Outline of an Unknowable God, question four

Alyosha, the spiritual Karamazov brother in Dostoevsky’s 1880 novel, receives the following advice:

Remember always, young man, that science has become a great power in the last century, has analyzed everything divine handed down to us in the holy books. After this cruel analysis the learned of the world have nothing left of all that was sacred. But they have only analyzed the parts and not the whole, and indeed their blindness is marvelous.

Blind or not, science offers marvelous metaphors: the Big Bang, the theories of evolution and relativity. These are also things most of us cannot know – to really see them requires significant training needed to overcome the counter-intuitiveness of science. It takes real and consistent work for a scientific education to overwhelm our sense of intuition. Yet like moral ideas, scientific memes are powerful, and can offer neutral, non-judgmental ways of looking at the world around us and the people who live in it.

Wilde said, “in matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.”

Victorian society disagreed about Wilde’s style; ours would shrug. Social stigma shifts. Things scandalous 50 years ago – psychotherapy, divorce, bankruptcy, having children outside of marriage, skipping worship – become unremarked, even civil rights.

 Does a loosening of Bible-driven conventions lead to a less judgmental, possibly more just world?

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