Friday, January 15, 2010

Fruit of the Secular

In common terminology the so called "fruit" of something is that which it bears, or the result of it. Obviously the fruit of a tree is something like an apple or an orange and the fruit of plants are things like tomatoes and cucumbers. We also use it in a more metaphorical way such as, "the fruit of our labor." That is, if I worked hard in school the fruit of my labor would be good grades...hopefully. We also know that in the Bible Paul writes about the fruit of the Spirit telling us that it is love, joy, peace and that like. Now in society today there is a move to get further and further away from things like Christianity and some would even say religion all together. Highly educated professors, scientist, authors and others want to remove religion and all of it's nasty trappings from the world. With that in mind and I would like to reckon for a few moments what the fruit of the secular would be. Now, to be clear I am not suggesting that all secular people show evidence of this fruit, in fact, as we will see I think it is somewhat the opposite. However, if taken to it's logical outcome I believe this would be the fruit of a purely secular worldview and society.

Apathy

First and foremost I believe the fruit of the secular would be apathetic or simply apathy. Webster defines apathy as "without feeling." In our common language we would probably say it is a "who cares?" attitude. It is easily seen in the younger generation of teenagers, at least from my perspective. If all is relative and there is no true right or wrong then who could possibly care what one person thinks or believes? Of course, this isn't the case because those who don't care for rules, laws and so forth always run up against those who do. Furthermore, if someone doesn't believe in God, the afterlife or anything else commonly associated with religion, why be upset with those who do? I have written about this in an earlier post as well. The fact of the matter is, people do care, some people who should be apathetic aren't. This, I believe, shows that when subscribing to a philosophy such as secularism one must borrow from other philosophies just to function in the world.
One statement that is meant to be somewhat tongue in cheek and yet is very telling is, "I don't believe in God and I don't like Him." We want to have someone to blame for all the mess in the world but saddling humanity with the problems is contrary to the idea that humanity can find the solution. What about, "If God is good and all powerful, how come bad things happen to people?" Well, if there is no God, no higher authority, how can we determine that bad things are happening to people. If God does not exist then only things happen to people and whether or not they are bad or good is a societal construct not a reality. Furthermore, when something "bad" happens to one person, in many cases it results in something good for someone else. If a mafia hitman takes out my brother that is bad for me but good for the mafia so who's to say whether it was bad or good. Typically, our notions of bad and good revolve less around the reality of it's goodness or badness and more around what suits our preferences. Who am I to say whether my brother's life was more important than the mafia maintaining power and control?

Despair
The second part of the fruit of the secular as I see it is despair. In secularism only the tangible is real and this breath of a life is all there is. Not only that but the only hope for humanity lies in either science which has been about as bad for humanity as it has been good, or transferring religious values into a secular person. Here is what I mean. First, I am not against science, scientific inquiry or scientific development. In fact, I owe a debt of gratitude to science for the ability to type this "blog" on a computer using the internet. There is no doubt that science has given us many good things from health care to transportation. However, science has also given us the atomic bomb, TNT, gunpowder, harmful drugs, and a variety of other harmful things. You see, science is an amoral endeavor. It can give us a whole bunch of things but it can't tell us how we should use them. As mentioned, science gave us atomic energy but it was up to us whether or not to use it for good or for evil. Science has given us allergy medication and it is up to us whether or not to use it for allergies or the creation of crystal meth. The idea for secularist is that if we just learn more the world will be a better place. Not so. It is good and beneficial to learn more but as with anything it is up to us to decide how to use that information, for good or for evil. Sadly, science is silent on that subject.
That leaves the other option, applying values to the secular that have already been arrived at by religion. When people decide to do something good or act in an honorable way for the betterment of humanity it is not because Newton, or Darwin or Galileo has told them to. The laws of physics and chemistry and biology do not show me that I ought to go and help people that are suffering. To believe that I should use my gifts to help other people is not a secular idea. Secular people may use that idea but let us not pretend that it came from their secular philosophy. If my explanation for the origin of life and species includes survival of the fittest or "natural selection" then I am hindering further evolutionary advancement by helping those less fit than I am. In that case I am working against the laws of the universe and against progress.
Alas, the only framework that gives a person hope for the future is religious. If I am hoping that my research in some area of science will help future generations I am making two very risky assumptions. First, I am assuming that they will care (read: not be apathetic). Second, I am assuming that they will choose to do the right thing and continue the work for the betterment of humanity. Only the religious perspective, Christianity in particular, offers hope for more than just today and this life.

I will continue this explanation in part 2 of this entry with:
Anarchy and a conclusion.

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