Factors in the Spread of Materialism
It is our contention that there is no call to study man's religious tendency. We hold that man has by nature a propensity for religion. Human nature, in the aspects of mind and spirit, has an innate attraction towards reverence for God and the Oneness. Materialism, on the other hand, is in contradiction to the innate tendency of human nature. Instead of wasting time and effort asking: "How did man develop a religious sense?", science should investigate how anyone ever came to develop a materialist tendency.
Materialists claim that their beliefs stem directly from the scientific and philosophical advances of the 18th and 19th centuries after Christ. They forget that every epoch from remotest antiquity has thrown up materialist views; in all classes, literate and illiterate, cultured and savage, wise and foolish. Today, in what boasts itself to be "the scientific age", some in all strata of society, learned and ordinary, hold metaphysical ideas, and are convinced of the existence of God. Were the materialist claims correct; we should find the more learned the more atheist. The facts are otherwise. Some of the greatest savants are the most godly of persons.
"Science has come! God is dead!" they cried. Simplistic! Unscientific! A baseless affirmation! It contains the half-truth that in our age unknown secrets of nature and facts about the universe have been brought to light. It also contains the false premise: "Faith in God was spawned by the marriage of ignorance with fear of the unknown."
In fact we find today that it is the enlightened men of faith who welcome the discoveries of facts about nature and increase their faith thereby. Wonder at the works of the Creator produces worship. The more you know of the complexities of creation and its functioning, the more profound your reverence for the Creator. Awareness of the marvels of the chain of causality increases your awe of the Prime Cause.
It was only yesterday that man expanded horizon of observation and measurement beyond himself. Hitherto mankind had no notion of the complexity of the works of creation around him. Today new discoveries follow one right after another; e. g. that 10 million milliard (10 ^15) cellules compose each physical human body. These discoveries reveal creation's splendour to a degree unimagined by any former age.
Must not the recognition of these causes, factors, events, and phenomena of nature lead inevitably to recognition of the Prime Cause whose Word started off the chain reaction of continuous creation?
Where is the logic in claiming that belief in God is confined to persons unaware of the processes of creation? Should the scientist, who is aware of the natural causes and of the factors determining each step of creation towards perfection, of mankind's evolution, of the minute accuracy and exactitude that rules every change in the nature that surrounds us, come to believe that these wondrous laws and amazing interactions have somehow fortuitously emerged out of mindless matter? Have his discoveries and insights merely brought him to a stage of thought which sees only blind concomitance and chance conjunctures in the exactly interacting phenomena?
Close study shows that the rise of materialism in Europe was due to certain historical facts. Among these must be counted mistakes made by the Church authorities.
(1) At the start of the Renaissance, Church authorities showed undue severity against partisans of the "new learning". This was because, alongside its purely religious doctrines, the Church had inherited from the philosophers of earlier ages, both Hellenic and non-Hellenic, various views about the world, and judged it as heretical to question these views as to deny religious tenets. But "new learning" exposed the falsity of previously held cosmogonic theories. Scientists who had discovered the facts, and expressed them in formulae which the Church declared heretical, in disgust turned against the Church, and discarded not merely the secondary views but also the Faith itself. To curb this mounting revolt the Church pressed harder. A desire for revenge rose in the hearts of the excommunicated. This illogical passion, seeking not to establish objective truth but simply to avenge, led the learned to "throw out the baby with the bathwater"; not merely the institutions which claimed to stand for God, but God as well. To seek revenge on a group of people with ecclesiastical claims is one thing. To revolt against religion in the true sense of the word is quite another. This dichotomy they failed to grasp. Yet it is obvious that revenge is not a rational or scientific reaction. Emotion has no place in intellectual pursuits.
(2) The Church used anthropological and materialist images in describing God, and employed them to teach children both in homes and in institutions. But as they grew up, young people realised in the course of study that such images were inept, unscientific, and false. Sadly, the Western Churches' misleading teachings thus used caused youth to deviate towards materialism. They failed to grasp that rational, truly objective concepts concerning the question of the existence of God could be found. Thus the Church gravely erred in its anthropological approach, to its own to humanity's grievous loss.