"At the time and in the country in which the present study was written, it was granted by everyone except backward people that the Jewish faith had not been refuted by science or by history . . . . [O]ne could grant to science and history everything they seem to teach regarding the age of the world, the origin of man, the impossibility of miracles, the impossibility of the immortality of the soul, and of the resurrection of the body, the Jahvist, the Elohist, the third Isaah, and so on, without abandoning one iota of the substance of the Jewish faith."
-P. 231; from the "Preface" to Leo Strauss’ Spinoza’s Critique of Religion
Part of the problem of modern atheism, as Leo Strauss famously diagnosed, is that it explicitly presents itself as possessing a monopoly on the market of reason and that it’s explanatory scope is perfectly comprehensive. At the heart of modern science’s Cartesian pretense to be a mathesis universalis is the conspiciously unempirical or unscientific presumption that everything that is must be susceptible to scientific description—the ontology science is based upon is not itself scientifically demonstrable and therefore resembles the sort of faith claim it intends to render obsolete, at least in the caricatured form it presents faith.
The essential dogmatism of this presumption really becomes transparent when the substance of scientific hypothesis radically contradicts our ordinary experience. A good example of this would be contemporary neuroscience, which routinely claims to be at the brink of a fully comprehensive theory of all things but also must petition the help of postmodern narrative to soften it’s incredibly counterintutive accounts of human life and consciousness. Here , I argue that this is basically science’s way of acknowledging that if it stubbornly refuses to surrender its claims to be the whole of reason and perfectly comprehensive, it has no choice but to sacrifice the truth of our experience of ourselves, and ironically, turn to the myth-making of modern poetry. Apparently, this is superior to faith because it’s done with one’s eyes fully open—we create myths knowingly and therapeutically versus desperately and ignorantly.
Despite the common refrain from modern atheists’ that religious belief is borne of a benighted and dogmatic refusal to accept the dicates of reason, it is science that has historically resisted revising claims about the scope of its explanatory powers that are now clearly hyperbolic. Christianity, for example, is also a universal account but one that takes seriously the limits of human reason and the catalogue of things that it can properly comprehend.It is comprehensive but not reductionist in that it respects the real heterogeneity of our experience and realist in that it doesn’t reflexively privilege the abstract results of speculative theory over the character of lived experience. Scientific rationality would actually be more reasonable if it admitted its shortcomings and stopped competing with religion to be a complete account of man—despite its protests to the contrary, science has done little to refute religion or to dampen our religious longings.