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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.|
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
[T]he way to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,
Brown II, 349 U. S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop
discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Roberts, C.J., Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District
[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
[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
[Every] sacrifice is an act of impurity that pays for a prior act of greater impurity... without its participants having to suffer the full consequences incurred by its predecessor. The punishment is commuted in a process that strangely combines and finesses the deep contradiction between justice and mercy.
Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values
Within Pentecostalism the injurious hierarchies of the wider world are abrogated and replaced by a single hierarchy of faith, grace, and the empowerments of the spirit... where groups gather on rafts to take them through the turbulence of the great journey from extensive rural networks to the mega-city and the nuclear family...
David Martin, On Secularization
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
These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self
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
The Union publishes an exact return of the amount of its taxes; I can get copies of the budgets of the four and twenty component states; but who can tell me what the citizens spend in the administration of county and township?
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
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