Saturday, June 30, 2007

Secularism's growing cloud

The problem of secularism is something that confronts us nearly every time we walk out of our door. Well, it depends on where you are headed (there is very little secularism present at Marian Valley) but if you are speaking of your modern school or university then you are definitely in the ballpark of secularism.

I'm interested in secularism not only because it impacts on me personally but because I'm interested in human nature itself. It's an interesting subject because man is an interesting creature. For one, he is entirely unique, being a union of spirit and matter. Such a combination makes him a complex creature due to these two entirely different realms of creation being fused into one being and the internal war that wages within him as a result of the fall makes him more complicated still. Given that secularism is an attitude adopted by many it is important that we engage with it.

Currently I'm reading a book called "Theology and Sanity" by Frank Sheed. It is an explanation of the Catholic view of reality and how only the Catholic view is totally sane. Sanity, after all, is seeing reality as it really is. There is a passage in there that I think is well worth quoting. Think about it and see how much it applies to your own situation. I'd be most interested in a comment.

"One calamitous result of this unawareness that the road of life leads anywhere in particular is that hope dies. 'The mass of men' says Thoreau, 'lead lives of quiet desperation.' I do not know how true that was of his generation but it is fiercely true of ours. Note that it is quiet desperation: not so much active despair as the absence of hope. Men live from one day to the next, hoping that tomorrow may be a little better than today, or if not better then not much worse, occasionally stimulated a little by some extra surge of hope that this or that venture, intellectual or financial or athletic or amatory or what you will, may turn out well. But for most men, even these hopes are impermanent; and just as there is no over-all purpose in life, so there is no over-all hope. They are not living toward anything. There is no great thing in the future drawing them on: no goal."

Of course it is important to distinguish between two main parties in the secularist camp. The first and larger camp are simply the folk that drift through life with no firm anchor. Religion of any sort barely plays a role in their lives. They would no doubt disagree with the Church on many matters but they are not what you would call overtly anti-religious, simply nonreligious. In fact they would be hardly aware of what the Church has to say on anything in the first place.

The second camp is deadly serious in their secularism. They are overtly anti-religious and work actively against it. The recent year has seen them produce several books that have sold well including "Letter to a Christian Nation" and especially "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. This crowd is most certainly interested in religion if only to oppose it.

This brings me to Dawkins' book, a best seller. I confess I have dabbled in it a couple of times in a bookshop and read what is, to me, the part that matters most, viz his interaction and (badly attempted) refutation of Aquinas' five ways. Better attempts have been made before than Dawkin's. It has nothing new. The problem is that, whilst it doesn't take a great arsenal of philosophical training at one's dispoal to see through what he says, most people have never had that training. Given that Dawkin's is a talented writer he has quite a potential to convince the average person. It remains to be seen how effective he is on any mass scale. After all, that there is a God has been the common conviction of mankind throughout the ages.

Let me emphasis again though, that the potential Dawkin's has does not lie in the fact that the average person is stupid. It is a lack of formation.

In my next post I'll have a little more analysis of what I found when I investigated some of what Dawkin's had to say on Aquinas' arguments.


Stephen said...

Secularism is the faith's biggest channlengs particularly when you see from the latest census release that it is Australia's fastest growing 'religion". I will discuss further when it is not so late (1.00am)

irena said...

It always amazes me how people can stay sane since they have no overall meaning to life. How do they get themselves to carry on living when the world collapses around them.
I'm not surprised, then that many people today run from the thought of death.