“The great sociologist of religion Emile Durkheim called the
contrast between the sacred and the profane the widest and deepest
of all contrasts the human mind is capable of making,” wrote
the late Robert Nisbet. “Everything above
the level of the instinctual, Durkheim concluded, began in human veneration,
awe, reverence of the sacred — be it a god, spirit, grove of
trees, or lake or stream. Religion in the sense of gods, churches,
liturgies, and bibles emerged in due time from the primitive sacred
essence. So did the rest of human culture, its signs, symbols, words,
drawings, and acts.”
A fascinating observation. I happened to run across it while I was
marveling at the curious evangelical zeal of those who want Darwinism
taught in the public schools but want to ban the teaching of intelligent
design. Why do they care so much? Apparently nothing is holy, but Darwin
is Holy Writ.
I used to believe in evolution myself, but I took no joy in it. Who
could? If atheism is true, then nothing really matters — not
even atheism. Even as a kid I could see that. In my atheistic days
I thought nothing quite as silly as the militant atheist. I loved the
story of Jesus and the Catholic Church, I regretted losing my faith,
and I couldn’t understand people who could be enthusiastic about
living in a cold, godless universe. I tried to make art — especially
Shakespeare and Beethoven — my consolation prizes for the religion
I’d lost. At least they made me feel as if I had a soul, even
if the cheerless dogma of Darwin said otherwise.
Then, as a young adult, I met two astounding people who might as well
have come straight from heaven on wings of angels. They were my first
two children. I could believe that the rest of the human race, myself
included, were accidents of mere matter, but it was soon obvious to
me that these two had immortal souls, and that I was responsible for
them. Life undeniably had a purpose after all — not survival,
It wasn’t just that I loved these kids; far more important,
God loved them and expected me to teach them about his love. Not to
do so would have been the worst form of neglect. And in teaching them
that God loved them, I realized that he loved me the same way, and
always had, even when I hadn’t thought about him and denied his
Now why would anyone want to teach kids that they are ultimately worthless?
I can see reluctantly believing that, maybe. But teaching it eagerly?
Modern atheism, waving the banner of Science, has the emotional character
of a perverted religion, taking a morbid pleasure in preaching and
converting and, in its intolerance, demanding a privileged place in
education. This isn’t just “separation of church and state” — two
things that are separate by nature anyway. The glee with which Darwinists
attack and insult Christianity tells you what they really want, and
why the idea of evolution appeals to them.
Like its nineteenth-century twin, Marxism, Darwinism demonstrates
the profound truth of the adage that misery loves company. Spoiled
souls always want to spoil other souls, as the drive for “sex
education” also shows. If I can’t be innocent, neither
can you! “Ye shall be as gods.” The Lord and the serpent
both promise that the truth shall make us free, but one of them is
Survival isn’t the purpose of life, just the necessary condition
of finding its real purpose. The universal sense of the sacred that
Durkheim noted is separate from the urge to survive, and often at war
with it. Biology can’t explain the idea of the holy, which we
all share and, in varying degrees, understand, though nobody fully
For Darwinism, the sense of the sacred is just awkward excess baggage,
possibly even a threat to survival. After all, atheism’s only
commandment is “Thou shalt survive,” and from its perspective
what could be more absurd than sacrifice and martyrdom, losing your
life in order to save it?
But denying a mystery is no way to solve it, and we are stuck with
the mystery of the human soul, which loves all sorts of useless things,
as long as they are true, or good, or beautiful. Any philosophy that
ignores our deepest loves is too crass to be interesting.
Copyright © 2011 by the Fitzgerald
Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved. This column was published originally
by Griffin Internet Syndicate on December 29, 2005.
Joe Sobran was an author and a syndicated columnist. See bio
and archives of some of his columns.
Watch Sobran's last TV appearance on YouTube.
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during the FGF Tribute to Joe Sobran in December 2009.
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