Intellectuals vs. Faith (?)

Hat tip to Applejack for “Ross Douthat’s exceptional response at The American Scene” to Mark Lilla’s personal essay in the Times Magazine about the loss of his “evangelical” faith. I appreciate how Douthat doesn’t shy away from conceding Mark Lilla’s valid points about the superficiality and cultural conditioning of much Christian belief, but raises the fair question about whether Lilla’s secularism is equally suspect.

Click [Read More] from some excerpts.

irreligion among the intellectual set has become less and less an intellectual choice, and more a matter of cultural prejudice.
Of course all the things Lilla says about religion are true enough, as far as they go.
elite culture, especially the elite intellectual culture of the kind that Lilla now inhabits, stopped paying attention to religious intellectual life: John Courtney Murray and C.S. Lewis made the cover of Time, but if they were writing today, I doubt they could even find a mainstream publisher.

Some of this is the fault of Christian churches, of course, for emphasizing self-help and the gospel of wealth over real theology – but some of it is the fault of thinkers like Lilla, who in setting aside their own religious belief in favor of that certain comportment have also closed off the space where people like Murray and Niebuhr and Merton used to operate, the ground where secular intellectuals took religious intellectuals seriously, even when they disagreed with them.

Are you so sure that your secularism is a matter of maintaining a “dignity” that depends “on maintaining a free, skeptical attitude toward doctrine,” rather than a matter of bowing, as most intellectuals do, to the spirit of the age?

Of course many people become skeptics after years of honest intellectual searching, just as many Christians remain believers out of little more than cultural prejudice.

“Free, as a man is free to drink while he is drinking. He is not free to be dry.”