The State Exists for its Citizens

William Temple wrote that each individual was the child of God ” and destined for eternal fellowship with God… All life should be conducted and ordered with this dignity in view. The State must not treat the person as having value only so far as they serve its ends, as totalitarian states do; the State exists for its citizens, not the citizens for the State” , as people like the Nazis believed.

Christianity and the Social Order (1942)

Does Evolution Make Life Meaningless?

“As we look at the continuous course of Evolution, we ought not to say: ‘ After all, it all comes from a nebula with no life or meaning, so it , too, is without life or meaning’. Rather we should say: ‘ See what has come from that dead nebula; how full of potentiality it really was”.

We cannot interpret the higher and more complex in terms of the lower and simpler; rather we must interpret the lower in terms of the higher, seeing in it the potentiality of the latter. Origin is not to be confused with either essence or validity. If people tell us that religion is the survival of natural magic, we reply: ‘ And so is the science that told you so; but that does not affect the validity either of the science or the religion’ “.

William Temple, The Nature of Personality (1915)

Mind at the End of its Tether

In one of his last works H. G. Wells wrote this:

” The writer sees the world as a jaded world devoid of recuperative power… The old men behave for the most part meanly and disgustingly, and the young are spasmodic, foolish and all too easily misled. Man must go steeply up or down and the odds seem to be all in favour of his going down and out. If he goes up, then so great is the adaptation demanded of him that he must cease to be a man. Ordinary man is at the end of his tether. Only a small, highly adaptable minority of the species can possibly survive”:

Mind at the End of its Tether (1945)

H. G. Wells on Insane Rulers

In 1939 Wells declared that Hitler was insane:

“But insanity has its advantages as well as its handicaps. It involves an abnormal concentration of purpose and nervous energy. In its phase of mania it abolishes or at least defers fatigue and sustains long spells of sleepless vigilance and penetrating distrust far beyond the compass of normal people”

The Fate of Homo Sapiens

See any parallels?

Dickens on a 19th century industrial town

” It contained several large streets all very like one another, and many small streets still more like one another, inhabited by people equally like one another, who all went in and out at the same hours…. to do the same work, and to whom every day was the same as yesterday and tomorrow, and every year the counterpart of the last and the next”

Dickens, Hard Times, 1854

The Opium of Science

The historian of science Joseph Needham asked: “Shall we substitute for the opium of religion an opium of science?” He hoped not.

” So long as time continues, so long as change and decay are around us and in us, so long will sorrow and tragedy be with us… there is little to be gained by trying to replace these considerations by a eupeptic (digestible) opium, derived from too bright an estimate of the possibilities of scientific knowledge. Driven out, it will return with redoubled force” .

Money Has Taken Over: Dawson

Christopher Dawson claimed that there had been a breakdown of corporate medieval society caused by the rise of capitalism. This had led to unrestrained individualism, which in turn led to the infamous evils of the factory system, rampant profiteering, slums, disease and chronic poverty. However the real cause of the evils of industrialism, Dawson felt, was not so much individualism itself as the spirit which sacrificed the individual to the economic process. Money, profit, economics became all. The old corporate sense of mutuality and cooperation had been lost.

[Religion and the Modern State, 1935]

Prophecy About the Future: 1927

At a public debate between Bernard Shaw and G. K. Chesterton at Kingsway Hall in London in 1927, the chairman Hilaire Belloc made this prophecy:

” The industrial civilization, which, thank God, oppresses only the small part of the world in which we are most inextricably bound up, will break down and therefore end from its monstrous wickedness, folly, ineptitude, leading to a restoration of sane, ordinary human affairs, complicated but based as a whole upon the freedom of the citizens. Or it will break down and lead to nothing but a desert. Or it will lead the mass of humanity to become contented slaves, with a few rich men controlling them. Take your choice”

[BBC Broadcast October 1927]

The 1920s an Age of Spiritual Claustrophobia

The Catholic theologian Ronald Knox was a robust champion of religion in age of “spiritual claustrophobia”, as he called it:

” There has grown up almost a ‘ conspiracy-mania’ about the teaching of religion …” it has no roots in common sense or in logic. We have made a dogma of dogmatism, we have a creed of creedlesslness, and our protest against formula is, in this age of catchwords, the most stereotyped formula of the lot”

[Knox, Caliban in Grub Street (1930) ]