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RELIGIONS IN A SECULAR SOCIETY

30 August 2019 No Comment

RELIGIONS IN A SECULAR SOCIETY
Father John Walsh

Today’s world is a secular world. We are living in a secular age. Humans are now in charge. The gods have been abandoned. There is no supernatural world over and against the natural world. There is no God over and against the world in which we live our daily lives. Cultures are godless and society is soulless. In a secular setting religious traditions are unreasonable and simply no longer offer reasonable answers to the world’s most pressing questions. The Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries led humankind to explain life on the sole power of human reason. Religion is rejected by many because the myths are only human stories made to control the masses into subjugation and conformity. Empirically churches, synagogues and mosques are emptying of the next generations. No one will frequent religious places of worship when the present generation dies off. It is time to ask: Has religion been sufficiently self-critical? The prognoses of several serious surveys reveal that renewal and recovery are almost unimaginable. At best very small communities may survive but the dark side of a “remnant” is that a small group of like-minded people will claim to be the sole possessor of the truth and it when people recognize “their truth,” they will join or rejoin the remnant. The greatest fear in such a scenario is absolutism, when absolute truth corrupts absolutely and infallible truth corrupts infallibly. Have religious institutions come to a reckoning of the role it has played in alienating people? In the Roman Catholic tradition the institutional church was squarely against modernity and lived anti-modernism until the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), The hierarchy was invited to follow the lead of Pope John XXIIIrd who called the Council to primarily bridge the gap between professing doctrines and possible new ways of communicating the doctrines to a modern world, It was a time of dramatic change. In the intervening years there was a certain movement of restorationism of the past. The best analogy is found in Genesis 32:22-32 where Jacob wrestles with another human being and the man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, Let me go, it is dawn. Jacob replied, I will not let you go unless you bless me. The man asked him, What is your name? He answered Jacob. Then the man said, Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome. Religion in a secular world will have much wrestling with humans about many issues and the challenge will be to recognize that wrestling with humankind is to wrestle with God – God whom all religious traditions must be willing to present in a manner that is real for today’s world. Humanity is at stake and so is God at stake.

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