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The New Religion

by Philip Trower


The conclusion of the booklet The Church Learned And The Revolt Of The Scholars.

Larger Work

The Church Learned And The Revolt Of The Scholars


53 - 60

Publisher & Date

The Wanderer Press, 1979


In the first part of this booklet I have set out in their chronological order of appearance the ideas, which have gone to the making of Modernism and neo-Modernism, and have tried to show where those ideas were taken from.

As the synthesis made for St. Pius X was composed prior to the developments which transformed Modernism into neo-Modernism, in this second part I have brought the ingredients together in a synthesis of my own so that the reader, seeing the various ideas in combination, can more easily trace the outlines of the new religion which neo-Modernism in fact is. Although the principles of the new religion are not yet set out fully and systematically in textbooks still purporting to be Catholic — there is not so far a Modernist catechism, creed, or profession of faith — nevertheless neo-Modernism is already a self-consistent, logically related body of beliefs. The closest thing to a systematic presenting is I think the Catholic-Lutheran Common Catechism or "Book of Christian Faith," as it is subtitled. This new religion is what countless bishops and priests all over the world, and nearly all the most influential theologians, are pretending is the Catholic Faith, as renewed by the Council.

For the present, the new religion lives a parasitic life; its members, as I said earlier, are scattered through the older parent bodies, Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism; there is as yet no identifiable Modernist "church." But this situation will certainly not last. Much that goes on under the name of ecumenism, in opposition to genuine ecumenism, is the coming together not of Christians to discuss their disagreements, but of Modernists who already share the same beliefs, and who are not in fact Christians in any real sense. Such is the new "fourth denomination," whose beliefs are here presented which appeared in an earlier edition of The Wanderer.

In the new religion the first principle is not that God should be glorified and His will done but that man's convenience should be attended to. The relationship of creature to Creator has been reversed. Man, at least implicitly, comes first, God second. God, if He is still believed in, is the slave of His own children. He underwrites everything that man does. There is great emphasis on His love, care and concern for man; one cannot say on His mercy or justice, because God has no right to take offense at anything man does. He has a duty to look after man, usually without even receiving thanks. Only man has rights.

In those versions of the religion which are sliding closer and closer to atheism, God not only plays an ever diminishing role, He is less and less recognizable as God. From a living Being, He is reduced to a life force. In some versions, He is not a Being who already exists, but a being who is coming into existence.

Although in all these versions He scarcely counts at all, from time to time He is found fault with for not having arranged things better. God is to blame. Man is naturally nice, good, and always in the right. Of course he makes mistakes. But who can blame him, seeing the difficulties he has to contend with. If he does wrong, external circumstances are to blame. Not only is the relationship of Creator to creature reversed. Sin is turned topsy-turvy. Guilt, if there is any, is on God's side; righteousness on man's.

In the beginning this weak God set the universe going and then more or less abandoned it in an embryonic state to complete itself through the working of accident limited by the law of "statistical necessity" — in other words by natural selection. Eventually the universe produced, by natural selection, not Adam and Eve, but a generation of semi-humans whose descendants were step-by-step transformed into real men. Or were they yet real men? Are we? Evolution still goes on. You may think that the perfect Man, Christ, has already come. But you are mistaken. The perfect men will only arrive at the end of history when evolution is complete.

Evolution, which embraces everything that takes place in history, good and bad, is the expression of God's plan for the universe — if He can be regarded as having one. No distinction is made between His active and permissive will. He looks with equal coolness on evil and ugliness, goodness and beauty. Evil in any case is a necessary part of evolution. Statistics make it unavoidable. God is the prisoner of statistics.

Although the new clerics are, in the fields that interest them, strict moralists, with their own notions of good and evil, they are philosophically committed to the principle that "everything that is, is right" — including racial prejudice, unjust political structures, legalism, authoritarianism, the whole bag of tricks.

A Secular Paradise

Having arrived on the scene, man found he had a task to perform. He had to transform the world: not to sanctify himself by the service of God and neighbor so as to be fit for a life of eternal happiness in Heaven, but to build a secular paradise. In doing this he was cooperating with evolution. Sin, when it exists, is failure to cooperate with evolution. Sin is evil not so much because it is an offense against God as because it damages man. It lets the side down — the human race. The evolutionary steeplechase to the terrestrial paradise is slowed up.

