The unrighteous post.
And what better way to inaugurate this post most unholy than with secularism, the dead-beat dad of moral relativism?
The most popular objection to religion is that it replaces thinking with sets of unprovable truths — and that the rules flowing out of those truths turn adherents into robots. Those who leave religion behind, we are led to understand, will begin to think for themselves and thereby exercise real freedom as responsible citizens.
This is the theory. But that is not how things have turned out.
As Western societies have become more secular, they have become even more self-pitying and more likely to blame their travails on amorphous entities. Instead of promoting personal freedom, and the responsibility that comes with it, secularism has given us an expansive vocabulary for saying “It’s not my fault.”
More people are willing to blame their own mistakes and sins —from consumption of pornography, to rampant consumerism, to burdensome debt — on the media, the government, the banks. Or they refashion their choices as a response to an “addiction.”
What of thought patterns? Do we not view the world through a particular lens? Does a Canadian not see political matters more differently than, say, an Italian? Does one, therefore, render the Italian's view invalid because of where he lives or his socio-political reality? So why should a Christian's world-view be discounted? He has a brain. One might say he uses it more than a person who thinks a government filled with fallible and corrupt people is the best arbiter for matters political, financial and social. The worst is putting standards of morality or ethics into the hands of those who think they are the pinnacle of humanity. History has taught how that turns out.
Moving onto societal ills- if secularism is meant to free the human mind from the trappings of religious belief and therefore open the way to clearer thought, why blame consumerism or the "diseases" of addiction? Why even say these things are wrong at all? Wouldn't that be putting things in a moral framework?
In a word, yes:
What religion teaches is that the dignity of each person is paramount. It also teaches that with this exalted state comes responsibility. Never go into a Catholic confessional and blame your abusive behaviour toward your own wife and children on a “culture permeated with violence.” God gave you the right to choose right or wrong, a smart priest would say, and you made the wrong choice. Now get help, repent, pray and fix it.
Never tell a Baptist minister that you spend half your evenings in the basement cruising porn sites because “television and advertising is saturated with sexually explicit material.” Even the least clever of clergy might suggest not watching those shows. So simple; so difficult.
Jews fast on Yom Kippur to make-up for the things they have done wrong through the year. It is not a magic solution to making guilt disappear. In fact, being forced to face one’s own sins can produce guilt, as it should. The point is to feel the pain of those wrongs, make it right with God and move on. It is the reason it is called the Day of Atonement and not the Day of Whining.
The Jesuits have a spiritual practice called the “examination of conscience.” It is a daily review of what happened in one’s day — all of it. It assumes a subscription to a set of moral truths that are not up for debate.
In this world view, freedom comes from an obedience to greater truths. It demands attention to the details of life. It asks that life not be a blur of excuses but freely exercised choices. And then it asks you to be an adult and take responsibility for all that you do.