LL.D., Litt.D., Bishop of Oklahoma City and Tulsa, The Forgotten God, New York: Bruce Publishing Co., 1932; Chapter 4: "Misconceptions of God", pp. 33-44.
Let us see just a little of what the general run of modern philosophers offer against the Christian concept of God.
The first offering is classed as positivism, which means that man can know nothing but what he learns in an experimental way, working exclusively with what he apprehends through his senses. The man on the street, who says that he believes only what he sees, is a sort of popular or garden-variety positivist. He may not know it, but that is what he is. Positivism thus gets to the masses, but it was one of its higher-ups who wrote: "Science has at last put to flight the father of nature and is now engaged in reconducting God to His frontiers and thanking Him for His provisional services."
But God is not so quietly and easily disposed of. Into the workshop of positivism nothing is admitted but what can be perceived and experienced by the senses; that is, matter alone. Everything that is not matter must be excluded. The spirit does not exist for positivists. Very well. How do they account for the highest aspiration of man, his desire to reach beyond matter? Can they account for our longing for a justice so wide, an order so correctly measured, a love so all-embracing, a virtue so pure, that only perfection could possibly satisfy it? Can they account for the hopes of the poor, the inspiration of genius, the sadness of wealth, the despair of power, the emptiness of glory? Can they account for the refuge of prayer, confidence in affliction, hope beyond pain, and vision beyond death? Can they account for a life within that subdues and conquers the strongest desires and passions of the body? Can they account for the universal, never-dying might of the spirit, its longings for and toward the infinite?
"The infinite and all that you speak of is outside our field of thought," positivism answers. But why is anything outside a feld of thought that is part of life? By what right do you take a portion for exclusive study and experiment while expecting to arrive at an explanation of all life?
"But we are studying only that part at life," urges positivism. Then why do you mock at what you say is not known to you, the excluded part? Why do you claim that there is no God when you refuse to study the phenomena that clearly indicate His existence? Why do you ignore any faculty or possession of man when you try to study the origin of man? Experimentation is good, but if your experimenting ends where reason takes up its end of the burden, does it not end too soon? Reason never operates with a part alone. It demands all that is pertinent to the case.
Positivism has another difficulty to overcome. There is in man a spiritual guide called conscience, inexplicable unless we accept the Christian concept of God. He was a wise poet who said that "conscience doth make cowards of us all." But how could conscience make cowards of us all if conscience does not exist? Upon the dictates of conscience depends the morality of the world. Conscience operates even when religion is absent; not so surely, not so accurately, not in full vigor, but yet it operates. It is quite impossible to deny the existence of conscience. It is too plainly a major part of us. And experience, which positivism invokes as the great authority, tells us that conscience does exist and does operate. But, according to positivism's idea, nothing that is outside matter, that does not fall under the domain of the senses, can be considered. By what right does the positivist throw conscience out of his workshop? It is an existing thing even if we cannot touch, see, hear, smell, or taste it. It is out of conscience, too, that our universal sense of duty comes. Duty, too, exercises an influence beyond the control of the senses and is quite real. Indeed there is scarcely anything beyond the control of the senses that is more real to man than his sense of duty. But it does not come from the body. If it comes from the mind or soul, it is outside the domain of the circle of positivist philosophy. Why? The unconfessed reason is that it comes from God, and the positivist wants to begin and continue his investigation as an attempt to build up a case against God; for positivism wants to deny the existence of the absolute.
A great preacher who was also a great scholastic calls attention to the fact that the principles of mathematics are absolute. He asks how anyone can experiment in nature without mathematics, for the axioms of geometry, for example, are eternally there and eternally true. He asks a similar pertinent question about the laws of logic, about the order which rules all the phenomena of nature and which neither deceives nor lies. He suggests that thought be given to the principle of causality, which is, that the cause being given the certain result follows. "In such a way," he says, "that, the same conditions existing, if you have not the same result you must decide that your experiment is defective and rectify that experience by an absolute principal." Thus positivism is at contradiction with itself. It is nothing but materialism and atheism trying to stand on other ground.
