Category : Secularism

Saturday Food for Thought from Harry Blamires

“There is no longer a Christian mind. It is a commonplace that the mind of modern man has been secularized. For…

Posted by Kendall Harmon on Saturday, August 29, 2020

Posted in Books, Secularism, Theology

(1st Things) Carl R. Trueman–The Road to Bostock

It is here that Farrow’s book is so singularly helpful. The essay “Autonomy: Sic transit anima ad infernum” is worth the price of the book all by itself. In it he traces with both remarkable depth and enviable conciseness the rise of the modern self: the autonomous self-creator to whom reality must bend or, better still, for whom reality is merely what works best for the individual concerned. With roots in Rousseau and Nietzsche, this self lies behind Anthony Kennedy’s oft-cited fantasy of selfhood in Casey and lurks in the background of all the subsequent Supreme Court rulings on matters involving sexuality, up to and including Bostock. Indeed, Farrow makes the necessary point:

The autonomous will really has no choice but to attack the body as well as the mind. For the body is the most obvious locus of the given, the most stubborn impediment to the power claimed by the will.

Transgenderism is the logical outcome of all this. In fact, the annihilation of gender as a stable category tout court is the logical outcome—a point that seems to have eluded Justice Gorsuch, who apparently wants to keep his binary categories while not realizing the metaphysical depths of the revolution he has now placed into law.

The shock and awe surrounding the Bostock ruling perhaps indicates that the old task of apologetics is now being oddly reversed. The pressing pastoral need of the hour for the church is not to explain the faith to the world but rather first to explain the world to the faithful. If Richard Rorty’s famous quip—the truth is what your contemporaries let you get away with saying—works as a descriptive rather than prescriptive principle in terms of cultural dynamics, in terms of which arguments work and which do not, then it behooves us to ask in what kind of culture the stated logic of the Bostock decision has come to make sense. If Christians do not understand the wider context, then they will continue to underestimate the true depth of the cultural problem, be perplexed at the speed of apparent change, and be disturbed by new developments. And that will make it very hard to navigate this world as both good citizens and good stewards of the gospel.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Secularism, Supreme Court

(Sun Telegraph) Why millennial atheists like me are embracing church

During the noughties, many teenage contemporaries were attracted to the shouty certainty of the ‘New Atheism’, just as today’s youngsters choose the climate change pulpit to lecture older generations. Shamefully, I accused my mother – a consummate do-gooder – of child abuse for baptising me without my consent. The canard “If you’re not a socialist at 20, you have no heart; if you’re not a conservative at 30, you have no brain”, may be trite but it reflects a fundamental truth; maturity often involves the realisation that we can learn much from the past.

Indeed, the Church of England still safeguards our architectural and artistic inheritance. National identity is inseparable from its defining texts, the King James Bible and Book of Common Prayer. It is impossible to interpret much great art or literature created before the 1900s without some Bible knowledge.

But perhaps the most important lesson is how churchgoing takes us outside the trivia of our own lives – the preoccupations and obsessions induced by social media and that sense of ourselves as the star of our own B-movie biopic. It enables us to escape – if temporarily – such narcissism, focusing on the wider world and taking a longer view. For me it is at least a partial antidote to the illusory optimism, anxiety and depression that has defined my generation.

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Posted in Atheism, England / UK, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Young Adults

(EF) Pablo Martinez–“Turning the truth into a matter of personal opinions, inexorably leads to loss of hope”

Question. We went from ‘I think therefore I am’, to ‘I feel therefore I am’, and then to post-truth. What is the reference that will be an anchor to human beings in this new decade?

Answer. The two great anchors of human beings are truth and hope. Both come together, they are inseparable and make the backbone of human existence. These two do not vary with time, we need them today just like twenty centuries ago. What changes is the relationship, the attitude of Man towards these two anchors. That’s where the origin of the current deep crisis of values lies. The replacement of ‘the Truth’ by ‘my truth’ has broken one of the anchors, dragging the other one, hope, with its breakup. In his best known work From Dawn To Decay, the renowned French historian Jacques Barzun, already warned that ‘the postmodern assault on the idea of truth could lead us to the destruction of 500 years of civilisation’.

The root of the conflict is not cultural or ideological, it is a moral one. Ultimately, it is not a matter of a new philosophy, but a matter of who has the authority in my life and in the world. Does anyone rule up there or can I rule?