There was no original rebellion of the human race against God in the person of its head. For those who do still recognize sin as an offense against God, original sin was the collective sinfulness of early men and women as they evolved from the semi-human state; it is also the "sinful situation" into which each new child is born.

In this system there is no need for a second head of the human race, a Redeemer who by obedience repairs the damage done by the first head and wins for us the restoration of the supernatural life of sanctifying grace. Jesus Christ is a man; full stop. He died, was buried, and did not rise again from the dead. He was either the perfect example of what man should be — a man in whom God dwelt in a unique way; a prophet like Buddha or Mohammed; a revolutionary; or a dim historical figure whose real personality can barely be made out through the coating of fiction plastered over it by the evangelists.

The Church came into existence through mass self-deception on the part of the Apostles and disciples. This happened at Pentecost. They suddenly had a psychological "experience"; they became convinced that Christ was alive. This does not mean that He was really alive. They were deluded. But their delusion transformed them. Christ has "risen in their hearts." The impression made by this experience was so powerful that they persuaded others to share their delusion. Easter and Pentecost were not forty days apart; the events, or imaginary events, associated with them all took place on the same day.

The apostles could, of course, have visited the tomb to see if their experiences corresponded with the facts. Was Our Lord's body still there or not? But apparently they did not think of doing this, even though the tomb was only a few hundred yards away. Nor did their hearers.

What happened at Pentecost was, however, the work of the Holy Spirit, even though it resulted in the apostles spreading through the world and perpetuating down the ages a collection of falsehoods.

This imaginary Christ, the product of the apostles' imaginations, is referred to as "the Christ of faith," while the man who died and was buried is called "the Christ of history." Little is known about this man, although he probably did live. The "Christ of faith," the imaginary one, is the object of Christian belief and devotion. Christians worship a fictitious being. It follows that the Catholic doctrine of the Mass cannot possibly be true. A no-longer living Christ cannot possibly be present on the altar.

Although the Good News of the apostles was untrue, they spread their teaching in good faith and men were persuaded by it to lead better lives. The delusion was therefore beneficial, because it produced useful results. This degraded view of religion owes some of its popularity to the philosopher William James. It was held by the first Modernists, at the beginning of the century, who saw the Catholic Church as the moral educator of mankind, even though it was perpetuating a myth.

Mere Disguises

We here meet the second principle of the new religion. Religion is not based on objective facts about God known from His creation and by Revelation. It has its origins in man's religious needs. He makes it up to satisfy his spiritual cravings. As history proceeds man is always changing and so his religious needs change too. Since it is right that he should feel happy and at ease, he must discard from his religion whatever makes him feel spiritually uncomfortable and add to it what satisfies him. If he wants suddenly to indulge in a "baptism of the spirit," like the pentecostals, let him. If he wants to abandon prayer for protest movements, let him do that too. Man is the arbiter of religion.

Just as the apostles invented the myth of the Resurrection, the members of the early Church, referred to as a "faith community," invented the rest of Christian belief and practice to satisfy their religious needs. Except for a few moral precepts, these beliefs and practices did not come from Christ. The New Testament is largely the record of the evolving religious ideas of the faith community; very little of what it says is true or records historical fact. The Church leaders — the elders or presidents of the assembly — were not guardians of truths revealed by God. They merely interpreted and gave expression to beliefs and wishes of the Christian people. Only later, as the religious needs of the people developed, did they come to regard their leaders as bishops and priests.

This picture of the early Church is also true of the Church throughout its history. Like everything else, the Church is evolving. Having gone through various transformations in the past, we can expect others in the future. These ideas are the basis for Process Theology and Situation Ethics, which are merely disguises for adapting faith and morals to suit the times.

God, if He exists, has revealed very little, either through the Church or Holy Scripture, that is certain and definite. The Old Testament, like the New, is seen as a collection of fables designed to impart a few imprecise "religious" ideas. For many its message amounts to little more than the injunction: "Be nice to other people."

