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What is Wrong with Secularization? (Thu Mar 1, 2007 8:11 am )

Church leaders often warn about the dangers of secularization, here and especially in Western Europe. Secularization however is a challenge not a demon. It is a normal part of the development of modernity.

Modernity, that fortunate result of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, has replaced the monarchial and religious hegemonies and cognitive methods of the Middle Ages with the empirical-scientific method, with democratic nation-states, with freedom of conscience and religious pluralism. We enjoy modernity every day. Every time we express a personal point of view or publish an article in a free press, or vote for a political candidate or a proposition for implementation by a legislature elected by the people, we celebrate modernity.

About secularization Peter Berger observes: "By secularization we mean the process by which sectors of society and cultures are removed from the domination of religious institutions and symbols." This is a healthy development. Few want religious institutions running society, because, when they try that, they usually become ideologically self-centered and oppressively authoritarian regimes that repress the human spirit and grind-up human beings to insure their institutional survival.

Secularization does not mean the end of FAITH. Secularization does offer a needed challenge to RELIGION.

Religions have several choices:

Reject modernity as evil and try to institute a religion-dominated theocracy. Opus Dei would like to do this as well as some other religion fundamentalists.

Reject part of modernity and live within modernity as a subgroup as the Amish try to do this (and MAYBE some contemporary Roman Catholics.)

Learn from modernity and adapt. Listen to modernity and reconfigure the place of their institution in the world and adapt their religious language and ritual to better communicate with the world in which it lives and functions. Vatican II tried to do this.

All FAITH is a personal and group experience of the metaphysical reality described in various ways as: the Sacred, the Divine, the Transcendent, God, Allah, etc. etc.


Secularization is not the enemy but the challenge..

Other voices

Another Voice

Questions From a Ewe

Challenges Facing Catholicism
(Bishop Geoffrey Robinson in converation with Dr Ingrid Shafer)

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