Will Secularism Destroy Society?
Please note, this is an older article (written January 2011). It was re-written and re-titled in July 2014 as Is Secularism Destroying Society?
Is Secularism Destroying Society? clarifies and better develops the subject matter.
What's with all this antagonism between the clergy and secularism? Is it true that people, organizations, books, media and websites engaging in religious skepticism will be what ultimately brings down society? Is the sky falling and if so who should be held responsible?
Millions of us have graduated from religious schools; weren't all of us taught (especially the clergy) that secularization will be our downfall? Professors and preachers taught us that religion and morality are the "glue" that holds society together and that "God will bless us" if we were faithful.
Skeptics think that such clerical warnings against secularism is somewhat like a self serving "religious vaccination" meant to inoculate pew dwellers from straying from the fold. But serious historians will indeed tell you that the clergy's warnings are accurate!
Please read what Will Durant said about this, taken from his The Story of Civilization, V.1., 71. courtesy via Wikipedia:
On the decline and rebuilding of civilizations
Will Durant saw the decline of a civilization as a culmination of strife between religion and secular intellectualism, thus toppling the precarious institutions of convention and morality:
"Hence a certain tension between religion and society marks the higher stages of every civilization. Religion begins by offering magical aid to harassed and bewildered men; it culminates by giving to a people that unity of morals and belief which seems so favorable to statesmanship and art; it ends by fighting suicidally in the lost cause of the past. For as knowledge grows or alters continually, it clashes with mythology and theology, which change with geological leisureliness. Priestly control of arts and letters is then felt as a galling shackle or hateful barrier, and intellectual history takes on the character of a "conflict between science and religion." Institutions which were at first in the hands of the clergy, like law and punishment, education and morals, marriage and divorce, tend to escape from ecclesiastical control, and become secular, perhaps profane. The intellectual classes abandon the ancient theology and-after some hesitation- the moral code allied with it; literature and philosophy become anticlerical. The movement of liberation rises to an exuberant worship of reason, and falls to a paralyzing disillusionment with every dogma and every idea. Conduct, deprived of its religious supports, deteriorates into epicurean chaos; and life itself, shorn of consoling faith, becomes a burden alike to conscious poverty and to weary wealth. In the end a society and its religion tend to fall together, like body and soul, in a harmonious death. Meanwhile among the oppressed another myth arises, gives new form to human hope, new courage to human effort, and after centuries of chaos builds another civilization." The Story of Civilization, V.1., 71. (link to Will Durant's Wikipedia page from which the above is taken)
Wow! What a sobering lesson from history that Durant has delivered! Would anyone care to dispute such a towering intellect as Durant? A timely assertion from Wikipedia seems appropriate here:
George Santayana "The Life of Reason" (1905-1906)
Vol. I, Reason in Common Sense
Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Durant passed on nearly 30 years ago, but I believe his observation to be a timeless truth! Question is, what should our response be in light of the current day unfolding and clashes between secularism and religion?
I have pondered this dilemma and have sought to fine tune Ex-Minister's direction and approach in a time when most are oblivious to what would lie ahead should religion be snuffed out.
I know the clergy, how they think and what they are saying to their people. You haven't been paying attention if you haven't heard their oft repeated refrain that secularism is destroying society. The clergy are losing the battle and their warnings about the clash ultimately make this dilemma into a self fulfilling prophecy. Is secularism destroying America? Short answer is yes, but it isn't entirely secularism's fault... it is largely the clergy's fault!
Many secularists don't like the "glue" (religion) and are eager to destroy it. The clergy are alarmed by secularism, some feel doomsday is beckoning (i.e. last days scenario). What we see is a ratcheting up of rhetoric from both sides.
Skepticism in theory shouldn't or need not be a destructive force. Are questions daggers? Isn't education a good thing that is superior to superstition? Skeptics view skepticism as somewhat of a self-improvement journey while clergy view it as a grave threat to society (some view it as a threat to their career and livelihood).
Personally, I see society headed down the path that Durant describes. I don't necessarily think that the ultimate destination has to end up in chaos... but we will unless secularism and religion make sustainable adjustments.
This organization's radical departure from traditional models of secularism focuses upon a relational embrace of religion and a slower rate of delivery. We are still working upon the concept, but I would liken it to a "statemenship type of secularism." For a 47 year old man, I have seen a lot by witnessing religion as a minister, then as a disbelieving ex-minister. My three years in the former Soviet Union "smacked me in the face" as to the vast benefits of a religion that I see as intellectual bunk!
I don't want to foment or increase rhetoric between the parties. This is bad business and a serious secular mistake. I'm working for a better secularism that can communicate with people of faith without conflict nor compromise. Yes, this is possible and the key is working with the clergy!
In closing, I'd like to challenge those wanting to kill off religion by asking you to re-read and ponder the insight that Durant provides. Especially this paragraph:
Conduct, deprived of its religious supports, deteriorates into epicurean chaos; and life itself, shorn of consoling faith, becomes a burden alike to conscious poverty and to weary wealth. In the end a society and its religion tend to fall together, like body and soul, in a harmonious death.
Surely, you don't want this - do you? Think hard about this.
Brian Worley Ex-Minister.org January 15, 2011 All rights reserved