Some quick links. I have more to say about the top three, but haven’t much time at the moment.
Christ, The Hold Steady, Ignazio Silone, and Us [extract below the fold]
Our own tradition offers one particularly powerful example of living “as if” one has made Newman’s leap of faith. In Ignazio Silone’s novel Bread and Wine, set in Italy in 1938, the socialist revolutionary Pietro Spina is in hiding from the fascists and forced to live as a priest. The result is something beautiful, a Spinian Christianity, as I think of it: “denuded of all religion and all Church control” and focused on striving to be “free, loyal, just, sincere, disinterested,” as Spina says at the end of the novel. Spina (like the English ethical socialist tradition) comes to understand socialism as sacramental; an overflowing of love, not of History. In 1977 doctors told Silone he had not long to live. He wrote a note to his wife Darina:
I feel that I have sincerely expressed, at various times, all the duty I feel towards Christ and his teachings … It was through Christ, and his teachings, that I recovered … But the “return to the fold” has not been possible, even after the “modernizations” of the recent Vatican Council. I have already given an explanation for failing to return and it is sincere. It seems to me that over the course of centuries there has been constructed a theological and liturgical elaboration–historical in origin–upon essential Christian truths that has rendered them unrecognizable. Official Christianity has become an ideology. It would be a violation of my deepest beliefs and nature to declare that I accept it; and if I did, it would be in bad faith (in Stanislao G. Pugliese’s Bitter Spring: A Life of Ignazio Silone).
The depredations of organized religion have been many indeed, and they continue today. No one can object to Christopher Hitchens pointing them out. But to imagine that the telescope and microscope have exhausted all the religious impulse was responding to is to miss the point on a pretty spectacular scale, I think. As Terry Eagleton points out “Christianity was never meant to be an explanation of anything in the first place. It is rather like saying that thanks to the electric toaster we can forget about Chekhov.” I think Silone understood that, so even when he could not assent, he knew he had to find ways of being “as if” he assented. So, perhaps, do we.