The Curse of Secular Culture

Dark_StuffHere is a snapshot of my workspace as “Arthur’s Day” comes to a close in Ireland tonight.  “The Sharp”, a blogging Irish Bible scholar, posted a hilarious lambaste today about Arthur’s Day — a holiday I had not heard of before today.  On reading this wiki article on Arthur’s Day, I saw that I was missing nothing. Indeed, I was immediately disappointed in Ireland’s secular culture — as is “The Sharp”.

I converted to Christianity just before heading off to college.  Part of the reason for my conversion was the contrast I saw between Christianity and secular culture. I would only later discover the error of my thinking, but in my early college years, Christianity was my lifeboat in the sea of secular superficial commercialism.  Christianity was my antidote to the curse of secular culture.

It was only in Christian circles that I saw careful thinking about “the good life”, efforts to nurture “healthy emotions” and an emphasis on the reflective life.  So in my senior year of High School I embraced Christianity. Mind you, there were many other factors in my conversion, but the threat of valueless secular culture on entering college was one of them.  Others were the death of a friend and a Christian girlfriend, so I don’t want to play those down, of course. 🙂

Moving in the other direction, then, a large part of my deconverting from Christianity was seeing that other religions did the same as Christianity: they offered healthy cultures also.  Then even later I began to see how reflective, healthy secular cultures abounded too.  My original choice for Christianity was based on a limited sampling — but I am grateful for how it served me in those years when all I saw offered by secular culture was careless attitudes toward objects, people and ourselves.  Again, I now realize that I did not open my eyes very wide.  Culture is redeemable without religion, but it ain’t easy.

Also, see my post on “Cultivating Positive Emotions“.



Filed under Philosophy & Religion

9 responses to “The Curse of Secular Culture

  1. I think that ‘good’ religion has an impact on popular religion, for instance for making Fair Trade a concept to be embraced by many Christians and the long held view that people of many faiths should help the poor, although that can be done with a patronising and judgemental spirit. Do you see ‘good’ culture having an impact on popular culture and if so, how?

  2. @Karin,
    Popular/Secular Culture is affected by BOTH “good” and ‘bad’ religion.
    Popular/Secular Culture is affected by BOTH “good” and “bad” secular activities.
    All to say matters not what coating the good or bad comes in.
    As examples of good secular culture:
    The martial arts clubs my son was in teach respect, discipline, cooperation and more.
    Now he gets the same in his sports club.
    In fact, an outspoken atheist University professor in town runs the frisbee teams in the city and it is base on strong ethical training.
    Aikido was very instructive in my world, for instance.
    I use dto run a WeiQi club in town in tutoring and aid — it build fun community.
    Doctors Without Borders and Peace Corps (who I worked for) are secular groups doing very good too.
    You have to remember, that if a society is largely religious (as it is here in the USA — though largely faded in your UK), then most organization will spring from them for lots of reasons and it may slant your view.

    In Europe, however, you will see secular groups which advance the good too.
    And non-Theists good influences about in Buddhism in the USA — where they believe in no higher power, no imaginary lover out there to hug with your eyes closed.

    All to say, Secular Culture can offer lots of good and lots of bad. Like many of my autobiographical posts, this one was written from my perspective at that time. As I matured and travelled, I saw a fuller world.

    Don’t you agree that we don’t need religion to spread “the good”? I certain agree with you that there is lots of stuff out there we’d both consider “good religion”. As your blog says, if we keep “God” from being a parochial, miracle-wroughting, personal favor, nation crushing deity, “God” can do lots more good. Good Culture is precious and unstable. As religion evaporates, we must continue to fight the heartless forces in culture that wish us to be mindless consumers. We must continue to nurture institutions that encourage reflections, cooperation, sharing and love.

  3. “Black and Tan” in a can! We call that half and half. I’m guessing you understood that in putting up the picture and know why we don’t use the phrase Black and Tan in Ireland?

