Excellent article from The Catholic Thing about the mental iron curtain so well addressed by Pope benedict XVI at Regensburg.
Planning a summer driving trip with my trusty hard-copy road atlas, I was tracing Interstate 70 through Missouri recently when I saw a town name I had not thought of for some years: Fulton. I stopped there decades back to visit Westminster College, where Winston Churchill gave his famous Iron Curtain speech in 1946.
he speech was actually titled “The Sinews of Peace.” Churchill got some things fantastically wrong. He expressed enthusiasm for the new United Nations as a peace-enforcing institution, and he called for extensive measures to strengthen it, even suggesting that some air forces should come directly under its authority.
But he also got much right, including his description of tyrannical communism and the geopolitical circumstances we faced: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” This division of Europe, and the world, into those areas under communist control and those not would be the basic condition of international relations for the next forty-five years…
Sixty years after Churchill’s speech, in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a lecture to his old university. Benedict’s focus in that lecture was the iron curtain – my words, not his – that had descended between faith and reason. The atheistic communism that had concerned Churchill was one manifestation of this curtain as it appeared in recent centuries.
The lecture’s opening reference to the Qur’an’s approval of violence in spreading the Muslim faith, and Benedict’s brief development of the theme of the separation of faith and reason in Islam, produced a storm of violent protests in the Muslim world. So the pope touched upon one of the major problems the West has faced since the fall of the Berlin Wall – fundamentalist Islam. And he explained its root pathology far more clearly and concisely than any government intelligence report I ever read on the question.
But this curtain between faith and reason also cuts through the West itself. In his lecture, Benedict traces the “dehellenization” of Christianity, which removes the element of reason from faith, and the simultaneous advance of a kind of reason strictly exclusive of faith.
Faith without reason, or reason without faith, puts the West in a dangerous situation. Because so many cultures are religious, a West that turns solely to scientism as reason becomes incapable of conversation with those cultures: “A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures.”
Yet the worst consequences are within the West itself. As Benedict says, the practical results of modern science are very welcome, and we do not wish to return to a world without such science. But with a purely materialist brand of reason, truth is constricted to what can be measured empirically. In such a world, it is man himself who ends up being reduced, for the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics, then have no place within the purview of collective reason as defined by “science” and must thus be relegated to the realm of the subjective. The subject then decides, on the basis of his experiences, what he considers tenable in matters of religion, and the subjective “conscience” becomes the sole arbiter of what is ethical. In this way, though, ethics and religion lose their power to create a community and become a completely personal matter.