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by Christopher Chantrill
November 18, 2005 at 11:30 am
AS EVERYONE knows, the world is moving progressively down a path of secularization, away from a traditional language of myth and magic and towards a reality-based world of science and logic. Why then, asks Frank Furedi, is the modern world full of life coaches, lifestyle gurus, professional celebrities, parenting coaches, super-nannies, makeover experts, healers, facilitators, mentors and guides?
These modern sources of spiritual authority seem to have stepped into the social space formerly occupied by traditional authority figures.
Yes, it has become fashionable to treat traditional forms of authority — monarchy, church, parliament — with derision. Criticism of traditional institutions has become so prevalent that it bears all the hallmarks of classical conformism. Scientists, doctors and other professionals have also experienced an erosion of authority. But the diminishing influence of conventional authority has been paralleled by the rise of a new ‘alternative one.
So we have the curious situation today that people distrust politicians but trust celebrities. Sir Bob Geldorf possesses the moral authority to browbeat elected politicians about aid to Africa. People question the actions of the scientifically-driven drug companies and trust the folk remedies of the herbalist.
The people that patronize herbalists and shop at natural foods stores are often the same people that are contemptuous about the beliefs of the creationists and Intelligent Design folks.
It is perhaps too extreme to say that people who dont believe in God will believe in anything. But they certainly will believe in something, and if they do not submit themselves to the moral authority of priests and ministers they will submit themselves to the authority of life coaches and gurus.
Perhaps Paul Bloom is on to something in Is God an Accident when he writes that children from an early age learn to differentiate between moving objects and immovable objects. They project into the moving objects the notion of purpose. Moving, objects, psychological things possess minds, intentions, beliefs, goals, and desires. If humans develop the notion of purposeful things as a way of explaining to themselves the behavior of moving things, then it is a short step to ascribing purpose to the whole world of moving objects and the Author of it all.
When you decide that the Author is dead then you soon find you need to replace Him with substitute guides. You still need to learn about your purpose in this world and to divine the purposes of others. You head off on a journey to the other side of the world and find yourself back where you started.|
The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness...
But to make a man act [he must have]
the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove
or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action
But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie
that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison
At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing
[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm
Civil Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust
In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, The Scientist as Rebel
Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says we should....
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity
What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph
When we received Christ, Phil added, all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh
I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all.
In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion
We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.
E. G. West, Education and the State