We saw that in the ancient world, idols were worshipped because it was thought that they would give us what we want. At the heart of all idolatry is the desire to get what we want. In a superstitious world, spiritual powers, real or imagined, became the means to get what we wanted.
In principle, modern man was no different. Man, ancient and modern, has refused to acknowledge God as the giver of all good gifts. So, in the modern era, western man had an equally erroneous view of the source of provision for his basic needs. In a more sophisticated culture his estimation of those needs had expanded beyond the food and drink that were needed for survival in earlier times. But in a less superstitious era, modern man’s hope was in Reason (rather than spirits) as the great source. In particular, Reason’s offspring, science and education were thought to be the need providers. Our trust was in Science for our physical and material needs, and in Education for our intellectual, psychological, emotional needs.
C.S.Lewis understood the direction the modernist agenda was taking. In his novel, ‘That Hideous Strength’ he extrapolates the vision to its logical conclusion. The protagonists of the brave new world that Lewis envisaged spoke of “the beginning of a new era – the really scientific era.” One character, Mark Studdock, says, “The real thing is that this time we are going to get science applied to social problems and backed by the whole force of the state, just as war has been backed by the whole force of the state in the past.” Another character, Lord Feverstone, opines, “[H]umanity is at the cross-roads... If Science is really given a free hand, it can now take over the human race and recondition it: make man a really efficient animal. If it doesn’t – well, were done.”
The idolatry here is the thinking that the survival of the human race depends on Science. As we pay our dues to that modern idol and blindly follow its priests, it will reward us with not only survival, but a new, improved, type of humanity. People who, with all that science and technology provides, will be the proverbial satisfied customers. We have all worshipped at this altar. But all idols since Dagon eventually crack and tumble. Post-modernity now mocks what was once revered. Idols all ultimately fail to deliver.