On the other hand, God is continually revealing new truths to us individually, through our inner feelings or the events of daily life. This is called "ongoing revelation." Here two things are confused: the public Revelation of religious truth given through the Church for all mankind, and the private inspirations which God gives to individuals so that each can see how to fulfill God's publicly expressed will in his particular circumstances, or the kind of illumination about the meaning of divine things which He may give in prayer. For Catholics, no inner inspiration, however apparently convincing, which conflicts with God's publicly expressed will, can possibly be from God. These inner inspirations or private ideas, usually called "insights," are given first place in the new religion as a source of religious knowledge and truth.

What happens when the members of the faith community have contradictory "insights"? They get together in a group discussion at which they share their experiences and interpret them for each other. The result, it is hoped, will be a consensus. The "insights" with majority support will become the beliefs of the community. This is how theology and dogma are made. But if agreement cannot be reached, no one need worry. Existentialism is at hand with a convenient maxim. "You do your thing, and I will do mine." The new religion alternately exalts the individual or the community according to the end in view at a given moment. In matters of belief, individualism is encouraged; anyone may believe what he likes. But when convenient the community is idolized.

A Spurious Sense Of Unity

At this point the apostles of the new religion are in a difficulty. How do you make a community out of people who have very little in common? Common beliefs are the strongest bond in any religious society and there are very few beliefs left. The internal principle of unity has gone. This is why the clergy, in order to keep the flock together, depend more and more on launching them into activities. But these in themselves cannot counteract the disintegrating effects of the new religion. A spurious sense of unity is, therefore generated by various forms of psychological manipulation. In group dynamics and sensitivity sessions, physical contact helps to bring about what was once achieved by union of mind and heart. Perhaps this is also why, when priest and penitent meet in the new face-to-face confession or reconciliation room, they clasp hands and give a good friendly squeeze.

In the 1960s, after 2,000 years of existence, the faith community went through another of its many transformations, this time an unprecedented one. The word mutation is borrowed from the science of genetics to make it sound more impressive and probable. Modern man came of age, he grew up, and Catholic man along with him. This produced a new relationship between man and God. Hitherto man had been a child (though you may think a pampered one).

It is part of the mythology of popular psychology that human beings can only reach adulthood if at some stage in adolescence they rebel against their parents. For man to reach an adult relationship with God something similar has to happen. Man needs for a time to turn his back on God, disbelieve in Him and break His commandments. It is part of growing up. Later, when man has made some mistakes and has begun to miss God a bit, the two meet again and the quarrel is made up. Not that man has to apologize. He was only freeing himself from excessive parental control. From now on they meet as equals.

(The above is not a parody. It is seriously presented as an interpretation of the parable of the Prodigal Son in pamphlets of French origin sold with episcopal permission all over the world.)

Some Modernists hailed the Sacred Vatican Council as the expression of man's coming of age; his coming-of-age party, so to speak. A new era was beginning; an age of the Holy Ghost perhaps?

In his childlike state, before coming of age, Catholic man had needed the Pope, the bishops and clergy to tell him what to believe and how to behave. Had he not, with his sure instinct for spiritual self-satisfaction and self-preservation, invented the ecclesiastical hierarchy just for that purpose; to act as Father and Mother? But now that he was grown up, he would decide these things for himself. In the new age, God would be talking to the individual directly by telephone, as it were, instead of sending him messages in a round about way through letters to his "parents." This rejection of ecclesiastical authority is referred to as the "liberation of the Church."

"The Liberation Of Man"

Mankind in general having grown up, God wants man to run the world on his own; man from now on is personally in control of the world and the evolutionary process. The faithful should therefore no longer pray to God for their religious needs. God does not want to be consulted; He expects men to provide for themselves. He is like the father who has retired and watches with satisfaction while the son handles the family business in the father's place.

Unfortunately, the son has found that the family business is far from being in good shape. Although the past is the history of human progress and everything has been getting better, the son is shocked to find in what a disorderly way evolution has been allowed to proceed. The past is such a mess he can hardly bear to look at it. However, once he is on top of things, no doubt they will move ahead faster and more efficiently. First and foremost, the world is full of unjust social, economic, and political structures, and these will have to be changed before the world can be transformed. This is called the "liberation of man," and it is the duty of Catholics to join in this work. Indeed it is the essence of their vocation.

