In “Christianity and the Machine Age,” Eric Gill attempts to prove that Christianity is true. To answer this question, Gill turns not to philosophers, theologians or archaeologists, but to his own consciousness. “If there be God, if there be Christ,… it is to man, to the individual man that he calls.” (Gill, 219)
Gill bases his argument on the presumption that the truth is the correspondence of thought with thing. “In Christianity thought and thing correspond. It is in that sense that we say Christianity is true, is the truth.” (Gill, 219)
Gill says that what he knows of Christ corresponds with what he knows and desires and loves as a human. Gill also asserts that he has no reason to suppose that he is any “different in kind or in powers or in experience from other men.” (Gill, 219) Gill says it follows that since Christianity is true for him, it must then also be true for all men. According to Gill, those who do not accept the truth of Christianity are simply wrong.
Gill continues, asserting that Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and all other faiths are lesser because they are “more partial, less profound, and therefore less widespread.” (Gill, 219) This is a poor argument considering that Christians were a minority group for thousands of years. While Gill does not feel that other faiths are untrue, he says that the only faith with a clear view of reality is Christianity.
“Observe, for example, an object under a microscope. Attempt to get it into focus. But, unless the object be absolutely flat, you will get one level in focus and not another. You will not be able to see it all at once, and you will perhaps pass some levels altogether.” (Gill, 219)
This metaphor is an excellent way to explain why so many differing religions exist when there is only one Truth. Gill does not, however, provide any reason to assume that Christianity is seeing the truth any more clearly than the other major world religions. The argument that Christianity is more correct because it “affirms” more sets Christianity as the lowest common denominator. This does not prove that the truth as seen through the Christian ‘microscope’ is any clearer that when the truth is viewed through any other religion’s ‘microscope.’
Gill’s point about denials is well made, however. “The only thing to beware of is denial. It is on the plane of denials that we fall foul of one another.” (Gill, 219) I agree with Gill that it is more productive to examine the commonalties than the conflicts when comparing religions.
Gill’s purpose in attempting to answer such a profound question is tied to his definition of proper work in the Age of Machines. “Christianity…must imply something as to the object of human life and the object of human work.” (Gill, 220)
Gill says that if Christianity is removed from the process of work, the work(wo)man will be lowered to a subhuman condition by degrading labor and focusing on profit-gaining ends. For Gill, this is the true threat of the Machine Age. “The effect of the Machine Age is to secularize human life, to abolish the Christian criterion of holiness, understood both morally and intellectually.” (Gill, 235)
Gill does allow that machines may help to alleviate some of the suffering that exists in the world, but he has no confidence that the influence of capitalist industrialism will be overcome. “The spirit which has animated merchants and industrialists and financiers from the beginning of the Machine Age, whether in big business or small, is not the provision of social amenity or the relief of suffering, but the aggrandizement of themselves.” (Gill, 235)
For Gill the only hope for humanity lies in the creation of a Christian world, a world based on “Christian faith, ruled by Christian thought, and moved by a Christian will.” (Gill, 236)
I agree with many of the values and ideals that Gill espouses. It is obvious that something must change, particularly with regard to the overemphasis on the profit motive. I do, however, disagree with his notion that these ideals can only be applied through the template of Christianity. Christian leaders have shown themselves to be no more fair or humane than non-Christians. Neither has the influence of Christian religious leaders, particularly Catholic leaders, been proven superior. If fact, the countries most deeply entrenched in industrial capitalism are predominantly Christian.
Any challenge to the status quo, whether issued by a Buddhist or a Christian, would be an excellent start in the effort to change the way the world views work and working people. Gill’s presumption that only Christianity holds the answer is misguided.