The Song of Secular ‘Tolerance’


At the heart of secularism,

That pernicious idea,

Working stealthily, subtly, insidiously:

Christianity doesn’t matter.

At the heart of the New Age Movement,

That pernicious idea,

Working stealthily, subtly, insidiously:

Christianity doesn’t matter.

Hark the dream of secular ‘tolerance’. It sings a song like this …

‘Whatever you need from life can be found in a thousand different ways.

And every way is equally valid – just as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.

Christianity is – at best – only one path and it’s just your personal choice.

You can be an atheist, agnostic, New Ager, Buddhist—anything you like really.

Just so long as you’re nice and tolerant and ‘politically correct’.

But do not dare say that Christianity is truly different or even special. Do not say it makes a real difference—lest you drift ever further towards the fringe.

That way lies madness . . .

That way lies Political Èncorrectness, intolerance and definitely not-nice things.

In other words, you can be a Christian if you like.

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But do not dare assert your Christianity actually matters.

Certainly, do not say it possesses anything unique – that a thousand other equally-valid ways do not possess.

And, again, do not suppose it makes any real difference, whether one is a Christian or not.

Really, you shouldn’t say it makes any difference at all – even to yourself.

Because if Christianity were unique or if it did make a real difference to your life, a unique difference – something truly different from atheism, agnosticism, New Age-ism or just any old thing – that would have certain, definite implications, you see.

Dangerous implications.

It would imply that Christianity was better than those things. (At least, in some respects.)

Oh no, we can’t have that.

That would signal the end of toleration.

It might suggest that a thousand different ways are not all equally-valid.

And that would be politically incorrect, intolerant and definitely not-nice.

We cannot tolerate such dangerous talk.

We will not tolerate such dangerous talk.

We will stigmatise it first and ban it from the public square. Let shop assistants be fired for saying ‘Merry Christmas’ instead of ‘Happy Holidays.’

Later, we may even see if we can subsume it under our ‘hate-crime’ legislation. (All those things you say are sinful. How intolerant and hateful you are!)

Do not drift toward the lunatic fringe; do not begin that dangerous descent: by saying that Christianity matters.

That is the first perilous step, you see.

Still, if you must believe your Christianity actually matters, if you must drift ever further towards that dangerous lunatic fringe, there is one thing, you simply have to do.

Keep it to yourself.

And above all – do not do one thing, I beg you.

Do not think the Church matters, too.

That would be just too, too much.

Do not say that the Church, with all those priests and sacraments, makes any real, unique difference to people’s lives.

That would be implying the Church is needed.

That one somehow needs the Church.

Then all those priests and bishops and Popes would be needed too.

And that gives them power, you see.

And authority.

See what happens when you go down that dangerous road that starts by saying Christianity actually matters?

First, you start thinking your way might be better than a thousand other equally-valid ways.

And then, you begin thinking maybe you ought to tell people, you have found something better.

Why, in no time at all, you’re a proselytiser! You want to convert people!

And then, if you say the Church matters too …

Why, in no time at all, you’re back in the Middle Ages!

And you’ll want to resurrect that Medieval Monolith, we spent so much time tearing down …

That immense (and still-ongoing) work of deconstruction (since Voltaire and 1789, at very least) would all be for nothing then!

No our work is not finished yet. It must be completed.

For the sake of tolerance, your dangerous thinking will not be tolerated.’

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4 responses to “The Song of Secular ‘Tolerance’”

  1. Cassiodorus Avatar

    I just discovered your blog and have read through several posts. I resonate with your views. I, too, spent many years holding to the “New Age” perspective. I am currently a practicing Catholic. But, my story is a little different. I came to Rome by way of the Perennialist School- which I still struggle to reconcile with Christianity and still find compelling. Would you be inclined to reject Perennialism as yet another form of the “New Age” heresy?

  2. roger Avatar

    Thank you, Cassiodorus.

    I am sorry for my delay – I have not been paying enough attention to this site over Christmastide and after.

    I am yet familiar enough with the Perennialist School of Guenon etc that you invoke here.

    But from my still-too-superficial impressions, I would certainly distinguish it from the New Age. At the heart of the New Age I believe is a syncretism of secularism and Eastern traditions.

    Clearly, this Perennialism isn’t secular! And thank God! Moreover, unlike the New Age it draws on the Abrahamic traditions I believe. Here is a major difference I believe.

    The New Age, despite its ‘universal’ claim is basically Eastern and hostile – whether consciously or not – to Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

    Thus I would imagine this Perennialism as very significantly closer. However, when you say you struggle to reconcile it, I hear you. But you would know more than me.

    I wonder if the real difference is that Christianity holds that the very nature of universe and God CHANGED with the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    My latest blog God Now has a Human Heart is all to do with this: God Himself is DIFFERENT now …

    This is the staggering claim of Christianity and the claim of the Catholic Church is that we can meet this transformed God through the Sacraments of this blog.

    I cannot easily say more. But we have at least one reader of this site who is both a practicing Catholic – and deeply indebted as you are to this stream.

    I wonder what he might say – Juan, are you out there?