A strong earthquake has shaken the foundations of Western civilisation, because in the last 30 years the foundation and nature of the truth have amazingly changed. The change is summed up in one sentence: ‘Truth is dead, long live to my truth!’

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

Leander Harding–the mission of a Cathedral to the modern world

In the remainder of this report I want to focus on responding to the immense missionary challenges that are facing the Christian Church in general and the Cathedral in particular. In November I gave a set of talks in the Diocese of Dallas on this problem entitled Modernity and Mission. The topic was the focus of my study and prayer for the Summer and Fall. I believe I have a better understanding of what is distinctive about the missionary environment in which we find ourselves and greater clarity about what an authentic missionary engagement with modernity looks like. I have been trying to share some of these thoughts in the Dean’s Forum. As a result of this study I believe strongly that The Cathedral of All Saints is uniquely positioned to be especially effective in reaching contemporary people for the sake of Jesus Christ.

There are many blessings of modernity for which to give thanks, modern medicine and a remarkable rise in the standard of living right across the world. Modernity is also characterized by what the old preachers called worldliness, a mentality which is preoccupied with the things of this world in which God is not so much denied as forgotten. The experience of transcendence, of holiness and otherness is rare. The experience of awe which leads to worship is rare and so modern people are in jeopardy of losing their souls and of losing that which is essential to our humanity: the worship of the one true and living God. It requires something powerful to break out of the captivity to this worldliness and the diminution and constriction of the human heart that must be its consequence. It requires something like a Gothic Cathedral.

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Posted in Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Secularism, Theology

(Sightings) Martin Marty–Are traditional holy days still something more than just any other day?

“Sunday Is Not the New Monday” shouted the headline of the “Success” section in a recent edition of our Chicago Tribune (Monday, December 30, 2019). Having many reasons—cultural, theological, traditional, personal, etc.—to care about Sunday (or analogues to it in Judaism, Adventism, Islam, and more) I took the bait and read on. Author John Boitnott opens the article with a description of what Sunday used to mean—or what he thinks it used to mean—and how it served: “Sunday used to be for relaxing, spending time with family and friends and catching up on personal tasks.” Boitnott says that he associates with “entrepreneurs” and authors of advice columns who encourage their readers to “stay available for work outside traditional business hours.”

Boitnott offers four clusters of advice in settings where “work” casts its shadow on Sundays: “Stop the guilt,” “Remove yourself from the work environment,” “Set limits and retrain those around you,” and “Plan for Monday on Friday.” So far, so good, if “workism” or “workaholism” is your problem. But is that all that is at stake and all that is to be offered to face the problem? We Sightings columnists are charged to notice those overlookable stories wherein religion or the religious may in fact be significant. Reread the Boitnott sentence again, the one about how “Sunday used to be for relaxing, spending time with family and friends and catching up on personal tasks.” Yes, but for tens of millions of North Americans, among others, Sundays (for Christians; Fridays for Muslims; Shabbat for Jews; etc.) were also for helping people tend to general and specific matters of the spirit and the soulful flourishing of life….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Media, Religion & Culture, Secularism

Stephen Freeman–Hidden from the Eyes of Modernity

The modern world is dominated by the cult of politics. There is no better way to describe how we imagine things to work. Regardless of our protests to the contrary, contemporary people believe in a secular world – a world that operates according to its own laws and principles (cause and effect) – and where those with power are those who are able to “make things happen.” Power is understood to be identical with coercion (or the “authority” to coerce) and wealth (the ability to pay people to do your bidding). The apex of this power is identified with governments. As such, we understand “politics” to be the primary means of controlling and shaping the world. This is life as cult. We are told (and agree) that the thing we call “government” controls and shapes the world, and that it is its legitimate role. Every protest to the contrary is met either with perhaps two verses of Scripture (if you’re a Christian) or dismissal as some sort of nut (perhaps an Amish nut of sorts).

Much of this cult has been created in the crucible of modernity itself. At its heart, modernity (and all of its political forms) teaches that the shaping and control of history is the proper role of government. It is the agent of change. If anyone resists this claim or refuses to participate, then they are charged with failing to take up their responsibilities. It is a cult that demands our participation (the very nature of a cult).

