"The leading principle of Utopian religion is the repudiation of the doctrine of Original Sin." (H.G. Wells, A Modern Utopia, 1905) Repudiating Original Sin necessitates the obliteration of the transcendent living God and His order of being, a project already underway by the time of Descartes. In her book "Total Truth," Nancy Pearcy, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, writes that one of the great ironies of history is that the enduring impact of Descartes philosophy has been precisely the opposite of what he had intended. Descartes had intended the defense of the human soul over and against the dehumanizing mechanistic and materialistic conception of the universe. Instead, the soul â€” and its citadel mind â€” was reduced to a shadowy substance totally irrelevant to the material realm known by natural science. The immortal soul became a kind of ghost only tenuously connected to the physical body. The novelist Walker Percy speaks of the:
"dread chasm that has rent the soul of Western man ever since the famous philosopher Descartes ripped body loose from mind and turned the very soul into a ghost that haunts its own house." ("Total Truth," Nancy Pearcey, p. 103)
After the success of Newtonian physics natural science began to be viewed as the way of progress and enlightenment and nature described as a cosmic machine governed by deterministic energies working through natural laws as strictly as the gears of a clock. Though soul and spirit are crucial for reason, conscience, morality, belief, faith, prayer, theorizing, science, and religion, there was no room for them in the mindless cosmic machine.
The mechanistic conception gave rise to rationalism, positivism and scientific materialism (atheism), which grant naturalistic science a monopoly on so-called "real" knowledge, facts and truth while trivializing everything else to faith, personal belief and social constructs.
The consequences of this were stark and terrible, for whereas the creation of universal (moral) law was traditionally the function of God alone, now this function was arrogated to the individual human rational will, making "reason" into God.
With "reason" sitting on the throne of the living God, heaven was shut down and the material realm became the realm of publicly verifiable scientific facts which in our own time are for example, Darwinism, atheism, man as evolved ape, determinism, and moral relativism (subjectivism) while the spiritual is the politically-incorrect realm of belief, faith, religion, creation ex nihilo, God the Father and moral absolutes.
By the time of the Enlightenment, a legion of neo-pagan ideologues openly advocated total integration into mindless nature. What these malcontents sought was salvation from God the Father, Original Sin, Universal Moral Law, sexual ethics, and their own immortal souls by immersing themselves into the "forces and rhythms of nature." Lester Crocker summarizes the Enlightenment premise:
"There existed in the eighteenth century a widespread desire to equate the moral with the physical world...." What was desired above all was, "total integration of man in nature, with refusal of any transcendence, even though it was admitted that his more complex physical organization gave him certain special abilities and ways of thinking. The important thing, as La Mettrie, d'Holbach, and others made clear, is that he is submitted to the same laws; everything is response to need â€” mechanically, some added, like a tree or a machine. Man merely carries out natural forces â€” without any freedom whatsoever â€” in all he does, whether he loves or hates, helps or hurts, gives life or takes it." (Monsters from the Id, E. Michael Jones, p. 5, 7)
From the days of ancient Babylonia to our own, most people have lived under the tyranny of various determinisms---karma, fates, doom, natural selection, chance, genes. They believed that all events in the real world were controlled by unseen forces of nature that the apostle Paul described as the elemental spirits of the universe.
When Jesus Christ God incarnate demonstrated His absolute control over the elements (Luke 8:24) the tyranny of determinism was cast down and utterly broken.
In the fourth century Gregory of Nazianzen suggested that at the very moment when the Magi, guided by a star, came to worship the child of Mary and Joseph, the tyranny of astrology (determinism) was broken:
"From that moment onward, the cosmos has orbited around the newborn king...Christ is the logos---the word and the reason by whom all exists and to whom all is ordered." (American Babylon, Neuhaus, p. 226)
Slavery to the â€œelemental spiritsâ€ has reappeared in our time with the claim that the laws of matter and evolution ultimately govern the world and man, who according to the laws of matter have neither soul nor spirit (mind). Reason is left, but it is 'caused' by the movement of chemicals (matter) in the material brain.
Father Richard John Neuhaus was neither deceived by Darwinism (universal evolutionism) nor by the materialist philosophy, the linchpins of modern naturalistic science and determinism. With penetrating insight Neuhaus connects contemporary evolutionary conceptions to their ancient spiritual foundations in astrology. In his book, â€œAmerican Babylon,â€ he writes that astrological elemental spirits have been recast as â€œevolutionary dynamics, life forces, or laws of nature.â€ Though not called spirits, these elemental â€œforcesâ€ are,
â€œâ€¦just as impersonal as the stars. They work their inexorable ways in cold indifference to reason, to will, to love, and to hope. In short, it is suggested that the elemental spirits are in charge and that human freedom is a delusionâ€¦â€ (p. 226)
In Galatians 4:8-9 Paul addresses Gentile pagans, but his question is also for all contemporary pagans, who having enslaved themselves to the laws of evolution and matter are no longer able to account for their souls and spirits (i.e., reason), thus their humanity:
"... when you knew not God, you were in bondage to beings that by nature are no gods; but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits, whose slaves you want to be once more?"
Modern pagan naturalists knew the living God but have turned back to the laws of matter and evolutionary dynamics, "whose slaves" they want to be, thus into the house swept clean of elemental spirits have come seven more far worse than the previous ones. And so the utterly dehumanized condition of modern pagans far surpasses the degraded condition of the ancients.