Tag Archives: secularism

“As Individuals, We Can Never Be Happy”

To label [novelist Marilynne] Robinson a postmodern conservative or a conservative postmodernist seems to invite boundary policing and accusations of claiming the novelist for a political agenda she does not share. Perhaps a turn away from the language of modern politics can allow us to state what Robinson and [Peter Augustine] Lawler hold in common. Their respective postmodernisms represent, above all, returns to humanism. Specifically, the recognition of the human as a created being is found both in Robinson’s “radical anthropocentricity” and in Lawler’s “whole human being.” The intellectual terrain they share might be called a postmodern humanism (or a humanist postmodernism), joined in the understanding, in Lawler’s words, that “to the extent we understand ourselves as individuals we can never be happy.”

J. L. Wall writes about the big ideas behind Robinson’s stories and essays and how she and Lawler both believe we have lost the language to communicate our deepest longings. We can still ask the right questions, but our attempts at answers fall short.

Also on this subject: “So why are humans in the secular age so unhappy? Calasso says it is because they find something ominous in the insubstantiality they feel both within themselves and in the world around them.” From a review of The Unnamable Present by Roberto Calasso.

Secularists Stuffing Their Ears in Fear

David French says he has never seen unhinged reactions like the kind Jordan Peterson is getting these days. His detractors would rather stuff their ears to keep out his voice than make a case for his errors. French says, “He’s disrupting an emerging secular cultural monopoly with arguments about history, tradition, and the deep truths about human nature that the cultural radicals had long thought they’d banished to the fringe. . . . Some things (in some places) are just not said.

It’s not that he’s a prophet or that everything he says is right. It’s more that the Left in our country can’t hear any voice but their own. Their ears are so tickled they reverberate with a single, soothing tone that drowns all other sound. Even the most basic truth creates intolerable dissonance.

Eco: The Age of Outrageous Credulity

Umberto Eco, writing in 2005, about religion’s role in our age.

Human beings are religious animals. It is psychologically very hard to go through life without the justification, and the hope, provided by religion. You can see this in the positivist scientists of the 19th century.

They insisted that they were describing the universe in rigorously materialistic terms – yet at night they attended seances and tried to summon up the spirits of the dead. Even today, I frequently meet scientists who, outside their own narrow discipline, are superstitious – to such an extent that it sometimes seems to me that to be a rigorous unbeliever today, you have to be a philosopher. Or perhaps a priest. . . .

G K Chesterton is often credited with observing: “When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn’t believe in nothing. He believes in anything.” Whoever said it – he was right. We are supposed to live in a sceptical age. In fact, we live in an age of outrageous credulity.

Recovering a Star Wars Childhood

Star Wars play in the morning lightAndrew Barber says, “I don’t want Jedi; I want my childhood back.”

Thanks to Charles Taylor’s work A Secular Age, I’ve come to believe the most important question about big entertainment is not “what is this movie/videogame/album about?” but “what is it for?” I don’t think we need another article analyzing the nitty-gritty thematic details of Star Wars. It is a simple, well-told tale of good versus evil with memorable characters and mammoth effects.

What I’m interested in is the function of Star Wars. When thousands of fans line up outside of theaters on December 17 to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens (of which I will be one), what will it be for?

His post links to another one, reviewing a presentation of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age with an application to the Star Wars prequels. What went wrong with those first three episodes added onto the well-loved space epic? Mike Cosper blames secularism.

The original trilogy, in all the ways it left questions open and invited imagination, in the way it used effects in a sparing way, was enchanted. It was an open world with questions to explore and a sense of the unknown. The prequels, then, made the mistake of disenchanting the world. The mysteries all had answers. Even the overwhelming presence of CGI has a “secular age” parallel: the overwhelming culture of production and consumption. When every moment is a visual feast, nothing is worth celebrating.

The Freedom That Undermines Itself

“Universities are addicted to censorship, and the Department of Education is their partner and enabler.”

David French writes about Title IX and students who have sued to restrict the statements of their professor. There he explains the ramifications of modern liberalism, which is self-destructive in the sense that it undermines the principles at purports to celebrate. In another article, he explains what happened at Northwestern University when a feminist professor wrote in favor of student/teacher relationships.

“Two students filed Title IX complaints against her, claiming that she’d violated federal law with her essay and a subsequent tweet. In essence, they were claiming that her writings on matters of public concern constituted unlawful gender discrimination.” More than that, they complained when others shared their complaints and spoke in favor of academic freedom.

While there is a huge, stinking pile of liberalism in this squabble, one of the lessons is the real threat to students in American universities like Northwestern. If they want to believe that love is what you make it, then they’ll have to realize they have kicked down all of the fences. All of them. The students have no grounds for complaint against a professor who supports sexual license, but if they idea scares them, they need to get out and reconsider their own self-destructive ideas.

Not the Wrong Side of History

Tim Keller reviews two books that argue in favor of Christians accepting homosexuality, saying the books by Vines and Wilson are the ones he is most often asked about. Not wanting to dismiss the books as simply unbiblical and open himself to the accusation of flippantly ignoring the subject, he writes over 2,500 words on what the authors profess and how they are wrong. On the issue of secularism, which we’ve discussed many times on this blog, Keller observes:

More explicit in Wilson’s volume than Vines’ is the common argument that history is moving toward greater freedom and equality for individuals, and so refusing to accept same-sex relationships is a futile attempt to stop inevitable historical development. Wilson says that the “complex forces” of history showed Christians that they were wrong about slavery and something like that is happening now with homosexuality.

Leaving Kansas CityCharles Taylor, however, explains how this idea of inevitable historical progress developed out of the Enlightenment optimism about human nature and reason. It is another place where these writers seem to uncritically adopt background understandings that are foreign to the Bible. If we believe in the Bible’s authority, then shifts in public opinion should not matter. The Christian faith will always be offensive to every culture at some points.

And besides, if you read Eric Kaufmann’s Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? (2010) and follow the latest demographic research, you will know that the world is not inevitably becoming more secular. The percentage of the world’s population that are non-religious, and that put emphasis on individuals determining their own moral values, is shrinking. The more conservative religious faiths are growing very fast. No one studying these trends believes that history is moving in the direction of more secular societies.

(via Jared C. Wilson)