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Modernism, Agnosticism, and Atheism

After defining Modernism as the synthesis of all heresies, Pope St. Pius X turns to discussion of how the agnosticism of the Modernist philosophy leads to atheism.

Agnosticism bars man from approaching God through the intellect. Remember, it says that God is completely unknowable from reason. Instead, it proposes that a better way of approaching God is through “a certain sense of the soul and action”. But in reality (not in Modernism), the sense of the soul is the soul’s response to what the intellect or the senses set before it. If man does not approach things with the intellect, man becomes the slave of his senses. Common sense also recognizes that emotion and everything that leads the heart captive hinders the discovery of truth.

The Modernist relies on “experience” to build out their system. Yet this experience only adds intensity and a “proportionate deepening of the conviction of the reality of the object” (sense). The religious sense is liable to deception when intelligence is not there to guide it.

I have tried to quote sparingly from the encyclical, as it tends to be difficult to parse to modern ears. But please indulge this lengthier quote:

It seems to Us nothing short of madness, or at the least consummate temerity to accept for true, and without investigation, these incomplete experiences which are the vaunt of the Modernist. Let Us for a moment put the question: If experiences have so much force and value in their estimation, why do they not attach equal weight to the experience that so many thousands of Catholics have that the Modernists are on the wrong path? Is it that the Catholic experiences are the only ones which are false and deceptive? The vast majority of mankind holds and always will hold firmly that sense and experience alone, when not enlightened and guided by reason, cannot reach to the knowledge of God. What, then, remains but atheism and the absence of all religion?

With this sublime segue, Pope Saint Pius X strikes right at the heart of the matter: Modernism leads directly to “atheism and the absence of all religion”. This progression is illustrated in a cartoon from 1922:

None of the beliefs, tactics, or arguments of the Modernists can keep them from pantheism and atheism.

One might think that their symbolism could prevent atheism, but it cannot. If the “intellectual elements” of religion are symbols of God, then the name of God is also a symbol, and the personality of God is a matter of doubt, paving the way for pantheism.

Divine immanence also leads directly to pantheism. If immanence leaves God distinct from man, in what way is it different from Catholic doctrine, and why does it reject the doctrine of external revelation? If immanence doesn’t leave God distinct from man, it is pantheism. Immanence also says that every phenomenon of conscience proceeds from man as man. This logically leads to the identity of man with God, meaning pantheism.

The distinction that Modernists make between science and faith means pantheism. They say that the object of science is knowable, but the object of faith is unknowable. The unknowable is unknowable because there is no proportion between its object and the intellect. The believer and the philosopher will never know it. If any religion is possible in this understanding, it can only be of an unknowable reality. And there’s no reason to not say that the unknowable reality is the soul of the universe or some such.

Thus, Modernism leads to atheism and “the annihilation of all religion”. This trek to utter irreligion started with Protestantism. Modernism was the next step. Atheism is next.


*This post is part of a series on Pascendi Dominici Gregis. Click here for more posts on Pascendi and Modernism.*