Malick’s film concludes with a quote from George Elliot’s Middlemarch:

“..for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

I would go further than Elliot. The hidden life is the only true life, and what is deemed “historic” is little more than propaganda. The propaganda does not serve the moment-by-moment reality that each of us necessarily inhabits. Rather, it serves to empower those who most want to do violence without the distraction of a conscience.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(AJ) ‘Coming to God without freedom is not coming to God’: Philosopher Charles Taylor on seeing God in church decline

Why are fewer people going to church?

It’s very hard to put your finger on this, but this is what I’m trying to work out: that there’s another kind of spiritual life, spiritual searching, going on to a great extent in our contemporary West—sometimes it’s in totally different religions, or totally non-religious—and that this somehow is taking off at the expense of an earlier way of expressing one’s spirituality, which involves being members of national churches or in the case of a very diverse country like Canada, at least a church which you know is very big and solid in some parts of the country.

It’s not that religion is disappearing, or spirituality is disappearing; it’s taking different forms. If you put yourself in the mindset of people, in particular of younger people, who are concerned about the meaning of life, concerned about becoming better people, more loving, more open, etc., and are seeking in some way some discipline—it could be meditation, it could be various things—if you put yourself in the mindset of these people, when they go to the pews the least bad thing is that they don’t feel it’s very relevant! The worst thing is they feel that their whole way of approaching this is not really appreciated and it may be seen as threatening the people in the pews. Now of course this is perhaps more the case—I’m a Catholic—in the case of the Catholic church [laughs], where you have these very backward-looking people who are screaming abuse at [Pope] Francis and so on [laughs]!

That’s the extreme case, where you actually feel, “I’d better rush out of this place [laughs]! Or I’m going to be badly treated.” But the least worrying or problematic [for those outside the church] is just that this is not a concern that people [in the pews] recognize, this searching concern. “Everything is all settled, and we’re all together in these pews affirming it.”

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Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Books, Canada, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(DMN) Joshua J. Whitfield–Are we are no longer bound together by religion, but by vacuous consumption addictions?

If religion is that which holds our attention and which binds us together, then it’s not Christianity. Christianity today is mostly just sentimentality, escapist devotion, mere identity politics and mere posture. It’s no longer religion in any genuine sense. Because what holds our attention today, what binds us together, are no longer dogma and precepts, but instead all those decadent diversions, customs and conventions of our rich but interiorly vacuous society. This is our religion today: binge-watching Netflix, consumption addictions to various social media, pornography, and the litanies of endless news, fake or otherwise. This is what we relegit, what we re-read, what holds our attention, not God or the good, the true, or the beautiful. This is the new religion, homogenizing imagination and sedating moral impulse, rendering us more pliable to the free movement of capital. This is the economic spirituality of “influence.” This is the theology of advertising.

Likewise, we also see our new religion in what schedules us. No longer rhythmed by the worship of our gods or by the earth’s seasons, now our lives are paced by the quarters of our fiscal year, by our Black Fridays, for instance, and no longer our Thanksgivings. Add to this, especially among the middle classes, the religion of sports, that countless meaningless practices and games now set the schedules for innumerable families, no longer Sabbaths or Sundays or family ties. That is truly religare. This is what binds us, not holy days, rituals or quaint moralities. More than any persecutions, these have displaced the old religions: these new screened, advertised, unstable rites and less any incarnate, old, fickle gods.

And it’s why the question for me is not how we’ll live in some new non-religious world, but about what piety and devotion looks like in this new emerging religion. But of course, this, I admit, I can’t begin to imagine, tied, as I prefer to be, to my ancient God. I just wonder if it will be a religion of charity, a religion that will either cherish or kill the poor. I wonder if it will restore or ruin the earth, if it’s a religion of equality or elites. These are the questions that haunt me as I wonder what the “nones” with their “nothing in particular” will become.

Because they must become something. I’m just frightened by what that may be.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Secularism

(NYT) Silicon Valley Goes to Therapy

“In Silicon Valley,” Mr. Seibel added, “we did not talk this much about mental health even three years ago.” He estimates that more than 50 related start-ups are coming onto the scene. His firm just funded three: Stoic; Quirk, an app that uses cognitive behavioral therapy to treat people with anxiety and depression; and Mindset Health, which creates hypnotherapy apps that it says can treat anxiety, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.

