Part 2 of a 3 part series. (See part 1, entitled “Avoiding the ghetto”)
In The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, author Milan Kundera speaks about the two chasms that line either side of the road of life. One he calls “absolute cynicism” and the other he calls “fanaticism”. It is that “absolute cynicism” I am talking about when I write about helping my children recognize and avoid the “secular ghetto”.
Those trapped in this cramped and squalid place are victims of two fundamental errors in the modern world. One is the tendency to separate Equality from Sacredness. To say that “all human beings are equal” in and of itself is meaningless. All of the garbage in my garbage can is equal, too – smelly, repulsive and of no value.
Equality as a central value of our democratic society assumes sacredness. If each and every human being aren’t equally sacred – unique, precious and valuable – then defending individual rights is simply a cover for promoting relativism. Let each and every person do whatever she or he wants to do becaue no one/nothing matters anyway.
The second major choke point in the secular ghetto is the confusion of Science and Scientism. Science is the search for Truth by human reasoning and analysis alone. Scientism is the belief (there is no empirical proof) that the way of Science is the only way to uncover truth. Religion, spirituality, “leaps of faith”, mystical experiences are all euphemisms from this point of view for superstition. If a phenomena can’t be proven to be true by the methods of Science than it simply doesn’t exist.
Taken together, Equality without Sacredness and Scientism limits a person’s horizon so severly that, inevitably, one finds his or herself well down the road towards the absolute cynicism Kundera describes. Expressions of this existential despair vary – from hedonism to totalitarianism – but all of them are characterized by a soulless, sad and self-centered existence. Read T.S. Elliot’s poem, “The Hollow Men” for an unobstructed view into the secular ghetto.
next time – life in the religious ghetto
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
(In my thirty years of teaching and writing theology I have accumulated much experience as a presenter, seminar leader, and leader of retreats and days of recollection. I am particularly proficient in facilitating Bible study groups. You can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org)