Secularism is the Air that We Breathe

Battered shell of Reims cathedral, France, after World War One.

Regular readers of my weblog will recognise recurring themes, including

  • Globalisation and the Dictatorship of Secularism
  • The Loss of Christendom and the Catholic Mystery
  • The ruins of Catholic Ireland

I wonder how many think: what on earth is the point?! Surely, our world problems cannot be solved by returning to a dead past – especially as it once existed on an ‘obscure little island’, isolated from the mainstream of the West. Surely, we must recognise the present forces of global society!

Well, yes – at least to a point. But there is a problem if we only recognise these present forces.

For these forces then become seen to possess an aura of inevitability about them. And thus we all too easily surrender our souls to that ‘inevitability’.

Thus, it is necessary to combat this aura of inevitability. To do that, it is necessary to heighten consciousness that there is a PARTICULAR worldview that informs, shapes and guides all our current political, social and economic activity. (Which activity, moreover, is slowly murdering us in body and soul. Whilst our environment degrades, our souls are ever more stripped and starved …)

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This is precisely what my invoking Christendom or Catholic Ireland – as it still existed even fifty years ago – is all about. It is an effort to create consciousness of the particularism of our present worldview by contrasting it with the past.

And it is to suggest that this particular worldview is not the only one we have available to us.

Now – as a convenient shorthand – this worldview can be called ‘Secularism’. By this, I mean that our society is underpinned and moulded by an ideology entailing a complex convergence of philosophical currents including:

Philosophical Materialism: in which little but the most crudely obvious material dimensions are admitted as having general validity and hence MEANING for the way our society is run.

Relativism, which proceeds from this: It entails a despair of finding any basis for truth that is not simply contigent on one’s own culture.

A Negative Concept of Liberty. This holds that any restraint, even self-chosen restraint, equals loss of freedom. This approach is also subtly materialistic, inasmuch as it emphasises material restraints over psychological ones. 

Hence, someone under house-arrest is considered unfree, but a severe agoraphobic – terrified to leave his own house – is not seen the same way. These days people are increasingly trapped in drug addiction, sex addiction, consumer addiction, suicidal thinking, etc. Yet we are told we live in the era of unprecedented human liberty!

Here, I would argue that the famous cry of the French Revolution in 1789 – Liberté! Egalité! Fraternité! – has led to a world in which we are ever more unfree, ever more unequal and ever less fraternal …

Yet secularism is the air that we breathe. We breathe this air so naturally and unconsciously that we never suspect that we might breathe a different air, if we only knew such existed.

We are like fish in an all-surrounding sea who have no idea that very different options are available. Fish in this case, who could breath a very different air, if we only became aware that this was not the only sea available to us.

Here again is the reason why – at this blog and in my upcoming books from Angelico Press – I invoke very recent Irish history (as recent as forty years ago!)  to show that people very like us, did indeed breathe a different air – and created a different society.

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But when these different options are suggested to us, we can react as though something will be imposed on us.

For example, I recall a British mother, whom I know and admire, as an example of what I mean. This British woman, who is not a Christian, had her children – for non-religious reasons – enrolled in an (at least marginally) Church of England school. But she resented the fact that her children had Christian concepts ‘imposed’ on them.

Yet it never occurred to her that in the state-run alternative, children were also having something imposed on them. Because these children are breathing in every day the air of secularism – an ideology composed, again, of philosophical materialism, relativism, liberty narrowly and materialistically defined – and so forth.

All of these things are being foisted on our children, including now flagrant ‘educational’ propaganda  for the liberty of ‘gay’ marriage. (Again, the psychological question of liberty is rarely raised here: Will the children raised by gay parents be more or less free?)

At any rate, when I tried to explain that secular schools also impose things, this good, decent British mother had not the least idea what I meant. And it seems to me that most of us have no idea at all.

Secularism is the air that we breathe …

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Reims Cathedral, exterior (4).jpg
Reims Cathedral restored today. Photo by Magnus Manske. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

This is an issue that concerns me very gravely. Personally, I have no hope for the West unless the battered, almost broken shell of Christendom is restored. Not only our souls, but even more the souls of our children are being poisoned in a poisonous sea.

Indeed, in my new upcoming book, The Gentle Traditionalist, I suggest that people are now submerged in a quasi-religion – and that things like relativism or Negative Liberty are the dogmas of a new form of faith. And yet many people scarcely realise the fact at all.

We will not explore this much further today. But my new book is all to do with this idea. A character in my novel finds himself thinking of that old song by REM: Losing My Religion. But he comes to recognise that it is not so much that people today are losing their religion – but choosing a different religion (again, entirely unconsciously).

More, much more is said of this in my book. But today I will just leave you with a small snippet, relevant to this theme, from a dialogue in my novel. (My book, although ostensibly a short novel, is actually mainly in dialogue format. There are dialogues about not only the New Secular Religion, but also the New Age Movement, Catholic Ireland and much more. Indeed, we recently presented one of these dialogues on sexual abuse in the Church here.)

Anyway, in this little snippet of dialogue, GT, the Gentle Traditionalist himself, is confronted by Alberto Lasagne, the Angry Liberal, likewise an unconscious exponent of the New Secular Religion . . .

AL: What about all those anti-woman positions, you have? What about your Church’s ban on women priests? …

GT: The only way I could positively discriminate against women being priests is if women possessed a right—an automatic right—to be priests.

AL: What are you talking about?! Of course, women have the right to be priests. Women have rights to be or do anything they want!

GT: Like a right to abort their children.

