Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Daniel Dennett on the Wisdom or Otherwise of Reforming Religions

Readers will be familiar with the little Chesterton quote in my side bar: "Reformers are always right about what is wrong, but generally wrong about what is right".

I was surprised this evening, while reading an excellent little book called "The Future of Atheism", to find support for this Chestertonian thesis from none other than Daniel Dennett, author of "Breaking the Spell":
Many of the attempts to reform religion have been misguided; they've been under-informed, and they have done more harm to their religions than good. If you want to save your religion, if you want to improve your religion, you better understand how it works.
I was surprised because I never thought I would find him expressing an idea with which I have such a high degree of agreement. The problem with many of our liberal dissenting reformers today is surely exactly this: they attempt to "reform" Catholicism on the basis of completely mistaken ideas about what sort of religion it actually is, thus doing far more harm than good.


At Wednesday, December 31, 2008 6:01:00 am , Blogger Past Elder said...

Speaking of completely mistaken ideas about what sort of religion it actually is, what came up in earlier comboxes is the same here.

You marvel at the appearance of "liberal dissent" fully formed in full flower because you do not see it for what it is -- the more radical wing of a movement that had been growing for decades whose more moderate elements prevailed at Vatican II.

It's all dissent from Catholicism; you just accept the more moderate form that won the titles. money and real estate and now lyingly calls itself Catholicism.

At Wednesday, December 31, 2008 10:02:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

So, here's the question, PE: When the entire institution is in dissent, what is it in dissent FROM?

At Wednesday, December 31, 2008 10:19:00 am , Blogger Past Elder said...

From what it was before.

At Wednesday, December 31, 2008 12:45:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

By that argument, everything that exists today is in dissent from what it was before.

That is, you could say the same for Lutheranism or any other manifestation of Christianity. Christianity itself is, today, in dissent from what it was yesterday. Human civilization is in dissent from what it was yesterday.

This is pointless, PE.

At Wednesday, December 31, 2008 5:14:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

No, by that argument everything that exists to-day is not in dissent from what it was before. Different is not dissent. You completely ignore the point, therefore find it pointless.

The point is, what is now post-conciliar orthodoxy and dissent originate in the same movement and represent different points on the same spectrum -- to ignore which predictably would lead one to be amazed at "dissent" arriving in full bloom -- all of which is dissent from Catholicism.

Roncalli, Montini, Luciani, Wojtyla, Ratzinger, the Documents of Vatican II, the novus ordo missae are but a milder, more conservative end of the same spectrum of which Kueng, Schillebeeckx, Rahner, the Dutch Catechism, Call to Action, etc. are the more liberal.


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