Durant & George Santayana on aggressive secularism)
with all this antagonism between the clergy and secularism? Is it true that
people, organizations, books, media and websites engaging in religious
skepticism will be what ultimately brings down society? Is the sky falling and
if so who should be held responsible?
of us have graduated from religious schools; weren’t all of us taught
(especially the clergy) that secularization will be our downfall? Professors
and preachers taught us that religion and morality are the “glue” that
holds society together and that “God will bless us” if we were faithful.
think that such clerical warnings against secularism are somewhat like a self
serving “religious vaccination” meant to inoculate pew dwellers from
straying from the fold. These claims aren't baseless, qualified historians tell us that the
clergy’s warnings are merited!
Historians are legion, those whose specialty is world history are best qualified
to address the subject matter. Samuel P. Huntington's, "The Clash of
Civilizations" on the "why"
involved religion and is currently accessible upon Wikipedia in layman's terms.
Arnold J. Toynbee wrote of "schism," it's another interesting place where one
should look. This writer strongly feels that laymen need
someone to clearly and succinctly address the subject matter. Nobody does this
better than Will Durant:
Durant saw the decline of a civilization as a culmination of strife between
religion and secular intellectualism, thus toppling the precarious
institutions of convention and morality:
a certain tension between religion and society marks the higher stages of
every civilization. Religion begins by offering magical aid to harassed and
bewildered men; it culminates by giving to a people that unity of morals and
belief which seems so favorable to statesmanship and art; it ends by fighting
suicidally in the lost cause of the past. For as knowledge grows or alters
continually, it clashes with mythology and theology, which change with
geological leisureliness. Priestly control of arts and letters is then felt as
a galling shackle or hateful barrier, and intellectual history takes on the
character of a "conflict between science and religion." Institutions
which were at first in the hands of the clergy, like law and punishment,
education and morals, marriage and divorce, tend to escape from ecclesiastical
control, and become secular, perhaps profane. The intellectual classes abandon
the ancient theology and-after some hesitation- the moral code allied with it;
literature and philosophy become anticlerical. The movement of liberation
rises to an exuberant worship of reason, and falls to a paralyzing
disillusionment with every dogma and every idea. Conduct, deprived of its
religious supports, deteriorates into epicurean chaos; and life itself, shorn
of consoling faith, becomes a burden alike to conscious poverty and to weary
wealth. In the end a society and its religion tend to fall together, like body
and soul, in a harmonious death. Meanwhile among the oppressed another myth
arises, gives new form to human hope, new courage to human effort, and after
centuries of chaos builds another civilization."
What a sobering lesson from history that Durant has delivered! Would anyone
care to dispute Durant? Durant needs no
commentary, no one understood history better than he. Secular groups that pose
the question "Would the world be better off without religion" fail
to understand that Durant answers their question. Some folks lack discernment
can read what Durant has written here and fail to realize that religion
helped build America to it's higher stages, and thus religion is foundational
to this republic. Fools fail to recognize or respect this fact. In America's case, the question isn't whether society would be better off
without religion; the question is where would it be without it? Durant (a
secular intellectual) understood the proclivities of secular intellectuals
through observation and from his study of history. His conclusion from history
serves as a warning to all but particularly to secularists. If you asked me
for the bottom line, the sound bite would be: "Aggressive secularism
threatens the foundation of society."
scholarship combined with George Santayana's insight are best brought together
for those wanting an intelligent discussion of our subject matter. A timely assertion from
Wikipedia seems appropriate here:
far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is
absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for
possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages,
infancy is perpetual.Those
who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it
passed on 30 years ago, but I believe his observation to be a timeless
truth! One could say his concern was about secular folks taking an informed
approach towards religion. Question is, what should the non-religious practitioner's response be in light of the current day
unfolding and clashes between secularism and religion?
from a clergyman's perspective
have pondered this dilemma and have sought to fine tune Ex-Minister’s
direction and approach in a time when most are oblivious to what would lie
ahead should religion be conceivably snuffed out.