  4. LOL! Wow, I had no idea “Black and Tans” was so pejorative in Ireland. Being of Welsh descent (or is it “ascent”), from now one, if imbibing a “Black and Tan” on taking the first sip, I shall immediately spit it out saying, “Damn the Brits!”

    Thank you for the education and my new custom. Seeing the havoc of the British Empire wrought with their imperialism in South Asia, it will be a custom I will cherish. My British friends may even join me! Now I need a drink to do the same protest against my own country’s sins. But you must admit, I am glad Ireland never had enough power to coercively display her dark side. (Ireland is a “she”, isn’t she)?

    BTW, the beer choice was intentional — I thought I had some “Black Stuff” downstairs, but I didn’t — besides, so this was the best I could do. And besides, I didn’t want to use that expression either for fear of how Americans may read that!

  5. Sabio, those are interesting examples of the good influence of secular culture. Sports activities hadn’t crossed my mind.

    The God I believe in doesn’t work exclusively through religious organisations, indeed many such groups seem fairly deaf to the promptings of God’s Spirit. However, as the church is fairly strong in the area I live in, partly due to the popularity of church schools, church seems the obvious place to go in order to belong to a community, and a community where some people are really trying to follow Jesus.

    With regard to church schools, they are seen as offering a better education than many other schools and are growing in popularity. When places are tight people attending the relevant church are given preference. There is a CoE aided school and a Catholic school here, both Junior Schools (ages 7 to 11). Catholics are very much a minority locally, although a sizeable minority. Muslim schools also exist in the UK, but not locally. I would presume there must be Jewish schools and possibly other ‘faith schools’, which seem to be a growing phenomenon.

    Buddhists are interesting. As I said, I’ve found the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh illuminating and inspirational, but there are other understandings of Buddhism and some Buddhists have deified the Buddha, just as Christians have deified the Christ. The first time I tried to go to a meeting of the local Sangha of the Community of Interbeing I accidently sat in on the “Chanting Buddhists” who appear to have a kind of prosperity gospel of their own and, I was told by a Japanese colleague, they are deemed to be a sect in Japan. They met downstairs in the same building as the Sangha, who met in a smaller upper room for silent meditation, as I discovered the next week.
    Whether religion evaporates or evolves (I think there is something in the human psyche that means many will continue to believe in some kind of god or other – or perhaps it is that God actually exists and some are more aware of her than others) I think Good Religion and Good Culture will continue to be rare and vulnerable and both need nurturing. The God I believe in cares more about whether we reach out to our neighbour or not, work for peace and a more just world etc or not, than whether we believe specific doctrines, worship in a specific manner or place or so on.

  6. @ Karin,
    I think we agree that people will always have superstitious beliefs and supernatural beliefs — it is part of the illusions of our brain. I personally think those are inevitable and just a matter of degree for different people. But I do not think it is inevitable for everyone to believe in some kind of god or other — unless you define “god” so broadly that it almost stops being meaningful.

    You, I can tell that when you say “the God I believe in” is used in a technical sense and probably unlike the vast majority of doctrinal Christians I know. There are soooo many ways to utter that phrase, soooo many meanings . So much so, that I usually ignore it until that person’s god gets in my face.

  7. Listening to a programme this morning about how people of faith need to engage with protecting their environments, I was informed that 80% of the world’s population have some kind of religious faith, so it will be a while before religion, even Christianity, can be pronounced dead. This is one reason why I think it is important to engage with people of faith to encourage them to embrace the better side of their religion.

    Yes, when I say ‘the God I believe in’ I want to be sure she is not confused with the ‘God’ of the far right fundamentalist, the ‘God’ who would deliberately set out to kill his son or anyone else, and any number of ‘Gods’ whom I don’t recognise.

  8. I don’t think religion will disappear at all. Read my comment above more carefully.

    Yeah, too many gods and ideas of them out there. So no need for god language — let’s just talk to each other plainly and stop all the pretense. Arghhhh.

  9. jamesbradfordpate

    Reblogged this on James’ Ramblings.

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