7. Scientism – This is the common assumption–linked with materialism–that the only valid knowledge is scientific knowledge. If something cannot be scientifically proven then it is either an intentional lie or the stuff of fairy tales, legends and folklore. The assumption that science has disproven religion and that all religious people are stupid, ignorant superstitious hicks runs through the mainstream media, higher education and the popular culture. Few stop to examine it, and when they ask for “evidence” they don’t even know what kind of evidence they are looking for. The assumption his all. Science is true. Religion is false.
8. Utilitarianism – If it works it must be good. Utilitarianism is also an outgrowth of materialism. If there is no heaven, hell or judgement, then the way to live (says the utilitarian) is to bring about the greatest good for the greatest number. Unfortunately it is not easy to determine first of all what is truly good and then how to attain it. Invariably utilitarianism is linked with an ideology of some sort–usually economic and political and the “greatest good” is forced on people by the tyrant. “You will be happy. You will join our brave new world. You will support our utopia.”
9. Historicism – This is the belief that “history is bunk”. The Christian believes in Divine Providence–history is “His Story” as my Sunday School teacher would say. Historicism draws the conclusion from relativism that if there is no truth, then there is no God and if there is no God then there can be no over arching narrative for history. What we see as a pattern or a plan is simply our attempt to impose some sort of meaning on history. History, for the historicist, is simply a random sequence of events that influence the way the human race goes. Some people get rich. Some people are poor. There are wars. One side wins. One side loses. So it goes. Furthermore, if there is no meaning to history there is also no meaning to your own life.
10. Progressivism – The irony is that the modern person will believe in historicism on the one hand–in which there is no over arching narrative of history, but he will at the same time believe in progress. Growing out of belief in evolutionism (by this I mean the ideology of evolution–not the scientific theory) the modern person assumes that because of evolution we are getting better and better every day in every way. If it is new it must be better. If it is the latest fashion, trend or idea it must be better than what has gone before. They hold to this fantasy despite the fact that the twentieth century was the most bloody, barbaric, cruel and disastrous century humanity has ever seen, and the twenty first century does not seem to be unfolding any better.
When I say these “isms” are destroying our culture and our church I am pointing out that they have invaded the church because they are part of the culture.
Most Americans–Catholics included–live their lives by these ten assumptions and are hardly aware of it. They make their choices on what to believe and how to behave according to individualism, sentimentalism, utilitarianism etc.
What is the answer? The only answer is for Catholics to stand apart, to know their faith and live it in a radical and startling way in the world. By this I do not mean simply doing good works and helping at the food pantry and doing HomeWorks on the summer vacation.
All that, of course, is wonderful, but living a radical Catholic life means more than that. It means having a different mindset, a different world view, a different perspective on all things than do our non Catholic neighbors, and the only way to achieve this is through a life dedicated to work, prayer and study.
If you would like to learn more about the “isms”–they are the subject of my entertaining book Slubgrip Instructs In this book the devil Slubgrip teaches college students in Bowelbages University in hell about the different “isms” that infect modern culture.