The faithful might well be puzzled as to which of these many citadels of evil they are meant to assail. The world is full of institutions of every size and kind. Which are the new apostles referring to? The United States Congress? The Chase-Manhattan Bank? The Russian, French, or Italian Communist parties? No one tells the faithful. Nor are they told whether these institutions are unjust in principle and must be abolished, or whether they are only functioning badly and need reforming. Perhaps there is no need to instruct them. The radical left is always there to show them what to look at and what to look away from.

Unjust structures are not only the cause of all the sin in the world; they are at the same time the concrete embodiment of sin. But one of the characters of this sin is that the members of the new religion do not share in it. That is why the new structures, which are going to replace the old ones will not embody injustice or sin; they are going to be built by men without sin. As I said earlier, men — those at any rate with the right point of view — are naturally nice and good. The new religion knows nothing about grace or what happens when it is absent.

Man Has No Soul

We have come back to man, who is, after all, the center of the new religion, which has three more things to tell us about him.

To begin with, man has no soul. This is the discovery of the Biblical critics. The Bible, they say, does not recognize the existence of the soul, which was the invention of Greek philosophy. (Apparently the critics have not studied Egyptology or any of the major world religions.) "Who," reportedly said Bishop Helder Camara at the 1974 Synod "has ever seen a disembodied spirit?" This is why references to the soul in vernacular versions of the liturgy or the Bible are omitted or mistranslated. Before going up to Holy Communion we no longer say, as Pope Paul's Latin does: "Only say the word and my soul shall be healed." We say: "I shall be healed." "What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffers the loss of his life" — so runs the Jerusalem Bible — not "of his soul," which the Greek and Latin have.

A man might well argue that he was happy to gain the whole world at the price of his life, since everyone is going to die, but not if he was going to risk losing his soul in Hell. If the soul cannot exist apart from the body there is no life after death and therefore no judgment. Man is not going to have to sit for the great final examination; he will not even have continuous assessment.

Another attribute of man is that he is a genius. He is almost limitlessly creative; there is hardly anything he cannot do. And since men are equal, every man is a potential genius; only defective education and oppressive institutions prevent his talents from flowering. Unless he can develop all his powers to the extent of their capacity and give them full expression he remains stunted and incomplete. He must therefore be allowed to try everything and forbidden nothing.

This is where the new religion adopts from existentialism and psychiatric theory the principle that personality and human nature are not something fixed which a man or woman possesses from the moment of conception for all eternity. They fluctuate. He can have more or less of them. Certain conditions make him more or less of a human being, more or less of a person.

The first condition necessary for full humanity is the power to communicate, to talk and be able to make oneself understood. Embryos and infants are barely human, so are the senile and mad, who may at certain points not be human at all and may consequently be put to death. Partly because of this, man is not fully human on his own; he must be part of a group. The community makes the individual, not vice versa. A hermit in a cave is a semi-man; there is no place in the new religion for the contemplative solitary.

Comfort And Prosperity

To be completely human, a man must also have a standard of living fit for a "fully human existence." The amount of comfort and prosperity required seems to be that enjoyed by the well-provided-for European or American theologian — with perhaps a bit more. People who live in cottages with stone floors, who drink water out of wells, walk to work and cook their food in iron pots are not only poor, they are, even when happy and contented, suffering from diminishment of their human nature. Was the Holy Family affected in this way? The new religion, unlike the Gospels, has nothing encouraging to say about poverty.

Among a man's faculties are his sexual powers. These too must be given full rein if he is to be fully human. All must be allowed, everything tried. This is why the Vatican has had to issue its Declaration on Sexual Ethics. Fidelity in marriage and chastity before it, produce an enfeebled person, and virginity a non-person. The Savior would fall within this last category.