  3. Cassiodorus Avatar


    Thank you very much for your response. I so appreciate your engagement. I’m must say that I’m somewhat surprised that you are not familiar with the Perennialist “school”- ever since its release some years ago, the book, the Perennial Philosophy, written by the British novelist and mystic Aldous Huxley, has been a popular work among spiritualists and seekers of many stripes. The Perennialist (better known as the Traditionalist) school , shares with some streams of the New Age, a belief in a universal and perennial spirituality. But Perennialists, unlike New Agers, reject a do it yourself spirituality and insist that there is an “underlying religion” that has manifested or deployed in the great religions of the civilizations of man. From this basic premise, Traditionalists tell us that there is a transcendent unity of religions from within their interiors that can be empirically supported by the unanimity of the world’s mystical traditions. On that count, Perennialism is neither of the East or the West. However, your point that the New Age is largely beholden to the East is the root of those reject the Perennialist perspective as a form of “eastern mysticism”.

    It has been said that the Perennial Philosophy can be “seen” in its most explicit form in the Hindu wisdom tradition of Advaita Vedanta. The belief that there is a mystical/esoteric common core to the world’s great religions has as its foundation the doctrine of non-duality (Thou Art That/ Tat Tvam Asi). Not surprisingly, adherents of the Abrahamic faiths have been largely hostile to the Perennialism, rejecting its “monism” and its universalist pretensions on the grounds that esoterism cannot be “higher” than theology and Revelation. The Traditonalist would argue that, in a certain sense, any orthodox tradition resting on saving Truth is an “incarnation”, a divine descent sent from Heaven to (using Christian language) reverse the effects of the fall. Minimally stated, the notion that there is more than one true religion is something difficult for a Catholic to digest, to say the least.

    The second part of your post, to be perfectly frank, surprised me much more than first. As I understand it, one of the most basic teachings of the Catholic faith and of classical theism as such is the doctrine of Divine simplicity. To speak in Thomistic terms, God is Actus Purus, Pure Act, not a mixture of actuality and potency. Therefore, God is timeless, changeless, impassable, Being Itself; The One Who Is. This is another subject that has nettled me and continues to tax me- this issue of Divine simplicity. It seems to me that whether one insists on change or on changelessness, insurmountable logical problems arise.

    Aiy, there are many topics that I would like to bring up in this post. Unfortunately, my time is limited and I already fear that I’m rambling. I would be most grateful to hear your thoughts.

    Vincit Omnia Veritas

    1. roger Avatar

      Cassiodorus, you are not at all rambling – but rather bringing up things that deserve close attention.

      Alas, I also suffer from limited time and am not in the position to give close attention to these things at this time.

      So I fear the response I will give you is very lame indeed. (Indeed, the reason for my delay in responding was to find time to give you a response that would not be lame – but I have not succeeded.)

      First, although I must have given the impression of ignorance of perennialism, I am not completely ignorant. I did know much of what you said and have looked into Guenon more than Huxley …

      Still, I am very superficial in my knowledge here. There is, however, a book by Jean Borella I have read a little of which gives a Catholic critique of Guenonian traditionalism which might be of much greater help than anything I could possibly say. Here is a link to it at Amazon.

      As for the most surprising second part of my post, I do understand your confusion, given how much notions of the immutability and impassibility of God apparently conflict with my quotation from Pope Pius XII in regards the Sacred Heart:

      [Christ’s] love was not entirely the spiritual love proper to God inasmuch as “God is a spirit.”

      Undoubtedly the love with which God loved our forefathers and the Hebrew people was of this nature. For this reason the expressions of human, intimate, and paternal love which we find in the Psalms, the writings of the prophets, and in the Canticle of Canticles are tokens and symbols of the true but entirely spiritual love with which God continued to sustain the human race.

      On the other hand, the love … of the Heart of Jesus Christ, expresses not only divine love but also human sentiments of love.

      But I am not in a position to resolve this confusion. I can only state the obvious that a Pope such as Ven. Pius XII is hardly acting in isolation. Such popes are advised by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, lest anything is at variance with Catholic teaching.

      What Pius XII wrote is not infallible of course – but it is undoubtedly orthodox and expressive of the tradition of the Sacred Heart and would appear to exist in a profound tension with the valid issues you raise.

      How to resolve that tension is beyond what I can offer you, Cassiodorus. Hence my answer, I know, is “lame.”

      I said above that part of the problem was lack of time. That is partly true.

      But I think a more humble answer is that a GOOD answer is really beyond my competence.

      In this connexion, I would observe that each Christian must find time for his or her own vocation.

      Your vocation, Cassiodorus, may well lead you much further than mine into these scholastic distinctions.

      But while I said above, these issues do deserve I believe “close attention”, my own vocation leads me elsewhere – including some of the terribly pressing “political” problems of the Twenty First century, including the rise of aggressive secularism, which is, for example, the theme of this blog page.

      I do not know you, Cassiodorus, but it is easy to imagine that you are being presented with the problems you face, because it may be part of your task/vocation to address them.

      In the press of time, my work lies elsewhere and so I simply give you my certainty that Ven. Pius XII is orthodox. I warned you: “lame” …

      Finally, in addition to Jean Borella, I think Meditations on the Tarot by Valentin Tomberg link to my own review here could be very helpful.

      Tomberg is certainly very, very aware of all you raise, but writes very beautiful of the God who suffers with us in solidarity and Christianity as a way of personalisation.

      I think the book contains a long, implicit critique of many threads of perennialism that is not “lane” – but profound …