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Dr. Whaler's secularism

Reader comment on item: Q&A: Remaking a Religion
in response to reader comment: Making religion safe

Submitted by Erich W (United States), Jan 3, 2011 at 23:35

Living in Turkey, I watched Turkey's secularists fail in the face of steady Islamic resurgence, from 1988 to 2009. I think the secularist vision of life self-destructs after a few generations, because human beings are fundamentally spiritual. They seek for something or someone to worship. Human beings are not fundamentally scientific. Laboratory science is a great tool to understand cause and effect, which is good for manipulating life effectively. It does nothing, however, to show us the true purpose of human life. Meaning is absent. There is no teleology in science per se. Purpose, however, is what most human beings long to find. The self-generated purposes of the secular humanists simply are not powerful enough to create a resistance to temptation and moral degeneration, for most people. Why be ethical? Evil is strong.

Rationalism by itself is also suicidal. How do you rationalize rationalism? How do you prove that your thoughts are worth anything, have any true purpose and value, or can find anything that we will all call "truth"? especially if the mind is mere animal material? Does not rationalism alone lead to the idea that life is a sick joke? Worse yet, that the joke is not even intentional, and the grim laughter is meaningless.

So I find secular rationalism, as a philosophy of life, to be a bleak, meaningless, empty negativity...a kind of nihilism. Anything will displace that nothingness in the long haul. It may be a devil from hell. I worry for our secular democracies. I do want a certain non-philisophic, pragmatic secularism politically speaking (the Sermon on the Mount was not meant as a standard for worldly governments). Yet, the emptiness of secularist ideology proves to be so wimpy in the face of the forcefulness of Islam! Look hard at Europe. That is philosophical secularism caving into Islamic forcefulness. Will the Europeans have to turn to their animal spirits of hatred and extermination in order to resist the Intruder? That would not be Rationalism any more, but the darkest form of Romanticism; nor would such a turn allow for the protection of individual rights. It would be a blood bath. But secularist weakness among the political class is driving the populace to frustration. The nothingness of secularism looks at the something called Islam, and cannot even see what it is staring at. The materialist will not understand spiritual force when he sees it, and so he is doomed.

A peaceful, popular and often public adherence to forms of Christianity in Europe and America would support the value of individual rights and the value of the scientific culture (though it would argue rationally against the atheistic materialism that some equate with science), as it has in the past. This is because Christianity teaches us that each person is made in the image of God, and that we aught to love each individual as a reflection of the love of God in Christ. Present forms of Islam would tend to work in the opposite direction, for reasons special to Islam.

The category we call "religion" is misleading indeed. As a category, it leads us to throw opposite things into the same box, and call them all, more or less the same. The facts point to the vastly different origins, scope and tendencies of the things we so sloppily call "religions." Our laws have erred in categorizing Islam together with forms of Christianity and Judaism current in America and Europe. Islam has a completely different kind of origin, scope and tendency that makes it a cross over between "religion" as we know it, and "global totalitarian militaristic society".

My point is that there is a huge empty space within human beings that secularism by itself cannot fill; that Islam fills aggressively by making people, in the totality of their society, to be the slaves of Allah; and which Christianity fills graciously by inviting human beings to become sons and daughters of God through Christ, in a worldly world. Human beings are both public and private beings, and their spiritual life will be both public and private. The questions are how? and to what end?

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