AL: Yes, of course, women have a right to choose—although a foetus is a foetus. Not a child.

GT: That is rather convenient, isn’t it? Otherwise, we would be talking about murder.

AL: Oh God!

GT: Like I said to Geoffrey, I’m not God. I only work for Him. (And the Good Lord knows, I fail Him miserably.)

Anyway, we appear to have several beliefs here: Women have a right to ordination; a foetus is not a child; abortion isn’t murder. I think we will uncover more beliefs if we proceed. For example, homosexuals have a right to marry and raise children . . .

AL: Exactly, you homophobe! This is not the Middle Ages! We’ve gone beyond all your backward prejudices now.

GT: This “going beyond” . . . I am “backward.” You believe that what I believe is mere prejudice. And nothing else.

My belief is wrong according to your belief. Oh, there are many, many beliefs here—if one only digs a little deeper.

Moreover, there’s something else here than just beliefs. We have a grouping—a collective distinctly identified as “we.”

We’ve gone beyond.” Who is this “we,” I wonder? You talk to me as though I should belong to your collective.

AL: This is the twenty-first century, you dinosaur!

GT: Yes, precisely, I am being commandeered to join the religion of the twenty-first century. Otherwise, I risk being condemned of heresy.

In the next upcoming extract from my book, the Gentle Traditionalist will encounter the Man with No Name.

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6 responses to “Secularism is the Air that We Breathe”

  1. Dennis Wheeler Avatar
    Dennis Wheeler

    Dear Mr. Buck,

    This comment – more of a request – isn’t really about the topic of the article, but I thought it had a better chance of being seen that if I posted a comment to an older article about the topic I am contacting you about (I looked around the site but found no email for you or the site to contact you more directly).

    Anyway, in reading some of your posts on Tomberg (one of my favorite spiritual/mystic wirters), I saw an email contact for information regarding English translations of Tomberg’s writings on jurisprudence and international law (which seem generally to be unavailable or very difficult to acquire by the usual channels like Amazon). I emailed Mr. Hipsley but haven’t heard back (the article in which the link to his email appeared was from quite a while back, so I’m not sure it is still a valid address). Do you know of a current contact person or site through which to acquire those writings of Tomberg? If so, do you know what format(s) they are available in, and what the cost is?

    1. roger Avatar

      Dennis (hoping you don’t object to that as opposed to Mr Wheeler),

      I am unsure why this email isn’t working and will try to look into it myself, although I am very pressed for time right now.

      All I can tell you now is that the format is A4 spiral bound or 8 1/2 by 11 in US standards. And I believe they might be rather expensive. I don’t know as mine were generously given to me by a friend.

      And I am sorry for your frustration!

      I regard these legal theses as extremely important. Really, they should easily be available on Amazon etc.

      They can do tremendous good for the world. I have raised this issue with my own publisher Angelico Press, who I imagine, in ideal circumstances, would like to make these available.

      Alas, circumstances might not be ideal! Publishing these is not likely to be a great source of profit and could even be a risk for a small company which must use its limited time, staff to the fullest to survive.

      Really, I wish I had money to fund Angelico to do this myself or time to start a fundraising effort!

      It is very important your wishes and others are not frustrated. It is very important these profound and wise books are available. So I hope to find out when I can what has happened with the email.

      In the meantime, please think of dropping a line to Angelico Press (here).

      Finally, in the next week or so, I hope to finish a long delayed very extensive piece which returns to the subject of Tomberg’s legal works in some depth.

  2. A Avatar

    Roger and Kim,

    Cindy By the Sea has a very good piece up today called “The Red Cup Canary” (I will not post a link but it can be googled) which I would encourage everyone to read.

    The older I get the more I realise that Tocqueville was a genius. He saw with unparalleled prescience how American prosperity, liberty, and political stability were rooted absolutely in Christianity. He knew that without a Judeo-Christian populace. a secular government founded largely on principles of the Enlightenment, a great political experiment that guaranteed both equality of conditions and religious freedom, would descend into chaos and tyranny.

    In Ireland, in less than 20 years the edifice of the ancient faith has crumbled and been replaced by a cult of consumerism. This is seen almost universally as a good, progressive thing. Most Irish people no longer believe in God–they believe in themselves. Perhaps even more importantly, the very small number that say they believe no longer live as if they do ( I am generalizing here–I realise there are exceptions, but this is what I see.). This is our French Revolution. With this current state of affairs, breakdown of the social, economic, and political order in Ireland seems inevitable. Never have we been so wealthy yet so impoverished at the same time. I wish I were more optimistic but I am not so I had probably best shut up now.

    1. roger Avatar

      A – at long last, thank you for that by Cindy by the Sea.

      Some will find Cindy too extreme. Alas, I am not one of them. I think she points very clearly to where our society is headed – unless something is done!

      Yes, two hundred years later, the French Revolution has finally arrived in Ireland. And few realise the fruits it will bring unless profoundly challenged.

      I recall in France kinowing a priest responsible for forty parishes and how that modern dry French secularism starves my soul.

      Ireland appears comparatively lucky to France – 200 years behind. Alas, it is appearance, I think. With the present media forces, it will not take 200 years to “catch up”.

      Your Tocqueville comment and everything else much appreciated, A. Thank you warmly.

  3. […] « Secularism is the Air that We Breathe … Feast of St. Laurence O’Toole » […]

  4. […] This long extract is quite different from the preceding ones, which have mainly been dialogues about grave issues in the Church and society today – such as sexual abuse and secular tyranny. […]

  5. […] Same as above. Short extract incorporated into longer post:. […]