I must reassure readers that our dear departed Jim who no longer appears in this blog is alive and well and catechizing in Australia’s most beautiful city (it is not Melbourne). I know he continues to read everythng written here, posts and comments alike. He will love the following text, published in 1802; I trust he will pardon my imperfect translation from the French :
“A writer who refuses to believe in a God, author of the Universe and judge of men whose immortal soul He made, banishes first of all the infinite from his writings. He encloses his thought in a circle of mud, from which he can no longer escape. He sees nothing noble in nature; everything in it is the work of impure means of corruption and of regeneration. The abyss is just a little water full of bitumen; mountains are mere protuberances of rock; and the heavens, where daylight prepares an immense solitude, as though to serve as a camp for the army of stars which night brings in silence; the heavens, we say, are just a narrow vault momentarily suspended by the capricious hand of Chance.”
If this is great literature, then this Blog deserves the Nobel. I am not sure that even our most astute readers will understand or appreciate either the style or the reasoning in Chateaubriand’s “Le Génie du Christianisme”, any more than I do. But at least Jim will love what the Great Man says about atheist writers, insensitive to the nobility and beauty of nature, refusing to recognize the Infinite and attributing the Universe to Chance. If anyone finds the courage to read this boring anti-Enlightenment diatribe aimed at defending and reestablishing Catholic faith and practice, s/he will discover in Chateaubriand’s apologetics the same quaint credulity to which Jim has accustomed us.
Chateaubriand is full of surprises. Even the most assiduous culture-vultures would probably never bother to plough through his limping, convoluted efforts at defending Catholicism, including an extraordinary, laughable justification of clerical celibacy (there are too many kids already : “Excessive population is the scourge of empires”). But they may be interested to read in the first sentence of his first chapter his remarks on Christianity’s principal opponents :
“Ever since Christianity appeared on the earth, three kinds of enemies have constantly attacked it : heresy-archs, sophists and those people frivolous in appearance who destroy everything by ridicule. Many defenders of the faith have victoriously responded to the subtleties and the lies; but they have been less successful against derision.”
Encouragement for our Blog from an unexpected source, two hundred years ago. Ergo . . .