The question you asked really goes back to the remark of the pope, that the major task of modern thought is to separate eschatology from science and politics as themselves claims to solve all of man's this-worldly problems and destiny. The "modern project," as Strauss critically called it, is really a form of inner-worldly eschatology that corrupts the real temporal meaning of this world.

So-called modern philosophy wants to argue that religion did not solve man's problems, so it would suggest by its own methods that transcendent issues that did originally arise from religion could be solved by modern secular means. The figure of Francis Bacon is prominent here. We should divert all our efforts to improving man's "estate." Added to this is an almost all-prevailing Rousseauism that insists that "structures" are the problem, not the souls of actually free men, as both Plato and Scripture told us. The fact is that no matter what the technology, the soul problem remains the same in every generation, in every regime. No reformation of the structure, of family, economy, or state will "cure" this inner problem, and if it could, it would simply mean that we are not free. The problem is not "medical" or psychological, but moral and metaphysical.

You mentioned "soft atheism" or "soft belief" as related to atheism. Actually, I think Nietzsche is right here. He was scandalized not because God did not exist, but because believers, who were supposed to act as if he did, did not so act. His disbelief is closer to scandal than to philosophy. But the other side of Nietzsche is a passion for the "what would it be like if it were true?" His famous aphorism, "The Last Christian died on the Cross," is nothing less than the plea of a utopian who is searching for ultimate being. He just cannot recognize it if its followers do not. Nietzsche can even be looked on as someone who wanted himself to be God, or at least to have His power to form all things anew. Nietzsche never really rejected "the last Christian."

Christianity, on the other hand, did not want to make men to be "like gods." It was content to leave them as finite and fallible men, but ones who needed hope, the possibility of repentance, and some source besides themselves on which to place their confidence. I think at bottom that Nietzsche, who is often considered to be at the bottom of modern atheism, is really at the bottom, as Walsh says, of the participation in being that violently reacted to the pseudo-metaphysics of modernity's philosophers, who, to go back to my comment on Aristotle, did think that politics was the highest science, and thus an eschatology.
-Fr. Schall

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