The topic of disenchantment is directly entwined with pretty much any question that we might ask related to religion in the present day. I had been gathering links on the topic for quite some time, but was prompted to return to the topic and finish the post not only by the treatment of the subject in Robert Geraci’s recent book Temples of Modernity: Nationalism, Hinduism, and Transhumanism in South Indian Science, but also by a call for papers for a special issue of Chiasma focused on the subject. I’ve recorded a podcast with Robert about his book and his ongoing work in India (recorded while he is currently there in Bangalore) which will be released in the not too distant future.
As I have already indicated, there has is quite a bit to talk about related to enchantment and disenchantment. Richard Beck discussed the topic a while back, explaining how the design argument tricks those who embrace it into also going along with a deist line of reasoning. He writes:
The Watchmaker argument, by reducing Creation to a mechanism, tricks you into adopting a deistic view of the cosmos. And once you’ve adopted deism–a distant God who stepped away from creation and doesn’t intervene–your disenchantment radically deepens…
Here’s the question I asked the biology majors:
Is cancer beautiful?
It’s a hard question. Maybe at the level of pure mechanism you can find beauty in how cancer cells replicate. At the cellular and molecular level the intricacy of the design is beautiful.
Cancer is the Watch.
But at an existential level we recoil at the notion that cancer is beautiful. We’ve seen cancer eat away at and take the lives of our loved ones. We stand at the graveside of a child who has died of leukemia and say, “Maybe the Watch is beautiful. But I hate the Watch.”
The problem with the Watchmaker argument, I told the biology majors, is that it doesn’t account for our deep, deep dissatisfaction with the Watch. The Watch may be intricately designed, and when we look at the Grand Canyon or at the stars we might call these parts of the Watch beautiful. But there also parts of the Watch that we experience as ugly, horrible and tragic. Design doesn’t always produce wonder. Cancer isn’t beautiful.
Chaplain Mike explored the shrinking place of God in our time. Also on this topic:
Finally, let me note a possible connection to the subject of anti-intellectualism. It could be argued that the world has become a disenchanted place largely for a privileged elite, which doesn’t make that perspective wrong, but does nonetheless identify a problem with where it is found, how it is communicated, and who is disenfranchised in the process.
And here for your convenience once again is that call for papers I mentioned at the beginning of this post.