If you thought the danger of unquestioned doctrine enforced by unfettered power was a thing of the medieval past, then welcome to the 21st century. The coupling of dogma and authoritarianism has returned as a significant threat to our freedoms.
Instead of an all-powerful Church, however. we are facing the might of the only religious system acceptable to contemporary society: Scientism. Consensus is its orthodoxy, and it is the final arbiter in all matters of ethics, morals, and truth. The experts are the high priests of this new order and the halls of learning its temples. Media voices are its prophets, and the government enforces its authority. No dissent is allowed, and those who do are treated as heretics.
Scientism differs from science. Science is the honest, questioning pursuit of knowledge. It thrives on inquiry. Scientism demands that science be the only objective source of truth and should be the standard by which all other disciplines are judged. It abolishes honest skepticism. Science says, “I don’t know.” Scientism says “I know all.” Science seeks knowledge. Scientism fears the seeker.
Just as the church and the state were once joined together in an unholy wedlock, we are seeing the union of Scientism and the State. Of all the things people fear in our current cultural climate, true science and medical inquiry should not be among them. We should always, however, be wary of the slavery to unquestioned, unexamined consensus enforced by unrestrained political power.
This combination sets a dangerous precedent. Consider the possibility described by C. S. Lewis decades ago:
“We know that one school of psychology already regards religion as a neurosis. When this particular neurosis becomes inconvenient to government, what is to hinder government from proceeding to ‘cure’ it?”
Should Christianity become perceived as a “sickness” or its teachings “hate speech,” (and it’s not a stretch to conceive it so), the all-wise, omnibenevolent government could easily find it within its power and reach to “cure” its adherents. All rationalized by a concern for the “public health.”
Like the “Church” of centuries gone by, this new faith revels in its capacity to harness the power of the State to its will. And it tolerates no dissent.