Thursday, June 24, 2010
Secularism: The supermarket of Gods
A person or a culture (or a cult) can use any symbolism they want to denote the deity they worship, but that doesn't make the deity they worship "God". For example, a cult could use the symbolism "YHWH" for the deity they worship, but the deity they worship could be some false fantasy they invented. That doesn't make the symbolism itself bad; this hypothetical cult is just using it incorrectly, out of ignorance, out of arrogance, or out of malice.
Analogy: a supermarket is carrying many different brands of cans with the label "split peas" on it, but the F.D.A. after an investigation into the contents discovers that only one of the brands labelled "split peas" actually contains split peas -- all the others contain something else and many of them contain dangerous toxins in addition.
My analogy begins to falter when we try to translate the F.D.A into a comparable institution relating to the problem of which "God" is the real God, and which brand carries the "true God". The world does not have a universally recognized institution like the F.D.A. in my analogy which has the credibility, and the power, to determine which brand has the real "God" and then to enforce a ban on all the brands of false "Gods". What does exist are multiple institutions out there who make the claim and try to provide the service to their consumers (and to potential new consumers) of telling which is the true God.
Complicating this situation, we have many representatives of various religious institutions (and churches) who claim that the "true God" may be present in other religions, though of course usually with the caveat that this presence is not as "complete" as it is in one's own pet brand. Thus the Catholic Church claims in its catechism that Muslims are part of the plan of salvation because they "acknowledge the Creator" and "together with us they adore the one, merciful God..." Essentially what the Catholic Church is saying here is that while Catholic Cola is better than Islamic Cola, both are colas. This ecumenical generosity goes back in Catholic tradition at least as far as Justin Martyr, a 2nd century pagan Greek convert to Christianity who had been trained in classical philosophy before his conversion, and who attempted to find a way to, in effect, save Plato and the other pagan philosophers in light of the Gospel. However, as sophisticated as some of the underpinnings to this catechical tolerance are, they do not mean the Catholic Church from the time of Vatican II to the present has remained immune to PC MC, from whose corrosive influence few if any Christian churches and denominations have escaped.
The reason this secular situation prevails throughout the West -- this situation, or system, of no single universally recognized arbiter of what the "true God" is -- is because the West went through horrible religious wars for centuries, based in great part on the disorder of multiple churches claiming to have the true contents for the same label, and fomenting violence on the basis of this claim because the truth of the claim was then seen to necessitate its enforcement through the laws of the land. But after a while, people of the West could no longer tolerate this situation, and paradoxically an important source of this insight into a new order of secularism drew substance from Judaeo-Christianity itself.
Another way my analogy falters is that in the terms of the secularist "supermarket" of religions, the secularist does not assume the role of an F.D.A. in the sense of shutting down certain religions and removing them from the shelves: secularism allows many different religions with the same label of "God" to co-exist on the shelves, and leaves it up to the consumers to be intelligent enough to decide for themselves.
Secularism basically is a de facto enforcement of "cafeteria spirituality" where no single item is excluded from the menu, and patrons decide for themselves whether to take one item, or mix and match from the religious salad bar. Many Christians may not like this situation, and may pine wistfully for the good old days when they had a monopoly on the franchise. By and large, though, the vast majority of them accept this as a fait accompli. Indeed, many Christians actually support this system of secular tolerance, since many, if not most, Christians have become considerably softened up by PC MC, and quite a few sample from the cafeteria themselves -- going off on Buddhist "retreats", spending the night in Native American sweat lodges to "commune" with the "spirits" of Nature, attending classes of a Hindu swami to "broaden their horizons", participating in "inter-faith seminars" with Muslims. . . One almost senses amongst these cafeteria Christians an embarrassment, if not shame, at being members of a brand name that lays claim to theological superiority, further aggravated by a connection they make between this claim and the ill treatment of non-Western cultures during the colonialist expansion of Christianity.
Speaking of Muslims: They aren't merely dissatisfied with this situation yet acquiesce to it, either grudgingly or enthusiastically, as do the vast majority of Christians. Muslims are programmed through the texts and tradition of their religious culture to reject this arrangement. They are programmed to support the goal of taking control of the "supermarket" by force, and only allowing one brand on the shelves -- Islam. If a Muslim tried to disavow this programming, he would cease being a Muslim qua a follower of Islam. Muslims might, through their system of dhimmitude once they took power, allow the brand called People of the Book a place on some lower shelf near the unswept floor, or perhaps in boxes in the back room somewhere. But pride of place, backed up by powerful teeth, is given to the one and only brand, Islam, which contains the "greater God" (Allah Akbar). When Muslims are weak, they pretend that they just want to get along with all the other brands on the shelves. In the meantime, they are plotting in various ways, including the tactic of terrorism, to try to gain control of the "supermarket of ideas".
The problem is not that Muslims will succeed in their goal of reviving a global theocracy -- it is unlikely they can succeed in such a grandiose goal. The problem is that they want to succeed, and in merely trying to realize that goal, they will manage to wreak untold mayhem and misery unless we wake up and implement various policies calculated to enforce the free market of the supermarket of Gods.