Secular gnostics: invincibly (and wonderfully) ignorant
No, no. You are thinking of an agnostic, which is a person who dwells in the realm of cowards, religiously speaking.
No, a gnostic is one who claims to have personal knowledge of otherwise unverifiable truth. As one privileged to have such self-knowledge, gnostics generally hold their personal “knowledge of the heart” over those less enlightened.
And the beauty of a gnostic? No one can challenge the gnosis because it is personal, and not subject to objective evidence.
Of course, an agnostic person believes that truth is not only unknown, it is unknowable. And a true agnostic, like a true atheist (both words are merely the negation of their positive sense), is a mythical being; agnosticism (or atheism) being merely a label claimed by intellectual cowards.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that! After all, I make both agnostics and atheists, and, I might add, even a few gnostics.
Are you still with me?
I hope so, because I want to bring your attention to a most interesting article that appeared this weekend in The Catholic Thing. The article, written by Francis J. Beckwith, is entitled “Secular Gnositicism and The New York Times.”
Don’t you just love that term? I do. I wish I had thought of it!
And although I find Mr. Beckwith’s insight dangerous to my kingdom, I must say I’m flattered by his recognition of my complete religiousification of what remains of the world’s “secular” institutions.
Yes, religiousification: the increasingly religious nature and tenor of atheistic, aka secular, arguments in the world today.
Mr. Beckwith recognizes my handiwork, most recently in the past week, where “Bill Keller of the New York Times opined about the religious beliefs of several Republican presidential candidates, suggesting clusters of questions that he would like to ask each of them.”
Remember? I answered Mr. Keller’s “crude and uncharitable” questions in this post.
Mr. Beckwith takes issue with Mr. Keller’s sloppy work, including his lack of “serious preparation or journalistic curiosity.”
But what Mr. Beckwith notes in his piece is something I actually hoped no one would catch onto:
Lurking behind [Keller's] clumsy queries is an intellectual posture I call “secular gnosticism.” It assumes a position of cultural privilege on what counts as knowledge and justified belief, though it is rarely doubted and thus rarely defended.
Secular gnosticism. Rarely doubted and rarely defended. Yes, that is the beauty of my religiousification on earth! While theism is the default setting on the human soul, atheism is the default desire of the human heart.
Everyone knows in his or her soul that God exists, but everyone wishes to live as if he doesn’t.
It’s the human condition.
And it’s because of me.
Thus theistic religious leanings have become the subject of suspicious scrutiny in the modern secular society, while atheistic religious leanings are given a pass.
As Mr. Beckwith puts it, with respect to the secular gnostics:
For that reason, its believers do not subject their position, its presuppositions, and its sources of authority to the sort of rigorous interrogation they suggest the beliefs, presuppositions, and sources of authority of religious believers should undergo.
Get it? The modern secular gnostic “assumes a position of cultural privilege” on what counts as “justified belief” which is “rarely doubted.”
And what is the end result of this, my will on earth as it is in heaven?
I could not say it better than Mr. Beckwith:
For this reason, the Gnostics were, in a sense and ironically, invincibly ignorant. No amount of contrary evidence, philosophical argument, or Biblical exegesis can convince someone who has private, direct, incorrigible, and impenetrable acquaintance with The Truth.
I love it.
And yes, my servants, you can congratulate me on this one. Mr. Beckwith is right. I’ve raised up a generation of secular religionists, whether they go by the name of atheist, agnostic, free-thinker or skeptic.
But every one of them is nevertheless a religious person in the secular gnostic faith, a faith built upon each of their “special knowledge” of truth.
And I’ve made every one of them invincibly ignorant.
Don’t believe me? Just try to convince one of them that God exists. Use the clear evidence of creation. Use the Bible. Use whatever authority you have at hand, including the undeniable moral law written on their darkened hearts.
Wait. What am I saying?
On second thought, don’t try to convince them. Do not challenge them to think broadly and freely.
Because every once in a while, one actually escapes my clutches.
Because some are merely ignorant.