Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Limits of Secularism | Standpoint

An interesting factoid from Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks,

The young aristocrat was Alexis de Tocqueville, and in the book that he wrote about his experiences, namely his experience of American democracy, he said: "18th-century philosophers had a very simple explanation for the gradual weakening of beliefs: religious zeal was bound to die down as enlightenment and freedom spread." In other words, Tocqueville was saying that every self-respecting 18th-century intellectual thought that religion was dying, in intensive care, and all that was needed was a little bit of help on its way — assisted suicide. "It is tiresome," Tocqueville said, "that the facts do not fit this theory at all." So he had this question: how come religion didn't die when everyone said it would?

One hundred and eighty years have passed since Tocqueville wrote these words, but until very recently intellectuals have been making the same mistake. In America today, for example, a higher percentage of the population attends a house of worship weekly than is the case in the theocratic state of Iran: 40 per cent in the US, 39 per cent in Iran. Furthermore, in China today, half a century after Chairman Mao declared China to be religion-free, there are more practising Christians than there are members of the Communist Party. One way or another, religion didn't die.

Read the rest here in a longish but excellent piece:The Limits of Secularism | Standpoint


JMP said...

I've always thought that the book of Ecclesiastes makes the most sense of all the biblical books; even when I was a Christian. ("Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.") I enjoy the Tao Te Ching now, and find a lot of wisdom in the observation of the impartial "nature of things". I've found Epicureanism to be very useful, which according to the article you link to means that I am in an unhappy place. I disagree. I have to say that I have much more clear headed thinking, and made more wise choices, since I have cobbled together my own philosophy of living rather than adapt to an ready made belief system. (Actually, most people develop their own beliefs to some degree; you can have 100 people in a room and even if they all claim the same religion, they will all vary in how they personally interpret or practice their religion; thus you will have 100 different beliefs.) I find this article a tired defense of one particular view: that the Judeo-Christian "Western" belief system is the heart of all that is good and wise and true. Some people believe that, and want to convince others to join them. Or force them to. I've walked that path before and know that, for me, it leads to a dead end. Nothing is sacred or holy, unless we deem it to be so. The only meaning to life is what we make of it. You probably disagree, but to each his own.

Bill Baar said...

I don't disagree much at all. Maybe neither does the Pope..

How many ways are there to God?

As many as there are people. For even within the same faith each man's way is an entirely personal one. We have Christ's word: I am the way. In that respect, there is ultimately one way, and everyone who is on the way to God is therefore in some sense also on the way of Jesus Christ. But this does not mean that all ways are identical in terms of consciousness and will, but, on the contrary, the one way is so big that it becomes a personal way for each man.
--p32,Salt of the Earth