Why Rationalist Religions Failed – #historical past #conspiracy
I am skeptical. One motive is the nineteenth-century expertise. Comtean rationalism failed to beat a primary incoherence: if organized faith is bunk, why begin a brand new one? Additionally, rationalism fails to reply to a eager for the transcendent that’s inherent within the human situation and that has been particularly highly effective in America, ever because the Puritans.
At First Issues at present, I evaluate a brand new ebook, The Church of Saint Thomas Paine by historian Leigh Eric Schmidt, that explores the failure of nineteenth-century American positivism. It is an fascinating ebook–particularly for me, as a result of it recounts the story of my great-granduncle, M.M. Mangasarian, an Armenian immigrant who got here to America within the 1870s, went to Princeton, and in the end based his personal rationalist faith in Chicago. (These items occur in the very best of households). This is an excerpt:
Impressed by the French positivist Auguste Comte and the American transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson, and taking the eighteenth-century freethinker Thomas Paine as a type of patron saint, a small group of Individuals tried to discovered a rationalist “faith” with science as its highest authority. They began congregations in cities like New York, Chicago, and Portland; they held conferences on Sunday mornings to compete with Christian rivals; they even wrote catechisms and ran Sunday Faculties to indoctrinate new members. All confidently believed they have been the vanguard of a brand new, secular faith that might displace Christianity and promote human progress.
However the brand new faith failed. The congregations attracted few followers; usually, as one British humorist wrote, these have been church buildings “of three individuals, however no God.” Most fizzled out or merged with bigger teams just like the Unitarians. Apart from cranks who appeared as credulous because the believers they mocked, Individuals had little curiosity in Comte’s wedding ceremony and funeral ceremonies or the relics of secular saints. (In 1905, after an extended quest, a small group of freethinkers positioned one thing they claimed to be a chunk of Thomas Paine’s mind, bought to them for 5 kilos by an obscure London bookseller, in a monument in New Rochelle.)
Schmidt exhibits that rationalist congregations failed as a result of organizers by no means resolved primary inconsistencies. Rationalism valued science and rejected metaphysics. Why, then, acquire relics and meet weekly for thinly disguised worship companies? Furthermore, rationalism “made mental independence and the displacement of all non secular authorities foundational to its platform.” Paine himself had railed towards organized faith, famously declaring, “my very own thoughts is my very own church.” Equally, though Emerson had prophesied a brand new faith with “science” for its “image,” he insisted on particular person religious autonomy: “I’m going for Church buildings of 1.” What, then, was the purpose of becoming a member of a brand new faith, even a rationalist one? Individuals who share solely a dedication to radical individualism and an opposition to spiritual orthodoxy are unlikely to kind a permanent group.
You possibly can learn the evaluate right here.