Mindset Health was founded by two brothers, Alex and Chris Naoumidis, who previously created a peer-to-peer dress-sharing app for women. When that app failed, the brothers felt overcome with anxiety.

“We fell into this period of mental health problems,” said Alex Naoumidis, 24.

The brothers tried some of the existing wellness apps — meditation products, mindfulness tools — but remained unmoored. Their father suggested in-person hypnotherapy. It gave them the idea for Mindset.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology, Secularism

(Telegraph) 80 per cent decline in religious funerals as mourners opt for golf courses and zoos over churches

An all-black dress code, pallbearers marching in unison, and a steady stream of tears are not often associated with golf courses, zoos and Chinese takeaways.

Yet according to the most extensive ever report on UK funeral trends which, the religious funeral is dying a death.

Instead of services in crematoriums, churches and cemeteries, Britons are instead opting for increasingly quirky ways to mourn their loved ones.

The Co-op, the UK’s largest national funeral provider which conducts more than 100,000 every year, has today published a report revealing that since 2011 there has been a 80 per cent decline in religious funerals.

Eight-years-ago 67 per cent of people requested traditional religious services and just 12 per cent were non-religious. However by 2018, just 13 per cent wanted a religious funeral.

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Eschatology, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(CEN Editorial) The challenge of the Barmen Declaration for today

The Christian Church today faces severe challenges globally. In the ‘two thirds world’ it faces persecution of great severity, notably in cultures wishing to stress Islamic identity and practice such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Simply being a Christian brings daily hazards and vulnerability to accusation and attack. In the wealthy West the Church faces very different dangers, largely in the form of pressures to conform its faith to strong currents of cultural development. Society is said to affirm ‘diversity’ and yet at key points this diversity disappears to the detriment of traditional Christianity.

The astonishing rise of the transgender movement is a prime example, clashing as it does with the biblical assumption that the one significant distinction within the human race is that between a man and a woman, and this is part and parcel of the Christian understanding of creation. Now this distinction appears to be made secondary: gender is becoming a secondary matter of choice or preference.

Related to this issue is that of sexuality and the ever increasing demand by the state that children be schooled in an ethical framework that clashes with that of the Abrahamic faiths. The role of family and parental responsibility for this dimension of life is being removed or very fiercely diminished….

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Sexuality

(Independent) Humanist weddings rise by 266 per cent across England and Wales

They are weddings that are, officially speaking, not even legally recognised.

But such a small detail, it seems, is not stopping increasing numbers of couples from opting for humanist marriage ceremonies across England and Wales.

Such weddings have risen by more than 250 per cent in the last 15 years, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The massive rise makes it the fastest growing type of wedding in the country – and comes as the number of faith-based ceremonies fell in the same period.

While humanist weddings went up 266 per cent between 2004 and 2016, Church of England weddings fell by 28 per cent, Catholic by 34 per cent and Baptist by 42 per cent.

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Posted in England / UK, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(AP) Washington is 1st state to allow composting of human bodies

Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation Tuesday making Washington the first state to approve composting as an alternative to burying or cremating human remains.

It allows licensed facilities to offer “natural organic reduction,” which turns a body, mixed with substances such as wood chips and straw, into about two wheelbarrows’ worth of soil in a span of several weeks.

Loved ones are allowed to keep the soil to spread, just as they might spread the ashes of someone who has been cremated — or even use it to plant vegetables or a tree.

“It gives meaning and use to what happens to our bodies after death,” said Nora Menkin, executive director of the Seattle-based People’s Memorial Association, which helps people plan for funerals.

Supporters say the method is an environmentally friendly alternative to cremation, which releases carbon dioxide and particulates into the air, and conventional burial, in which people are drained of their blood, pumped full of formaldehyde and other chemicals that can pollute groundwater, and placed in a nearly indestructible coffin, taking up land.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(ABC Aus.) Civil celebrants ‘doing it for love, not money’ amid calls for sector review

Wayne Rees will wear just about anything to a wedding, although he draws the line at going nude.

In his 25 years as a marriage celebrant in far north Queensland, he has wed couples while dressed in budgie smugglers, as Santa Claus and even as a Jedi knight.

“This couple were Star Wars fanatics and they said they always wanted to be married by a Jedi knight,” he said.

