Download AFTER SECULARIZATION by The Hedgehog Review, Spring & Summer 2006 Volume Eight PDF

By The Hedgehog Review, Spring & Summer 2006 Volume Eight Numbers One & Two

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We now have a society that is very largely secular, not just in the formal operations of major social institutions but also in popular culture. We are in a historically novel position. Over the next thirty or so years, we may be able to see if societies are religious because people are religious, or vice versa. If it is the case that people are in some sense enduringly interested in the religious and the spiritual (and thus our current secularity is temporary), then we should soon see evidence for this.

The term is often casually used to mean any small new religion we do not like. I use it to mean a diffuse, extremely tolerant form of religion that stresses private experience and grants to the individual the primary authority to decide what he or she will believe. This form of religion exists not in large formal organizations but in a milieu: a world of overlapping outlets and expressions through which individual consumers chart their own paths of preference. It is the future of this form of religion that I want to consider in the rest of this essay.

The civilization of industrial society owes a great deal to committed Christians. The ending of slavery, limitations on the use of women and children in factories, controls on exploitation of workers, the construction of decent housing for workers, improvements in prisons, penny savings banks, mutual insurance, workers’ educational institutes, public schooling for the poor—all of these were the results of philanthropic activity by people who were driven by the related ideas that we could hardly expect the poor to be concerned about their souls when their bodies were sore oppressed and that a society that claimed to be Christian could not also be barbarous.

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