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"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton

"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

"I blog, therefore I am." Anon

Thursday, August 07, 2003

new witches for old

Why is an enlightened, rational, scientific bigot any improvement over an ignorant pre-scientific one?

From the mid-seventeenth century... witches ceased to be prosecuted and began to be patronized - though it was a case of "new witches for old", with the new scapegoats including beggars, criminals, and vagrants. John Locke wrote to insist upon "The Reasonableness of Christianity" (1694): even religion now had to be rational.

This pathologization of religious madness led Enlightenment free-thinkers to pathologize religion at large. In effect, this was also, much later, Freud's position. God was an illusion, faith "wish-fulfilment", and belief, though all too real, was a mental projection satisfying neurotic needs, to be explained in terms of the sublimation of suppressed sexuality or of the death wish. In reducing religion to psychopathology Freud was echoing the more biting of the philosophes, like Voltaire and Diderot, who adjudged Christian beliefs the morbid secretion of sick brains... thus religious madness - indeed all belief in the existence of supernatural intervention in human affairs - was turned into a matter of psychpathology.

Roy Porter, Madness: A Brief History. Oxford University Press 2002 pp 31-32

The latest version of this conceit is meme theory, the notion that religious belief is a virus of the mind. "Trust us", these new witch hunters say, "we're rational scientists; only we know what's best for you..."

10:10:00 am