The World's First Love by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Part 53.

CHAPTER 22 The Woman and the Atom

There is an excuse for some anxiety today, but no one has a right to be without hope. Yet the prophets of gloom abound, and the disciples of hope are few. But before giving reasons for hope, it is well to inquire why there is so much apprehension today. Man is living in fear, but it is different from any fear in the past - first, because man used to fear God, with a filial fear which made him shrink from hurting the One Whom he loved. Later on, man feared not God, but his fellow man, as the world shuddered under two World Wars in twenty-one years. Now we have come to the last and most awful of all the fears, in which man trembles before the littlest thing in the universe - the atom!

The atomic bomb has suddenly made all humanity fear that which the individual alone previously feared, namely, death. Death has unexpectedly become a phenomenon that not only the person must face, but society or civilization itself. Those who denied personal immortality used to take refuge in collective immortality, saying that, although the individual perished, society would be preserved. The atomic bomb has made collective immortality a myth and restored personal immortality as the great problem of our age.

The second reason for fear is that religion has again become the primary factor of human life, and not for religious but for political reasons. All through pre-Christian and Christian history, wars were religious. The Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans, all fought religious wars. They fought them in the names of their gods, and against peoples who believed in other kinds of gods. In Christian times, wars were still religious. Islam is a religion and, as such, crushed Christianity, reducing the number of Bishops in Africa from seven hundred and fifty in the seventh century, to only five in the eleventh century, so that Africa now has to be re-evangelized. Islam is a religion believing in God but fighting against those who believe that God revealed Himself in His Divine Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. There was no quarrel among the combatants in the older wars about the end of man, namely, his union with God. There was only a quarrel about the means to that end.

But today all this has changed. There are no more struggles of the gods against gods, or of inferior religions against Christianity, but rather the absolutely new phenomenon of an antireligious force opposing all religion. Communism is not an atheism which intellectually denies God in the manner of the sophomore who has just read the first fifteen pages of a textbook in biology. Rather, Communism is the will to destroy God. It does not so much negate the existence of God; rather, it challenges Him, changes His essence into evil, and makes man in the form of a dictator, the Lord and Master of the world.

Whether we will it or not, we are being confronted not with a choice between religions, but with the supreme alternative of God or anti-God. Never before were democracy and belief in God so nearly identified; never before were atheism and tyranny so much a twin. The preservation of civilization and culture is now one with the preservation of religion. If the anti-God forces of the world conquer, culture and civilization will disappear, and we will have to start all over again.

This brings us to the third characteristic of our modem fear, namely, the dissolving of man into nature. Man to be happy must maintain two relationships: one vertical with God, the other horizontal with fellowmen. In modern times, man first serves his vertical relations with God by indifference and irreligion, then his horizontal relations with neighbor by war and civil strife. Man tried to compensate for the loss of both by the new dimension of depth, in which he sought to lose himself in nature. He, who once was rightly proud of being made to the image and likeness of God, began to boast that he was his own creator and that he made God to his image and likeness. From this false humanism came the descent from the human to the animal, when man admitted he came from the beast, and immediately proceeded to prove it by acting like a beast in war. More recently he has made himself one with nature, saying that he is nothing more than a complex arrangement of chemical elements. He now calls himself "the atomic man," as Theology becomes Psychology, Psychology becomes Biology, Biology becomes Physics.

We can understand what Cournot meant when he said, that God in the twentieth century would leave men to the fate of mechanical laws of which He Himself is the author. The atomic bomb acts on humanity as excessive alcohol acts on a human. If a man abuses the nature of alcohol and drinks to excess, alcohol renders its own judgment. It says to the alcoholic: "God made me. He intended that I be used rationally, that is, for healing and for conviviality. But you have abused me. I shall therefore turn against you, because you have turned against me. From now on you will have headaches, dizziness, an upset stomach; you will lose your reason; you will become a slave to me, and this although I want you not."

So with the atom. It says to man: "God made me. He put atomic fission in the universe. That is how the sun lights the world. The great power which the Omnipotence has locked within my heart was made to serve you for peaceful purposes: to light your cities, to drive your motors, to ease the burdens of men. But instead, like Prometheus, you have stolen this fire from heaven and used it for the first time to destroy noncombatants. You did not first use electricity to kill a man, but you first used atomic fission to annihilate cities. For that reason, I shall turn against you, make you fear what you should love, make millions of hearts shrink in terror from your enemies, doing to you what you have done to them, and turn humanity into a victim of Frankenstein, cowering in bomb shelters from the very monsters you have created."