Tuesday 5 October 2010

Edward Norman on Secularity (and what Christianity is not)

From Secularisation by Edward Norman, 2002, pages 47-9 (excerpts).


"Modern people have actually shown that they can get on very well without religion. Many in the Church find this puzzling, for they suppose that there exists a kind of interior disposition in each person to need a religious sentiment - (...) a 'God-shaped hole'.

"But this is a mistaken notion. The human inclination to satisfy an interior sense of emotional need is an acquired characteristic; it is cultural. People are simply taught from birth that they have emotional needs that can be accommodated by some higher reflective capacity. (...)


"Authentic religion - the true understanding of Christianity - is not about emotional satisfaction, or what belief can do for the sentiments of the individual; it is a duty owed to God because he exists. It is not about us, but about him.

"Alas, once more, modern Christians are among the first to get their priorities wrong, and they often set out to propagate the message of Christ in a manner which presents it as the answer to human emotional need. (...)


"The Marxists have always said that religious belief indicates the existence of a wrongly ordered society; once society has been rationally organized, the need for faith will disappear as a social phenomenon. The observation (...) is true enough.

"It is true, that is to say, of the use commonly made of religion by those concerned with social control, and does not affect the question of whether Christianity is true in itself.


"Christianity, as it really is, needs for its survival to be taught to each person and to each generation, as true in itself, and as dependent for its authority on uniquely revealed knowledge. It is not effective because it fills an intrinsic need - had it been so it would indeed have been no more than just another candidate for occupancy of the false consciousness of the people.

"Christianity is in the market place of competing ideas; its survival is not because of its appeal - or its fulfillment of human need - but because it is rational. It is an account of the Creator and his involvement with the Creation; and about human fallibility and redemption.

"The emotional condition of people, and their liability to believe seemingly everything they are conditioned to believe, does not come into it.

1 comment:

a Finn said...

Edward Norman: "Modern people have actually shown that they can get on very well without religion."

- Couldn't care less, Edward. Even if there would be ten billion atheists and only 100 Finnish Christians, I would happily belong to those hundred. I can offer Christianity, but if it is rejected, I go on without blinking an eye.

"... interior disposition in each person to need a religious sentiment." (Edward is rejecting this)

- Atheistically oriented evolutionary psychologists have done their best to show that there is such a disposition; attribution of agency to various objects; death, and religion as problem solving; spontaneous belief in God in children, God not being mere projection from the image of parents; genetic components in the religious dispositions (about 50% of the variations); etc. These in itself can't tell anything about the existence of God (scientifically), just that we have those dispositions and they guide us towards God, more or less imperfectly, which in the case of humans can't be avoided.

When genuine Ghristianity is diminishing, heresies, superstitions, pseudo-religions, substitute "religions" (science, liberalism, communism etc.), reactionary dead religions, etc. increase.

"Christianity, as it really is, needs ... to be taught to each person and to each generation ..."

- Yes, that is a part of Christianity being the living word. In this world good things mostly require work and effort, unlike in Marxist fairy tale utopias.

"Christianity is in the market place of competing ideas"

-Perhaps, but it is not dependent on selling Christianity.