An intermediate step backward from positivism to absolute atheism is pantheism. I say an intermediate step, because positivism merely leaves God out of the reckoning while pantheism leaves Him in but degrades Him. It is unnecessary here to do more than indicate what pantheism means to our man on the street. It means that God and the universe are one and the same. Mrs. Eddy said that matter does not exist, that all is spirit. She assumed the impossible task of explaining how a material thing could possibly have the attributes of spirit. But the pantheist has an even harder task. He must explain how the eternal and perfect spirit can have the defects of matter while remaining the One who has no defects at all. I prefer Mrs. Eddy's difficulty. Pantheism denies the undeniable. When Descartes said: "I think, therefore I am," he proclaimed the certainty of the individual personality. Pantheism says that the individual personality does not exist outside the universal personality which we may, if we wish, call God. We know that we are, each individual of us, responsible beings who rule ourselves, act in ourselves, think our own thoughts, live our own lives. Pantheism says not so. We know that the atoms of our bodies change many times during the span of our earthly life, that we have not the same flesh, skin, and bones that we had twenty years ago, yet still have our personal identity. Pantheism has to explain that but cannot. Pantheism says that there is but one existent substance -- God; that all things are outpourings from the substance of God, only manifestations of God. We say that they are creations of God. The pantheist says that I am God, that you are God, that your dog is God, that a house is God, that a garden is God, that the earth and the stars are God, that the universe is God. Thus pantheism throws experiment as well as reason out of doors. A cause cannot produce itself, yet the universe is plainly caused and dependent. Its cause is God. If He is one with what He has caused, He must have caused Himself. Again, if pantheism is true, then God, as part of all things, is subject to change, has changed and is constantly changing. But the infinite cannot change or He becomes finite. The universe grows, progresses, and improves as a finite thing. The perfect can do none of these things simply because there is nothing for Him to grow to, to progress to, to improve to.
The pantheist really denies the existence of the individual, for we cannot be even conscious of individuality if we are lost in a single, all-embracing consciousness; and we are conscious of individuality. We cannot be responsible, and therefore cannot be free, if we are merely irresponsible parts of an unchanging substance. If we are parts of God, then the infinite has parts and is no longer the infinite and we, being only parts, are not sure that we think, see, hear, or speak, which is simply the height of absurdity.
If pantheism is true, why put a thief in jail or electrocute a murderer? There is no crime. There is no virtue. When the mother punishes a bad child she is wasting her energy for he cannot be made good. She is inflicting an injustice on him, too. But no, she is not, for there is no such thing as injustice. Neither is there such a virtue as justice. There is, indeed, nothing to this whole talk of kings and presidents, moralists and legislators, priests and philosophers, about virtue. Virtue does not exist. As parts of God we can neither help ourselves nor hurt ourselves. And God becomes responsible for sin in spite of the self-evident fact that evil cannot exist in the infinite goodness. Pantheism, like positivism, fundamentally is nothing more than materialism and atheism.
Materialism says plainly that God does not exist; that all there is, is matter; that there is no spirit, no soul in man. All is a matter of atoms, but wonderful atoms which in some inexplicable way have the power of movement. They move, whirl about like the moons in Shakespeare, clash against one another and stay together, build, get into line, march, found communities called bodies (by the hundreds of millions), and endow these hundreds of millions of their own accidental making with movement order, and reason.
Where did the atoms get the power of motion? Materialism says that they always had it. Then they must always have been and, as it is presupposed there is nothing in existence but atoms, must have called themselves into being, and given themselves motion. Yet nothing can be self-existent but the infinite and atoms are not infinite. They are composed and the infinite cannot be composed for he has no parts. Atoms change. The infinite cannot change. Matter needs a cause to bring it into being. The atoms have had no cause but themselves. They cannot be infinite and finite at the same time. There is no move without a mover.
To the materialist, mind and matter are the same. If that were true, matter of itself could think, act, and expand. We must, then, appreciate poetry with our stomachs -- and, when music lifts us to the heights, it would be the result of nothing more than some fixed and quite ordinary movement of the blood or intestines. And, of course, there would be no such thing as freedom. The Declaration of Independence would mean about the same as the Ten Commandments which is nothing worth bothering about. As to knowledge, but -- there is no time to go into that.
