G.K. Chesterton

New-old habits of the postmodern heart: 'When people choose not to believe in God, they do not ... '

New-old habits of the postmodern heart: 'When people choose not to believe in God, they do not ... '

It is without a doubt the most famous quotation that journalist and Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton either (a) said, (b) never said, (c) might have said or (d) said in pieces that were latter assembled by someone else into one memorable thought.

I am referring to this statement: “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”

You can click here for a fascinating investigation into the origins of this statement. The bottom line: There are all kinds of Chesterton statements that may have evolved into this quote. I liked this part:

... Robin Rader of Zambia argued that the epigram can be found divided between two adjacent Father Brown stories:
It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense. [“The Oracle of the Dog” (1923)]
You hard-shelled materialists were all balanced on the very edge of belief -- of belief in almost anything. [“The Miracle of Moon Crescent” (1924)]

I bring this up because this famous Chesterton semi-quote offers a perfect summary of what I felt recently while walking the streets of Prague, thinking about some recent Pew Research Center survey work about religion in Central and Eastern Europe, and the Czech Republic in particular. That turned into my "On Religion" column this past week, which then served as the hook for this week's Crossroads podcast. Click here to tune that in.

But before we get to that, please do this for me. Read the Chesterton statements again and then read this headline from a recent "Gray Matter" essay in The New York Times: "Don’t Believe in God? Maybe You’ll Try U.F.O.s."

Interesting? Here is a key chunk of this fascinating piece:

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C.S. Lewis the occultist and other rather obvious errors

Here’s a dirty little secret that reporters don’t want you to know. When writing the back story or filler for a news item, we often rely on our knowledge of a topic to flesh out a story.

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Got news? The hidden mystery of 60K Christians

Of all the interesting things to consider as a media critic, the most important is probably story choice. We frequently look at individual stories and praise them or criticize them or point out interesting errors or omissions. But such an approach misses that big initial question of how story selection colors our understanding of the world more than anything else.

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