Interesting blog. Oakes seems to get some of Eliot's notions, but in
First Things style he puts words in Eliot's mouth and seems almost (?)
purposely to misconstrue Eliot's meaning: "I write.... to examine
Eliot’s thesis. What are we to make of his claim that believing and
unbelieving mediocrities feed off of each other?"
In Eliot's essay, if they existed at all, "unbelieving mediocrities"
would include the bloggist.
Chokh Raj wrote:
> T.S. Eliot on "the danger, a very real one, of /religion without
> "Religion Without Humanism" -- an essay by TS Eliot in '/Humanism and
> America: Essays on the Outlook of Modern Civilization'/ (1930)
> A Review by Edward T. Oakes, S.J.
> FIRST THINGS.
> Sep 18, 2008.
> *excerpts from Eliot's essay as quoted here:*
> "I believe that the skeptic, even the pyrrhonist, but particularly the
> humanist-skeptic, is a very useful ingredient in a world which is no
> better than it is. In saying this I do not think that I am committing
> myself to any theological heresy. The ideal world would be the ideal
> Church. But very little knowledge of human nature is needed to
> convince us that hierarchy is liable to corruption, and certainly to
> stupidity; that religious belief, when unquestioned and uncriticised,
> is liable to degeneration into superstition; that the human mind is
> much lazier than the human body.. . . . If we cannot rely, and it
> seems that we can never rely, upon adequate criticism from within, it
> is better that there should be criticism from without."
> "I wish to make a capital distinction: criticism, infidelity and
> agnosticism must, to be of value, be /original/ and not inherited.
> Orthodoxy must be traditional, heterodoxy must be original. The
> attitude of Voltaire has value, because of its place in time; the
> attitude of Renan has value, in its historical perspective; Anatole
> France I can only consider as a man who came at the most unfortunate
> date for his own reputation—too late to be a great skeptic, and too
> soon to be a great skeptic. There must be more orthodoxy before there
> can be another Voltaire. And precisely I fear lest humanism should
> make a tradition of dissent and agnosticism, and so cut itself off
> from the sphere of influence in which it is most needed."
> "For there is no doubt in my mind that contemporary religious
> institutions are in danger from themselves; that they have with few
> exceptions lost the “intellectual,” except that pernicious
> intellectual who adopts dogma merely because doubt is out of date.
> Nowhere is this more obvious than in America. . . . But America is not
> isolated in this respect; it merely shows us under a magnifying glass
> what occurs everywhere. The two dangers to which religion is exposed
> are apparent everywhere—and they are both cases for which “humanism”
> or “culture” might be called in: /petrified ecclesiasticism/, and
> a sensible approach