What is the worth of these atoms of the materialist? They must be gods. If the materialist is correct in his theories, each one of them, being endowed with self-produced force and motion, is infinite. The Emperor Agrippa erected a temple in Rome which he called the Pantheon. It was a temple to all the gods of polytheism. What a Pantheon is the human body for the materialist! Who can number the atoms it contains? Well, if he is right, every atom of them is a god, not a god in the limited sense of Roman mythology, but a living, eternal, and all-perfect god. Alas, materialism's Pantheon would be then the great living temple of contradictions, for since more than one all-perfect cannot exist, its altars would have to be counted by billions. But science has now split atoms into smaller beings than themselves, atoms of atoms, but all endowed with the same life. These too would he gads in materialism's Pantheon of unbelief raised to the honor of the unbelievable. If the materialistic Pantheon of the human body is wonderful for the multitudes of its gods, what a marvel would be the body of an elephant.
But passing over much else that might be said here, let me again call attention to two facts. The first is that there is not a single anti-God philosophy of today that has a spark of originality in it when it comes to the task of explaining life. Most of it is pantheism couched in new forms, but always the old pantheism. You get it as naturalism or mechanism, which are cousins to dualism, polytheism, and the world soul. The philosophy of Socialism is built on the materialistic concept of history. When God and the soul are barred from the thinking process, nothing evolves but the old deification of matter.
The second fact may astonish you. I have had many opportunities of watching and studying the problem of religious persecution, and a paradox about it is that it is not, and scarcely ever has been, religious at all. The worst persecutors were those who had no religion, who proclaimed loudly that there is no God. Persecutions within Christianity, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, were started and continued for political motives only. List the greater ones and see: In England under Edward VI, Mary, of the royal succession. In France the worst, under the Guises, was part of the Huguenot attempt to dethrone the ruling royal house. In Bohemia and in Germany it was the same story. Even here in America the old Know-Nothing party was political and our more recent Klan had no other real aim than a political one.
But when the anti-God people persecute they do it for no such reason. Irreligious themselves, they are yet the chief fanatics of the earth about religion, and therefore the most brutally illogical. They persecute for no other reason than hatred for a God they claim does not exist. They alone have brought the bloody days of the past into these years of ours that we call civilized and enlightened. Millions have been their victims immediately before and since the Great War. They outdo the Guises in violence without their excuse. Spain had the robber Moorish invader from Africa, who occupied her fair fields, as a partial justification of the Inquisition and her defiance even of a protesting pope against its excesses. Mary of England had the attempt of the Cecils and Russells to deprive her of her crown and legitimacy. But what excuse has atheism? None but hatred, and hatred's record in history is written in blood. You read it to the sound of the crackling flames of burning cities, the clash of steel on armor, the thunder of falling thrones, the moans of innocence, the indecent ribaldry of men drunk with blood and lust. It is responsible for every major national disaster that has cursed this hard-tried earth. Hell was made for it and made out of it.
We ask ourselves the cause of the social, political, and economic troubles that today threaten not only our peace but the very existence of our civilization. To find the answer go back to the time, recent enough, when hatred was preached as a national military necessity; when the expression of sentiments of true universal charity was considered a criminal offense; when pulpits vied with pews in making a world safe for the dance of death. Where is the wealth and prosperity of the nations? Flung into the war-hell of hatred. The philosophy that taught an unwilling people to fight was the philosophy used to justify the hatred that was sent back to them with interest. It was pagan, materialistic, atheistic philosophy. We are getting it again in somewhat changed forms, but it is the same old demon whose jaws crunched the bones of empires. No personal God, means no moral responsibility, no distinction between good and evil, no virtue but that of worldly success, no pity but for one's own self, no kindness unless being put out of a world in which living is a heartache and a misery can be esteemed a mercy. Civilization's greatest enemy is the intellectual pride of man that sends his voice into the uncharted spaces to shout a defiance before what it mistakenly believes is an empty Throne!
The following exposition of Modernism is based mostly on Rev. J.B. Lemius, A Catechism of Modernism, Tan Publishers, P.O. Box 424, Rockford, IL 61105, 1981. This book, in turn, is founded on Pope Pius X's encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis (on Modernism).