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Posted in Australia / NZ, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Secularism

(WSJ) The Free-Form Funeral–Led by baby boomers, families are turning to personalized and symbolic memorials to bid farewell to loved ones

There are new ways to say goodbye.

While many still turn to the funeral rites that have comforted generations, others, led by baby boomers, are taking a different approach than their parents and grandparents. They are instead choosing individualized and symbolic memorials: a party with a punk-rock band for a tattoo artist, or a gathering at an airport hangar for the devoted mechanic.

“It’s more about a life lived than a ritual of religion,” says Jimmy Olson, a spokesperson for the National Funeral Directors Association.

A changing society is fueling this trend. Nearly a quarter of adults in the U.S. aren’t affiliated with any organized religion, according to a 2014 report from the Pew Research Center. A rise in cremations, which now outnumber burials, gives leeway on when and where to hold memorials. Although there are some laws about where ashes can be scattered, many people spread them surreptitiously in especially meaningful places. In the past year, more than half of around 1,000 people surveyed had attended a memorial in a non-traditional place—in a backyard, atop a mountain, aboard a boat—according to the NFDA.

These non-traditional events have given rise to funeral celebrants, who custom design memorials for anywhere from $250 to $1,000. Pam Vetter, a certified funeral celebrant in Los Angeles, says she decided to go into the field after her sister died of cancer and the pastor at their church refused to show a farewell video. Ms. Vetter has a podium, speaker system, and CD player that she brings to hold memorials in gardens, homes and on board yachts….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(NYT) Washington State Weighs New Option After Death: Human Composting

Katrina Spade, the founder and chief executive of Recompose, a Seattle company that hopes to build the first facility to use the new method and conduct funeral services based around it, said the movement toward cremation — now used in more than half of deaths in the nation — has led to an erosion of essential rituals. Remains are often just picked up from a crematory, she said, and that’s that.

“This is not simply a process to convert bodies to soil; it’s also about bringing ritual and some of that ceremony back,” Ms. Spade said.

Ms. Christian, the woman who is hoping recomposition will be an option after she dies, says she has long been uncomfortable with the other choices. She has ruled out burial. And she does not like the idea of cremation because of environmental costs — emissions and climate impacts of fossil fuels used in the burning process. But her friends remain divided on the issue.

“The vast majority are like, ‘That is so cool,’” she said. “And then the other response is, ‘Oh, gross.’”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(RNS) Tara Burton–If God is dead, is it OK if we save ourselves?

…what we’re seeing is not a substitution of one kind of faith for another. As a culture we’re putting our faith in ourselves. Salvation has been relocalized; the new secular faiths think humans have the potential to save ourselves.

You can see this as communities across the United States actively attempt to remake and remap human nature. Transhumanists are attempting to radicalize cryogenics and reverse aging. “Intentional polyamorists” and “relationship anarchists” subvert “toxic monogamy culture.” They’re seeking out blueprints to rewire our bodies, our minds and our social relationships – exploring new avenues of what it means to become our “best selves.”

It’s possible, as Sullivan does, to read these quests as doomed attempts to override what we can never overcome. Maybe they are. But the increasing prominence of these “new utopian” groups represents more than the collapse of traditional religion. It also tells us about the collapse of traditional notions of human frailty.

Fewer and fewer of us may believe in God or spirits. But now, more than ever, we’re willing to put our trust in the better angels of our own nature.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

([London] Times) Crispin Blunt–Why the time has come to scrap prayers in parliament

As our society becomes decreasingly religious we have to wonder why it is that in the House of Commons procedures of the day such as lawmaking and debates start with prayers.

During this time the doors are locked while MPs stand, perform an about-turn and pray. This process is closed to the public while Anglican prayers are read — hardly conducive with the diverse elected representatives and the constituents they represent.

While religious worship occupies a strong part in some people’s lives, it should no longer play a role in the way we conduct our political affairs as an independent, open and diverse nation. In 2019 for most MPs parliamentary prayers are the price paid to reserve a favourite place on the green benches for the day, having become a de facto seat reservation system. Many MPs have found that unless they attend these prayers, whether in line with their beliefs or not, they will struggle to secure a seat.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) The Morality of Selfism–The Gospel of Saint You

You probably want to be a good person. But you may also be completely self-absorbed. So you may be thinking, “There is no way I can be good if I’m also a narcissist. Isn’t being good all about caring about other people?”

