Sunday of the Eighteenth Week In Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)
Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
In 1814, the atheist Percy Shelley was twenty-two years old and married. He had met his wife, Harriett Westbrook, when she was only sixteen-years-old. The two were expecting their second child when he met another sixteen-years-old, Mary Godwin. He immediately seduced her and swept her off her feet and the two of them eloped to Europe. Eventually, Percy married Mary, but only after his wife, Harriett, committed suicide.
How nice of him to wait.
The following year, Mary Godwin Shelley gave birth to the couple’s first child, a baby girl. Two months later, the child died. It is at this moment she began to work on her famous novel, “Frankenstein,” or “The Modern Promethean.”
The death of Mary’s child, and the suicide of her husband’s ex-wife, must have weighed heavily on her conscience, for Mary never embraced her husband’s rabid hatred for Christianity. After studying her novel, I believe that Mary pictured her husband as a sort of “Frankenstein,” and that in her heart of hearts, she may have felt like she was the victim of her husband’s horrifying experiments.
Is there an alternative to God? There is, and it is of man’s doing. But it isn’t the master’s creation that is the monster. It is the creator himself: Frankenstein, or the modern Promethean.
Who is the modern Promethean? The man who believes that his power is limitless and should never submit to the orders which the notion of God demands.
Now some atheists love to point out the ridiculous statements made by obscure and not-so-bright believers. But what they really like to do is brush under the rug the most horrifying statements that well known and intelligent non-believers have made in the past.
In his book, “The Quest for God,” the historian Paul Johnson, brilliantly lists just a few of the most noteworthy statements made throughout the centuries by well-known atheists or Prometheans:
Voltaire once wrote: “Theological religion is the enemy of mankind.” Note: not ‘an’ enemy, but ‘the’ enemy... Or Winwood Reade, whose powerful tract ‘The Martyrdom of Man’ was a ‘bible’ of many atheists in the late nineteenth century: “The destruction of Christianity is essential to the interests of civilization.” Note again, the tone of extremism: not ‘desirable,’ but ‘essential.’
…Ernst Renan, the French popular historian…was foolish enough to write: ‘History proves beyond possibility of contradiction that Christianity is not a supernatural fact.’ Poor Renan! So plausible and sure of himself in his day…
The German follower of Darwin, Ernst Haeckel, wrote: “We now know that…the soul [is] a sum of plasma-movements in the ganglion cells.”
Late nineteenth century atheists were a bit more positive. Karl Vogt said: “Thoughts come out of the brains as gall falls from the liver or urine from the kidneys.” Jacob Moleshott was even more certain: “No thought [can emerge] without phosphorus.”
The atheist H.G. Wells was world famous in his day, but it is now almost impossible to point to a single pronouncement of his own society in his own day which carries the ring of truth or even mere plausibility. He ended his life (in 1945) in despair, having painted a strange mural on the walls of his London house, of horned devils and an image of Man, accompanied by the slogan: “Time to Go.”
Of course there are many more Prometheans out there and plenty more of their wacky and violent ideas. Wasn’t atheism supposed to provide better solutions than religion? Wasn't it supposed to make our life more peaceful? Think again.
The political theories of the atheist Jean Paul Sartre may have been responsible for some of the worst atrocities committed by North African and Southeast Asian dictators. After all, many of them were educated by the atheist French elite.
It was the atheist Karl Marx’s theories that brought down an Iron Curtain on nearly half the world’s population for decades!
World War I was a totally useless war that was fought for no good reason at all. It was a war that was entirely orchestrated by greedy men that sought power and money. Coincidentally, it was also fought at a time when Church attendance (for the very first time) began to decrease across Europe.
These modern day Prometheans promised prosperity, liberty and prestige. What they delivered instead was death and destruction. It was the atheist Joseph Stalin that orchestrated an artificial famine throughout Russia that resulted in the deaths of millions of people and the forced displacement of millions more.
Today, the modern Prometheans are social engineers who are constantly working on ways to manipulate children, marriages and family. Today, we have more people working part-time jobs than ever before. We have more divorces, more children born out of wedlock, more single women raising their children in poverty than ever before. And yet, these engineers continue to talk to us about the need for more equality, reproductive freedom and government programs.
One’s life does not consist of possessions. So what exactly does it consist of? Faith. Hope. Love. If we do not allow these three virtues to take over our life, then we will become monsters to our passions and to our darkest desires.
St. Paul said it best: “Put do death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, and the greed that is idolatry. Stop lying to one another” (Col 3:1-5, 9-11).
If we do not learn to control our appetite for power, sex, money and domination, then these great monsters will eventually destroy us.
Is there an alternative to God? There is…and it’s pretty scary.