How Do We Explain Secularism?

“Secular” … comes from the Latin “seeculism” which means “time” or “age” . . . To call someone secular means that he is completely time bound, totally a child of his age, a creature of history with no vision of eternity.
– James Hitchcock

The modern identity and outlook [of secularism] flattens the world, leaves no place for the spiritual, the higher, for mystery.
– Charles Taylor

Profane . . . is another word for secular. It is contrasted with sacred… [which] means to be dedicated or devoted to God.
– Rick Wade

Profanity is treating as meaningless that which is freighted with meaning. Treating as common that which is hallowed. Regarding as a mere triviality what is really a divine design. Profanity is failure to see the inner mystery.
– Elisabeth Elliot

Secular humanism . . . stubbornly insisted that morality need not be based on the supernatural. But it gradually became clear that ethics without the sanction of some higher authority simply were not compelling. The ultimate irony, or perhaps tragedy, is that secularism has not led to humanism. We have gradually dissolved—deconstructed—the human being into a bundle of reflexes, impulses, neuroses, nerve endings. The great religious heresy used to be making man the measure of all things; but we have come close to making man the measure of nothing.
– Henry Grunwald

Those who doubt the effect of religion on morality should seriously ask the question: Just what are the immutable moral laws of secularism? Be prepared to answer, if you are honest, that such laws simply do not exist!
– J. Steinrucken

What Hitler did not believe and what Stalin did not believe and what Mao did not believe and what the SS did not believe and what the Gestapo did not believe and what the NKVD did not believe and what the commissars, functionaries, swaggering executioners, Nazi doctors, Communist Party theoreticians, intellectuals, Brown Shirts, Black Shirts, gauleiters, and a thousand party hacks did not believe was that God was watching what they were doing. And as far as we can tell, very few of those carrying out the horrors of the twentieth century worried overmuch that God was watching what they were doing either. That is, after all, the meaning of a secular society.
– David Berlinski

In the last century, more people were killed by secularist intellectuals, in the name of secularist ideologies, than in all the religious persecutions and repressions in Western history combined.
– Os Guinness

If hell is the (seeming) absence of God, then secular modernity is an attempt to make the world a kind of hell.
– Brian Zahnd ‏

Secularists have not succeeded in wrecking divine things; but Secularists have succeeded in wrecking secular things… They laboriously attempt to smash religion. They cannot smash religion; but they do smash everything else.
– G. K. Chesterton

We do not admire, we hardly excuse, the fanatic who wrecks this world for love of the other. But what are we to say of the fanatic who wrecks this world out of hatred of the other? He sacrifices the very existence of humanity to the non-existence of God. He offers his victims not to the altar, but merely to assert the idleness of the altar and the emptiness of the throne. He is ready to ruin even that primary ethic by which all things live, for his strange and eternal vengeance upon some one who never lived at all.
― G.K. Chesterton

Science, Faith, and Human Worth

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Sigmund Freud famously argued that scientific advance has led to a radical reevaluation of the place and significance of humanity in the universe, deflating human pretensions to grandeur and uniqueness. Before Copernicus, we thought we stood at the center of all things. Before Darwin, we thought we were utterly distinct form every other living species. Before Freud, we though that we were masters of our own limited realm; now we have to come to terms with being the prisoner of hidden unconscious forces, subtly influencing our thinking and behaviour. And as our knowledge of our universe expands, we realize how many galaxies lie beyond our own. The human lifespan is insignificant in comparison with the immense age of the universe. We can easily be overwhelmed by a sense of our insignificance when we see ourselves against this vast cosmic backdrop…

The Christian narrative allows us to frame these questions in a very different way than that offered by a bleak secular humanism. By allowing their personal narratives to be embraced and enfolded by the greater narrative of God, Christians see things in a new way—including their own status and identity. We are no longer mere assemblies of molecules, neutrons, or genes; we are individuals who can relate to God, and whose status is transformed by God’s love and attentiveness toward us…

Through inhabiting the Christian narrative, we come to see ourselves, as medieval writer Julian of Norwich famously put it, as being enfolded in the love of Christ, which brings us a new security, identity, and value. Our self-worth is grounded in being loved by God.

–Alister E. McGrath,
Narrative Apologetics

Inventing Our Own Rules

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No wonder there is so much emotional and relational emptiness. No wonder there is so much addiction and depression. If there is no purpose to life, then does it really matter what we do?… Our increasingly secular world wants to get rid of God and then act as if our lives still matter. But this is misguided. In fact, it’s like trying to play a game of Monopoly when people invent their own rules.

—Sean McDowell

Living Off the Past

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In the twentieth century, the secularists, still living off the spiritual capital of Christianity, often pretended to chide Christians for having invented the term “secularist,” a term which, they said, was devoid of meaning. Their leaders knew very well, however, that secularism, like any other parasite, derives its sustenance from the object on which it feeds, and so they were rather pleased when milquetoast Christians timidly offered, as a definition of secularism, “living as though God did not exist.” What Christians should have called it was, rather, “a contemptibly fraudulent way of living on the cheap, by reaping the maximum fruits of Christian effort, while contributing the minimum effort of your own.” When secularists accused Christians of “living in the past,” the Christians ought to have retaliated by pointing out that secularists were “living off the past.” By the time they got around to doing so, however, the majority of secularists had become morally incapable of seeing the point.

–Geddes MacGregor,
From a Christian Ghetto

Just When We Are Safest

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“Just when we are safest,” cries Browning, meaning just when unbelief has successfully thrown off the last clinging trammels of the spiritual interpretation of life, and eliminated to its own satisfaction every trace of a divine purpose for the universe, and secured its position by a confident, impregnable dialectic—

Just when we are safest, there’s a sunset-touch,
A fancy from a flower-bell, some one’s death,
A chorus-ending from Euripedes,—
And that’s enough for fifty hopes and fears
As old and new at once as Nature’s self,
To rap and knock and enter in our soul.

–James S. Stewart

You Did Not Light It

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Do you see this lantern? cried Syme in a terrible voice.’Do you see the cross carved on it, and the flame inside? You did not make it. You did not light it. Better men than you, men who could believe and obey, twisted the entrails of iron and preserved the legend of fire. There is not a street you walk on, there is not a thread you wear, that was not made as this lantern was, by denying your philosophy of dirt and rats. You can make nothing. You can only destroy. You will destroy mankind, you will destroy the world. Let that suffice you. Yet this one old Christian lantern you shall not destroy. It shall go where your empire of apes will never have the wit to find it.

― G. K. Chesterton,
The Man Who Was Thursday