But how wrong you are!

We live in a culture of selfism — a culture that puts tremendous emphasis on self, on self-care and self-display. And one of the things we’ve discovered is that you can be a very good person while thinking only about yourself!

Back in the old days people thought morality was about living up to some external standard of moral excellence. Abraham Lincoln tried to live a life of honesty and courage. Mother Teresa tried to live up to a standard of selfless love.

But now we know this is actually harmful! In the first place, when people hold up external standards of moral excellence, they often make you feel judged. These people make you feel sad because you may not live up to this standard. It’s very cruel of them to make you feel troubled in this way!

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Psychology, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(City Journal) Gerald Russello–Our New Religion: Humanitarianism is displacing Christianity, but without its redeeming effects

Paradoxically, now that humanitarianism has fully cut itself loose from Christianity, its categories and language have inserted themselves back into Christian thought. This infiltration prevents Christians at times from noticing that they’re arguing not in Christian categories but humanitarian ones. Almost every national bishops’ conference in the West, for example, speaks the language of humanitarianism. Mahoney sees this as the problem with much of Pope Francis’s language as well— too often, the language of mercy is emptied of theological content, and condemnations of “rigidity” seem to echo a rights-based view of the person. This trend is problematic because humanitarian language is antithetical to the Christian message, and also because it elides the sharp criticism of humanitarian thinking offered by, among others, Pope Emeritus Benedict. Benedict clearly distinguished between authentic Christian teaching and the “humanitarian moral message” in his Introduction to Christianity and his Regensberg lecture, both of which Mahoney discusses. Mahoney calls for the return of an older way of reasoning about our moral selves, which involves a transcendent dimension through which we can know our obligations to ourselves and one another.

Mahoney acknowledges that many of his co-religionists already accept his message—but why should atheists care that humanitarianism seeks to replace Christianity, when they reject the significance of the West’s moral collapse? Mahoney explains, using the powerful witness of Solzhenitsyn, that without a divine warrant, humanitarianism points to tyranny and the negation of true politics. We may already be seeing what a post-Christian politics might look like. The humanitarian religion of the twenty-first century will not be the same one as that of the twentieth; rather than Soviet Man, it will elevate the “woke” protester or Twitter provocateur. Both the authoritarian and racialist Right and the identity-obsessed Left offer glimpses of a post-Christian politics, and neither is a model for a healthy democracy.

Indeed, as Christianity fades, we don’t see a decline in religious fervor or doctrinal vigilance. Humanitarianism is itself a religion, and as Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule has argued, modern secularism has its own eschatology (the eternal overcoming of “hatred”), its own sacraments and holidays, and various prohibitions and commandments, usually centered around specific groups. Coupled with the rise of various would-be pagan religions and the cult of the self, these movements represent a retreat from rational reflection on politics.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Books, History, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(WSJ) Nonbelievers Seek Political Power to Match Their Growing Numbers

As November’s midterm election approaches, nonbelievers in the U.S. are trying to build something that has long eluded them: political power.

The portion of U.S. adults who don’t identify with any religious group rose to 24% of the population in 2016 from 14% in 2000, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. But their political influence has lagged behind: Just 15% of voters in 2016 identified as not belonging to a religious group, according to exit polls.

A coalition of secular organizations is now determined to close that gap. This summer, they kicked off a nationwide voter registration drive, which will culminate with a get-out-the-secular-vote campaign in the fall. Their goal is also to politically galvanize nonbelievers around issues like separation of church and state and access to abortion.

There’s just one catch: How to unite a group of people whose common denominator is what they don’t believe? And even on that point, they are heterogeneous: 16% of religiously unaffiliated Americans still describe themselves as a “a religious person,” according to PRRI.

“We don’t meet every week. That’s an issue,” said Ron Millar, PAC coordinator for the Center for Freethought Equality, a nonprofit group dedicated to boosting secularists’ political power.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Atheism, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(Spectator) Theo Hobson– Coffee House Justin Welby needs to get off the fence

He cheerfully admits that we can’t recreate a Christian-based social order – which was always a flawed thing anyway. But he cannot quite affirm our post-Christian social order, which privatises faith, and ‘leaves a vacuum’:

‘That is not to say at this stage that the answer is to reverse the privatisation of Christian faith (which is anyway not something within human gift) but rather that there is a need for a generous and hospitable meta-narrative within which competing truths can be held. It will be the suggestion of this book that Christian faith…provides the potential for such hospitable and generous holding.’

