In Praise of the Gods: What the Rationalistic World Forgot


Rational insight is a powerful tool, and one of our worst excesses. When it becomes the only tool it brings about a mixture of certainty and naivety that makes minds brittle. Since Descartes’ time, rationalist thinking has ascended beyond primacy, to become an attempt at vacating not only other faculties, but also other motivations and desires. This over-applied rationality is a cognitive stupor, the drunken delirium of reason. To append an -ist or -ism and declare it one’s ideology can be forgiven as a phase of youth, since all of youth is a stupor of one thing or another. But after that it becomes cringe, or a kind of heartlessness, or simply the absence of wisdom. 

Rationality has so thoroughly soaked the earth that even those who call themselves religious have persuaded themselves to experience religion through a purely rationalist lens. There is even the paradox of those who consider themselves the most religious, yet appear to be among the most rationalist, spending great energy on proof. Endless books, sermons, and forceful arguments are deployed to advocate their proof. So steeped are they in centuries of rationality that they do not notice such arguments as a positively atheistic way of pondering the divine. The divine all the while does not demand proof, but asks merely to be a mystery.

Virtue lies in giving things their proper place. To lack reason is to be inhuman. To rely on it solely is to be disembodied. This disembodied nature is the vice of the modern intellectual, in fact it separates them from past intellectuals just as it separates them from the physical world. Thinking only in the abstract, existing only in the abstract, the disembodied intellectual life becomes the destructive force of authoritarian modernism. [ … ]

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