McCabe goes on to speculate how religious belief might have taken firm roots in the human psyche. One of the preconditions for making faith central to our ancestors’ social lives is the threat posed by scientific technique. In pre-medieval times when science was still in its infancy, it was fairly natural to believe and upkeep faith without persuasion. Faith offered plausible solutions in the face of vexing vagaries of primitive human societies. There was no need for institutions such as the Church to impose their authority. It was not until the instruments of science started questioning their credibility that institutions of religion joined hands with institutions of power. Ever since, religions have grown more dogmatic and become intolerant of dissent.
As McCabe notes, the sanction of divinity to the species of humans is problematic. Unlike other animals which are considered lacking in divine grace, humans are made in the image of God and hence share His divine nature. We are, religions claim, capable of the supernatural. This means that “our divinity must always come as a surprise, something eternally astonishing”. (p.21) Yet Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection dispels any such elevated view of humans. Recent advances in forensic and archaeological techniques have only confirmed the theory to be true. The treatment of what is contained in holy texts as literal truths prevents reason and fact from taking upper hand.
Hence, what we repeatedly see in McCabe’s book is how reason is circumvented through numerous means. By maintaining an antagonistic position toward reason and scientific fact, religious faith has thwarted its own development in the contemporary milieu.
Herbert McCabe OP, Faith Within Reason, Edited and Introduced by Brian Davies OP, Published by Continuum.