Is there an alternative to such awkward fence-sitting? As the leader of a Christian church he must say that Christianity is what the nation needs in order to reimagine the common good, but as this is the established Church of a liberal state he must also sound respectful of secular diversity. The problem is that his respect for secular diversity never quite sounds sincere. As I say, it sounds like he is reining in his dislike of it, forcing a cheerful smile.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Religion & Culture, Secularism

([London] Times) Act now on civil partnerships, urge mixed-sex couple after court win

The extension of civil partnerships to heterosexual couples is one of the planks of The Times’s campaign with the Marriage Foundation to reform family law.

Lord Kerr, announcing the court’s decision, said the government “does not seek to justify the difference in treatment between same-sex and different sex couples. To the contrary, it accepts that the difference cannot be justified.” He said that the government sought “tolerance of the discrimination while it sorts out how to deal with it. That cannot be characterised as a legitimate aim.” He added that it was “salutary to recall that a declaration of incompatibility does not oblige the government or parliament to do anything”.

However, there is mounting support for the change. Tim Loughton, MP, who has led a campaign for a change in the law, said that he was seeking an urgent meeting with ministers to amend a private member’s bill that is going through parliament at present, and was confident of support. “We now have a decision; we need to act on it,” he said.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Men, Secularism, Women

(CC) Philip Jenkins–In Europe, even occasional prayer is on the way out

Stephen Bullivant is a highly re­spected British academic who, among other topics, studies the state of religion in contemporary Europe. He has just produced perhaps the single most depressing portrait of the Christian present and future on that continent—and that is not a genre noted for its optimism.

Drawing on the European Social Survey, Bullivant published a concise re­port, Europe’s Young Adults and Reli­gion, to assist the deliberations of the Synod of Catholic Bishops that meets in Rome in October. The report covers the religious outlook of young adults aged 16 through 29. The levels of religious behavior and interest it depicts in most countries are extraordinarily low.

In the Czech Republic, 91 percent of young adults claim no religious affiliation whatever, 8o percent never pray, and 70 percent never attend religious services. That country might be an outlier, but very low levels of religiosity also characterize Britain, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Although Bullivant does not stress this denominational angle, by far the grimmest conditions apply in what for centuries were the heartlands of Protestant Europe. Only 7 percent of English respondents identify as Angli­cans (the state church), compared to 10 percent who identify as Catholics and 6 percent as Muslims.

The “never praying” category is striking, since it shows we are not just dealing with basically religiously oriented people who happen to be disaffected from particular state churches.

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Posted in Europe, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(NYT) When Living Your Truth Can Mean Losing Your Children

The questioning went on for days. Did she allow her children to watch a Christmas video? Did she include plastic Easter eggs as part of her celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim? Did she use English nicknames for them, instead of their Hebrew names?

This grilling of Chavie Weisberger, 35, took place not in front of a rabbi or a religious court, but in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, during a custody battle with her ultra-Orthodox Jewish ex-husband after she came out as lesbian and decided to leave the ultra-Orthodox fold. The stakes could not have been higher. In fact, the judge, Eric I. Prus, eventually ruled that she should lose custody of her children, largely because she had lapsed in raising them according to Hasidic customs.

Ms. Weisberger’s case, which was reversed on appeal in August, is still reverberating through New York courts that handle divorce and custody matters for the state’s hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews.

A New York State appellate court ruled that Justice Prus had erred in making religious observance the paramount factor when deciding custody. The court also said he had violated Ms. Weisberger’s constitutional rights by requiring her to pretend to be ultra-Orthodox around her children, even though she was no longer religious, in order to spend unsupervised time with them.

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Posted in Children, Judaism, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(Guardian) Simon Jenkins–‘The Quakers are considering dropping God from their meetings guidance as it makes some feel uncomfortable’

The Quakers are clearly on to something. At their annual get-together this weekend they are reportedly thinking of dropping God from their “guidance to meetings”. The reason, said one of them, is because the term “makes some Quakers feel uncomfortable”. Atheists, according to a Birmingham University academic, comprise a rising 14% of professed Quakers, while a full 43% felt “unable to profess a belief in God”. They come to meetings for fellowship, rather than for higher guidance. The meeting will also consider transgenderism, same-sex marriage, climate change and social media. Religion is a tiring business.

