Sunday, August 14, 2005

Diagnosing the Spiritual Health of a Nation

It must be remembered, that man cannot without danger behave according to his whim. To succeed, life must be led following invariable rules which depend on its very structure. We run a grave risk when we allow to die in ourselves some fundamental activity, whether it be of the physiological, intellectual or spiritual order. For example, the neglect of the development of the muscles, of the bodily frame and of the non-rational activities of the spirit among certain intellectuals is as disastrous as the atrophy of the intelligence and of the moral sense among certain athletes. There are innumerable examples of prolific and strong families which produce only degenerates or die out, after the disappearance of ancestral beliefs and the cult of honour. We have learnt from hard experience that the loss of the moral sense and of the sense of the holy in the majority of the active elements of a nation leads to the downfall of that nation and its subjection to the foreigner. . . . From all the evidence, the suppression of mental activities required by nature is incompatible with the fulfilment of life.

In practice, the moral and religious activities are bound together. The moral sense vanishes soon after the sense of the holy. Man has not succeeded in building, as Socrates desired, a moral system independent of all religious doctrine. Societies in which the need for prayer has disappeared are generally not far from degeneracy. That is why all civilised peoples--unbelievers as well as believers--must be concerned with this grave problem of the development of every basic activity of which the human being is capable.

Dr. Alexis Carrel - Prayer (1949) New York: Morehouse-Gorham, pp 47-49.

Via Rick Morrow @ Being in the Form of a Quest

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Five days after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Congress set aside December 11, 1776 as a "Day of Fasting and Repentance," imploring Almighty God to guide them in the days ahead "in the prosecution of a just and necessary war."

In 1779, Congress degreed October 20, 1779 a National Day of Thanksgiving, urging the nation to "humbly approach the throne of Almighty God" and ask "that he would establish the independence of the United States upon the basis of religion and virtue."

Reading Michael Novak's On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding, one gets the sense that our founding fathers possessed a clear recognition of the importance, indeed the fundamental necessity, of prayer and religious devotion to the spiritual health of a nation. When we measure this awareness of our founding fathers to the timidity and shallowness of our present legislators, for whom "separation of church and state" is interpreted to mean the absolute divorce of religion from public life, it becomes apparent just how far we've fallen from the ideals on which our nation was founded.