Developing one's "human potentialities" is what one might call the spirituality of the new religion as opposed to its dogmatic and moral theology. It takes the place, which in the true religion is filled by the search for spiritual perfection, and proceeds by exactly the opposite principles. The saints advanced to glory by bearing wrongs patiently, accepting gladly the frustration of their wishes, and rejoicing when they were looked down upon. The new religion abhors these ideas. Everything, which humbles and limits man and helps to keep him small in his own esteem, is to be deplored as an unqualified evil.

Perhaps this is why, when the new theologians meet to share "insights" and discuss strategy, although preoccupied with world poverty, they so often gather in expensive hotels.

Twisted Remains

What I have just described is now the religion of countless "Catholic" bishops, priests and laymen all over the world. It finds expression, as Wanderer readers know, in hundreds of books, and nearly all catechetical and educational material, is steeped in it. Not all, of course, who depart from Catholic orthodoxy embrace the new religion in its totality. Some stop short at various resting places along the way. But it is the pole of attraction to which most tend and many of the most influential have now reached.

If for a moment we ignore the twisted remnants of natural and supernatural truth scattered about in this collection of religious and philosophical debris — the truth for example that we are meant to care for each other and be cooperative (provided it is for an honorable purpose); and if we overlook the obvious tendency to identify the task of the Christian with the objectives of secular humanitarianism and Marxism, one sees that the new religion, like its secular counterparts, not only aspires to build an earthly paradise, but is involved in the worship of man and the deification of change.

It is also the gospel of riches, which, without facing it, the clergy are preaching, as they denounce the rich and run after the poor.

Blessed are the rich. They have a fully human existence.

Blessed are the healthy. They are complete human beings.

Blessed are the impure. They have not had their instincts frustrated.

Blessed are you when men think highly of you and flatter you because you are one of them; then the Church has a good image.

Blessed are you when you are liberated, not only from injustice and oppression, but from every kind of subordination; when you can have your own way in everything, as the rich do.

Hate your enemies; your employers, your parents, the bank manager, the oppressing classes, or whoever it may be.

Speak insultingly of those who find fault with you; the cardinals in Rome who examine your theological books.

Think ill of those who have authority over you and restrict your freedom — the few faithful bishops who still fulfill their duties.

Cursed are poverty, chastity, obedience, humility.

Woe to you poor, you sick, you mentally defective, you neurotics who will never be mature enough to contract a valid marriage. You will have no reward. You will die before the earthly paradise is built.

So, demonstrating and protesting, the new "church" proceeds on its way; this strange, tragic community of loving, caring, concerned, infuriated fully human persons, advancing expectantly into the future with bandaged eyes.

What will happen to it in that future, when it finally detaches itself from the Catholic Church and launches out on its own, as it ultimately will, though probably taking with it most of the Church's material possessions and a great part of its membership? Where will it end?

Will it have a long existence and lingering death as the emasculated state religion of the Common Market or a Euro-American empire of the Atlantic Alliance? Or, as the westward rolling tides from the east come onwards, will it, with all its expectations shattered, be submerged weeping in the depths of some Gulag archipelago? Is it there that it is destined, through Catholic fellow prisoners, to find again the lost pearl, the hidden treasure — like St. Hippolytus meeting Pope St. Pontian in a Sardinian silver mine and being absolved of his heresies before both went to their martyrdom?

"By the waters of Lake Baikal we sat down and wept. . . "

"O Roma felix. . . O alma mater. . . Domine misere nobis."


Philip Trower

Philip Trower, a convert to the Catholic Church, was educated at Eton and New College, Oxford, where he read history, receiving his degree in 1942. He served in the army in Italy and the Middle East where he acquired an interest in the Coptic Church.

Upon his discharge, Trower began writing book reviews for the London Spectator and reviews and articles for the Times Literary Supplement, mainly on literary subjects, and a study of Karl Marx. He has written short stories and published a novel, Tillotson, which received the Book Society's recommendation.

In 1953, Trower embraced the Catholic Faith. He was a close friend of American poet and writer Dunstan Thompson, from whom he feels he received his education as a Catholic.

Trower has written several articles, which have appeared in The Wanderer, including "Portrait of a New Religion," "Portrait of the Counterfaith," "Faith, Experience and Cathechesis," and "Bishops in the Dark."

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Chapter Five: The Essence Of Our Present Day's Tragedy

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