I am not a Quaker or religious, but I have been to Quaker meetings, usually marriages or funerals, and found them deeply moving. The absence of ritual, the emphasis on silence and thought and the witness of “friends” seemed starkly modernist. Meeting houses can be beautiful spaces. The loveliest I know dates from 1700 and is lost in deep woods near Meifod, Powys. It is a place of the purest serenity, miles from any road and with only birdsong to blend with inner reflection.

The Quakers’ lack of ceremony and liturgical clutter gives them a point from which to view the no man’s land between faith and non-faith that is the “new religiosity”. A dwindling 40% of Britons claim to believe in some form of God, while a third say they are atheists. But that leaves over a quarter in a state of vaguely agnostic “spirituality”. Likewise, while well over half of Americans believe in the biblical God, nearly all believe in “a higher power or spiritual force”.

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Posted in England / UK, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

[The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record] Cremation gaining in popularity fast as burial costs rise

Fred and Margaret, of Clifton, N.J., died one month apart during the winter.

The couple, whose last name their children asked not to divulge, met in high school and were married for 69 years. They were inseparable.

Death was not about to change that.

They made arrangements years ago: Margaret, 87, would take the last grave in the family’s plot at St. Nicholas Cemetery in Lodi, N.J. Fred, 88, a devout Catholic who was born some 30 years before the Vatican lifted its ban on cremation in 1963, decided his ashes would be buried by her head.

Perhaps, if there were space, Fred would not have chosen to be cremated, his daughter Donna said. But there was room for only one.

“I think he just wanted to be with my mom and that’s what he had to do in order for him to be with her,” she said.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(Bloomberg View) Stephen Carter–The Ugly Coded Critique of Chick-Fil-A’s Christianity in a recent New Yorker article

If we look beyond the liberal West, we see that another Christian revolution, quite different from the one being called for in affluent American suburbs and upscale urban parishes, is already in progress. Worldwide, Christianity is actually moving toward supernaturalism and neo-orthodoxy, and in many ways toward the ancient world view expressed in the New Testament: a vision of Jesus as the embodiment of divine power, who overcomes the evil forces that inflict calamity and sickness upon the human race. In the global South (the areas that we often think of primarily as the Third World) huge and growing Christian populations – currently 480 million in Latin America, 360 million in Africa, and 313 million in Asia, compared with 260 million in North America – now make up what the Catholic scholar Walbert Buhlmann has called the Third Church, a form of Christianity as distinct as Protestantism or Orthodoxy, and one that is likely to become dominant in the faith. The revolution taking place in Africa, Asia, and Latin America is far more sweeping in its implications than any current shifts in North American religion, whether Catholic or Protestant. There is increasing tension between what one might call a liberal Northern Reformation and the surging Southern religious revolution, which one might equate with the Counter-Reformation, the internal Catholic reforms that took place at the same time as the Reformation — although in references to the past and the present the term “Counter-Reformation” misleadingly implies a simple reaction instead of a social and spiritual explosion. No matter what the terminology, however, an enormous rift seems inevitable.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Global South Churches & Primates, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Urban/City Life and Issues

([London) Times) Patients ‘expect GPs to heal their souls’ as the church’s role declines

Family doctors say that they are the “new clergy” and need to know what to do when patients come to them lacking meaning and purpose in life.

GPs are increasingly seeing patients with complex problems driven by social and emotional difficulties and are growing frustrated by having little to offer other than pills, a study has indicated. They are embarrassed to talk about “spiritual” questions and researchers argue that they need to be comfortable telling people about the importance of community.

Alistair Appleby, a GP who carried out the study of his colleagues’ attitude to spirituality, said: “There is an urgent need to recognise the value of community, connection and self-esteem and look at meaning and purpose in life.”

Dr Appleby said that Britain’s reluctance to talk about religion publicly had hampered discussion of deeper questions. He began the study because “I felt I was particularly bad at it. There were several occasions when I was with patients when it was fairly clear that I had not made the human connection that they hoped for.”

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Posted in England / UK, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture, Secularism