The worldview of the the Middle Ages under the influence of the scholastic philosophy has always held that we, as human beings with the intellect created in the image and likeness of God, are capable of knowing the real world around us. Fundamental to this worldview are certain eternal truths which are necessary and not possible of alteration. Anything opposed to these truths is inconceivable and in the strictest sense impossible as is proved above in the case of Positivism, Pantheism, Materialsim, and Atheism. Among such truths are, "That a thing cannot, in the same sense, be and not be at the same time"; "That every effect must have a cause"; "That no change can take place unless brought about by an agent distinct from the thing changing." The philosophies fashionable during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries such as Modernism, however, are based on principles that are utterly at variance with these truths.
Modernism is based on Agnosticism which teaches that at man's intellect or human reason is able only to know appearances or phenomena, that is to say, things that are perceptible to the senses, and in the manner in which they are perceptible. Human intellect is utterly unable to grasp reality, or indeed to pronounce whether reality be at all. It teaches that the truths which man considered necessary is necessary only for a human being as his intellect must work in a body which occupies space. These truths are impossible to be verified beyond that sphere of phenomena to which he is inevitably confined. Man's intellect has no right and no power to transgress these limits. Hence it is incapable of lifting itself up to God, and of recognizing His existence, even by means of visible things. From this it is inferred that God can never be the direct object of science, and that, as regards history, He must not be considered as an historical subject.
It is a fixed and established principle among them that both science and history must be atheistic: and within their boundaries there is room for nothing but phenomena; God and all that is divine are utterly excluded. When God is not explained by external revelation outside of man, the explanation has to be sought in man and in the life of man.
The Modernists believe that the divine reality cannot be found except through a personal experience in which the intuition or sentiment of the heart plays a crucial part. This is the religious sentiment that makes the experiencing person a believer.
Dogmas must exist, since only in intellectual forms can experience be transmitted to others, but they are but symbols and do not express the truth experienced but rather some man's or men's reaction thereto, or, in their own phraseology, some aspect of truth. This system allowed its exponents, while professing belief in Christ, to deny any other than a symbolic truth to any article of the Creed concerning Him.
Given this doctrine of experience united with the other doctrine of symbolism, every religion, even that of paganism, must be held to be true. What is to prevent such experiences from being met in every religion? With what right can they claim true experiences for Catholics alone? Thus, Modernists do not deny, but actually admit, some confusedly, others in the most open manner, that all religions are true. For the Modernists, to live is a proof of truth, since for them life and truth are one and the same thing. Thus we are once more led to infer that all existing religions are equally true, for otherwise they would not survive.
The object of the religious sentiment, since it embraces the absolute, possesses an infinite variety of aspects, of which now one, now another, may present itself. In like manner, he who believes may pass through different phases. Consequently, intellectual formulas which we call dogmas, must be subject to these vicissitudes, and are, therefore, liable to change. Dogmas are not only able, but ought to evolve and to be changed. This is strongly affirmed by the Modernists, and as clearly flows from their principles. Dogmas, to be really religious and not merely theological speculations, ought to be living and to live the life of the religious sentiment, i.e. these dogmas should remain, adapted to the faith and to him who believes.
More generally, according to Modernists, in a living religion everything is subject to change, and must in fact change, and in this way they pass to what may be said to be, among the chief of their doctrines, that of evolution. Everything is subject to the laws of evolution: Dogmas, Church, worship, the Books we revere as Sacred, even faith itself, and the penalty of disobedience is death. For instance, the chief stimulus of evolution in the domain of worship consists in the need of adapting itself to the uses and customs of peoples, as well as the need of availing itself of the value which certain acts have acquired by long usage. Evolution in the Church itself is fed by the need of accommodating itself to historical conditions, and of harmonizing itself with existing forms of society.
Given the principle that in temporal matters the State possesses absolute mastery, it will follow that when the believer, not fully satisfied with his mere internal acts of religion, proceeds to external acts, such for instance as the administration or reception of the Sacraments, these will fall under the control of the State. What will then become of ecclesiastical authority, which can only be exercised by external acts? Obviously it will be completely under the dominion of the State.
