Friday, February 01, 2013

The descent of the Modernists.

Sometimes it feels like I have been waiting at the bottom of this staircase forever waiting for the rest of the world to join me.

However, in my opinion, every step made by the individual is a victory for rational thought and for the progress of the world.


  1. I've been down there with you, Jesse, since I was about 6 years old. I was asking questions then, can't fool the kids!!!

  2. Anonymous4:04 AM

    Gee, I think the staircase should be reversed with Atheism as the top step with us evolving upwards in enlightenment. Thanks again for standing for standing up for reason.

    1. Anonymous10:21 AM

      That's exactly what I thought.

  3. Leland4:11 AM

    Sorry, Gryphen, but I find this picture to be rather ...insulting. The vast majority of the time, stairs of this sort are used to portray climbs into or away from enlightenment (or whatever else the artist was attempting to portray) depending entirely on the orientation of the person's travel.

    To me, if the artist wanted to give this the positive connotation you have assigned it, the labels would be reversed so that atheism was on the top step and Christianity was on the bottom step, showing an ASCENT from religion. The person would be CLIMBING the stairs.

    But at least you have said enough in your comment for the rest of us to understand the attitude you wanted us to take from this.

  4. A. J. Billings4:20 AM

    I have a different take on the progression.
    in that it's an upward path on the stairway of life, not a descent to the basement.

    The path goes from a small pinched world view to a panoramic vista.

    When I was a young guy, I did attend a series of churches, and was a believer in the virtues on the Christian religion. As time went on, the infighting between sects, and the blindness to science began to bother me.

    Contradictions in the bible, and the slavish and ignorant preaching, plus the absurdity of the Old Testament helped convince me of how foolish religion was.

    I left it all behind, and felt liberated, to say the least.

    I can't now imagine what it would be like to subject my life to a system of religion where my intellectual life and pursuits must always be held in check by an ancient set of books, and a "pastor" telling me what I'm supposed to be doing.

    I also feel a lot more connected to the natural world, and have a moral compass based on logic, compassion, and science.

  5. Randall4:57 AM

    The illustration has it backwards:
    Religion - superstition - lies down in the hole at the BOTTOM of the stairs. The steps should climb UP and out of the dark hole - away from darkness of closed eyes and willing ignorance and towards the light of understanding and rationality.

  6. Anonymous5:12 AM

    There are "NO" words to describe the ----"O.U.T.R.A.G.E." ---- AND IT'S STILL HAPPENING!

  7. fromthediagonal5:55 AM

    "The descent of the Modernists" is not a favorable depiction.

    Descent: devolution, decline, an inclination downward or slope.

    This is magnified by the shading of light:
    The young man lives in the light and as he ages he descends into darkness.

    The man who has descended to the base appears to be a scholar, the ultimate seeker of knowledge.

    He has arrived in the darkness of the base.

    A base can be a solid surface from which to ascend, but it also be used as a negative, as in "base instincts".

    I usually stand with you, but my view of this is a negative one.

  8. However you choose to interpret the picture, I'm pretty sure that that it was intended by the artist to portray a negative view of those who leave religion behind.

    "Modernists" has been used as a negative term for many decades in the church I was raised in.

  9. Anonymous6:57 AM

    "The Descent of the Modernists", by E. J. Pace, first appearing in the book Seven Questions in Dispute by William Jennings Bryan, 1924, New York: Fleming H. Revell Company.

    This cartoon represents the OPPOSITE view which Gryph assigns to it. The young man at the top of the stairs, is in the light. As he learns more and gets older (note that he turns into a clergyman) he starts to doubt, and goes toward the shadows. By the time he is an old man, he has ripped off his clerical collar (in his left hand) and is literally in shadows and at the bottom of the stairs. The 'pit' which awaits him is highlighted on the right at the bottom of the stairs.

    Not at all favourable towards those who think that Enlightenment is moving away from religion.
    Archie Butt

  10. LoveAndKnishesFromBrooklyn7:23 AM

    Remember that the people at the top step can VERY easily be blinded by that light. I'm at the bottom step right now, ready to progress off that run-of-the-mill staircase. Mr. Knishes takes the "ancient aliens" approach at times, and wonders what would happen if the prophet named Jesus actually returned and presented himself as one.

  11. Anonymous8:33 AM

    The steps are heading the wrong way

  12. Anonymous8:40 AM


    They will give you a list of books that will answer your questions plus some common sense discussion.

  13. I think that many of the "enlightened free-thinkers" commenting on this post are missing the point. Context is vital. There was a storm of epic proportions brewing in the Churches and in particular the clergy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries between the modernists and the fundamentalists. This culminated with the publication of the 4 Volume set of books known as "The Fundamentals" in 1909, and led to a large fracture amongst Christianity world-wide. The modernists, led by men like Harry Emerson Fosdick and others, belief system was easily observed to follow the pattern depicted in the cartoon (IE: If the Bible is not believed to be infallible, then Genesis is an allegory, Jesus is not virgin born, there are no real miracles, there certainly is no resurrection and you really can't know anything accept that there is no God). Mr. Pace had aligned himself with the Fundamentalists led by men like R. A. Torrey, James Orr, Sir Robert Anderson that believed everything hinged on the 2nd step (The Infallibility of the Bible). Mr.Pace's cartoon was designed to show the clergy and the Church in particular, that if a man stands up week after week and even draws a salary because he "preaches the Bible", he should at the very least...umm...I don't know...BELIEVE IT!

    As for atheism being at the top of the staircase, I'm sure Lenin, Stalin, Tsung and Pol Pot would wholeheartedly agree with you.

    Their 70,000,000 murdered and starved victims of the 20th century.

    Not so much.


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