The Modernists' conception of the magisterium of the Church is this : No religious society can be a real unit unless the religious conscience of its members be one, and one also the formula which they adopt. But this double unity requires a kind of common mind whose office is to find and determine the formula that corresponds best with the common conscience, and it must have, moreover, an authority sufficient to enable it to impose on the community the formula which has been decided upon. From the combination and, as it were, fusion of these two elements, the common mind which draws up the formula and the authority which imposes it, arises, according to the Modernists, the notion of the ecclesiastical magisterium. As this magisterium springs, in its best analysis, from the individual consciences, and possesses its mandate of public utility for their benefit, it follows that the ecclesiastical magisterium must be subordinate to them, and should therefore take democratic forms.
From this, we can easily see why the two groups "Call to Action" and "We Are Church" demand reforms in the Catholic Church, why the sacraments should change, why the people should elect the local Bishops, and why each Bishop can declare Dogmas according to his people's wishes. It is because Modernism, which acts like a cancer in the Church, has spread throughout the body of the Church, destroying some vital organs of the body, rendering the body near death. Modernism pervasively infected the Protestant Churches in the 18th and 19th centuries and brought them to an irreversible decline. It infected the Catholic Church mainly in some of its clergy at the beginning of 20th century. Then gradually through the negligence of the Bishops it practically infected the whole body of the Church. Now the Catholic Church in its majority of the faithful is made ready for the false ecumenism which calls for merging with other Christian denominations, and even with other religions. This is the true Great Apostasy predicted by St. Paul (2 Thessalonians 2: 3). To counteract this trend and to stand up for the truth to save the Church, we should give assent to the following condemnation of the errors and heresies propogated by the enemies of the Church. We should have perfect confidence in winning the battle since in Matthew 16: 18 "That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it", Our Lord assured us that these errors and heresies will not be able to destroy the Church. (One goes to Hell through one of its gates such as sins, errors, and heresies.)
· The following errors of Pantheism, Naturalism, Absolute Rationalism, and Modified Rationalism are condemned by Pope Pis IX in His Syllabus or Collection of Modern Errors, 1864:
· The following errors of Indifferentism (all religions are equally true; men can obtain eternal salvation in any religion) are condemned by Pope Pius IX in His Syllabus or Collection of Modern Errors, 1864:
· Pope Pius X defined Modernism as the synthesis of all heresies since if one were to attempt to collect together all the errors that have been broached against the faith and to concentrate the sap and substance of them all into one, he could not better succeed than the Modernists have done.
What is sentiment (movement of the heart) but the reaction of the soul on the action of the intelligence or the senses? In order "to go to God," sentiment is directed either by the intellect or by the senses. What must happen if the Modernists take away the guidance of intelligence? Taking away the intelligence, and man, already inclined to follow the senses, becomes their slave. Common sense tells us that emotion and everything that leads the heart captive proves a hindrance instead of a help to the discovery of truth. The emotion of the soul can at most lead to purely subjective truth, which is the fruit of sentiment and action, while it is of no use to the man who wants to know, above all things, whether outside himself there is a God into whose hands he is one day to fall.
What does experience add to sentiment? Absolutely nothing beyond a certain intensity and a proportionate deepening of the conviction of the reality of the object. But these two will never make sentiment into anything but sentiment, nor deprive it of its characteristic, which is to cause deception when the intelligence is not there to guide it; on the contrary, they but confirm and aggravate this characteristic, for the more intense sentiment is the more it is sentimental. The vast majority of mankind holds and always will hold firmly that sentiment and experience alone, when not enlightened and guided by reason, do not lead to the knowledge of God. What remains, then, but the annihilation of all religion -- atheism?
· The First Vatican Council (1869-1870) has made ex-cathedra anathema declarations against Modernism (anathema = cursed):
· The following errors (among others) held by the Modernists are condemned by Pope Pius X through the Decree of the Holy Office, "Lamentabili", July 3, 1907:
Detailed explanations of the condemnation of each of the above errors ( and more) can be found in the pamphlet "Encyclical Letter of Pope Pius X, On the Doctrines of the Modernists (Pascendi Dominici Gregis, September 8, 1907) and Syllabus Condemning the Errors of the Modernists (Lamenabili Sane, July 3, 1907)", published by Daughters of St. Paul, Boston, Massachusetts 02130, U.S.A.
Created July 16, 1996. Twelfth update: August 22, 1997 Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.