From the perspective of an ex-minister, I'd like to show you some things from
a different angle.
Clergymen sometimes view
secularism as a direction while we primarily look upon it as a destination.
Whenever a parishioner strays, they are going away from the church's tradition
in a secular direction.
clergymen, by nature of their position, wear many hats. One of these involve
counseling. They frequently become confidants and are told about private
matters from the personal lives of their congregants. People have problems, I
know I do. They hear and observe many things that involve morality based
issues. The great clerical refrain is that secularism is destroying society.
They say these things because this is what they're seeing. They see people
straying from one of the morality anchors established by their religious
tradition/revelation and it grieves them. Family
disruptions often follow.
One could say that secularism through the eyes of a clergyman is straying from
one's morality anchor. That they have taught one thing, yet the parishioner
did something contrary which has caused a disturbance. The parishioner dumps
this problem onto the laps of the clergyman and asks what should they do?
properly trained, a clergyman has been prepped upon the best way to handle
these situations. Understand, that the minister just might be the middle man
between people with different moral anchors. I fully understand the
clergyman's dilemma about secularism. This isn't something new (brought on by the
onset of new-atheism), no, this is an ancient problem. A well educated
clergyman, somewhere along the line gets introduced to Will Durant's
perspective upon history concerning secularism. I'm embarrassed to tell you
that I must have bumped my head and had forgotten about it. This writer had been an ex-minister for about a decade until I recalled the
lessons of Durant. It changed my outlook upon secularism and I knew that I
needed to somehow find a way to apply what I had
learned within the secular community. My older postings, prior to 2011, were a
bit more feisty than those of the past three years. My secularism hasn't
wavered, I just became more conscious about the effect that my secularism has.
The old preacher in me and the early days of this website speak to my
conscience about the dangers of aggressive secularism. Is
secularism destroying society? The short answer is... yes!
Why Will Durant
& George Santayana's
perspectives are so important
It's vitally important that
both Durant and Santayana
are understood. Nobody within the secular movement's funded
organizations would dare tell you this, no one, in 38 years, has been able to
refute Durant's viewpoint. Santayana's
significance addresses secular/progressive ignorance that one could
conceivably "pull the religious rug out from underneath society"
without repercussions. To the crusading secularists, it would be a mere oil
change rather than the severe ramifications and societal chaos that past
societies have faced! In context, Santayana's great quote first addresses
the folly of progressives before delivering the great historical line, "Those
who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
secularists don’t like the “glue” (religion) and are eager to destroy
it. The clergy are alarmed by secularism, some feel doomsday is beckoning
(i.e. last days scenario). I wished they weren't so "Chicken Little"
about this, because the right type of secularism is harmless. Skeptics view
skepticism as somewhat of a self-improvement journey while the clergy view it
as a grave threat to society (some view it as a threat to their career and
What we see is a ratcheting up of rhetoric from both sides.
Religion has drawn their lines
-- Secularism hasn't defined theirs
bristle whenever it's implied that they can't possibly be moral without
religion. We resent this because it is both untrue and unfair. We have a
different anchor (thus far undefined) that isn't based upon religion. Let's get this out of the way
-- Secularists can be good or bad without God just as well as the religious
can be good or bad with God. All of us are subject to the law (judicial codes)
which has drawn the lines between right and wrong. These are usually necessary
though we may disagree about some of them. As we know, there are many things
that aren't addressed yet by law or that are unlikely to advance to that point
for various reasons. Religious traditions/revelation have drawn their own
lines of what is right and wrong. Secularist on the other hand don't have any
extra-curricular morality lines drawn for themselves beyond the common judicial
codes we share. Morality without definition is vague, an thus there isn't
anything of substance for the faithful to quantify concerning secular claims
upon morality. Minus documentation, it is easier for the faithful to question
secularist's capacity for morality. There is a vacuum here ripe for contempt. I choose not to fuel that
Great societies have advanced
in part because they aren't stopping to argue about the drawing of the lines.
As a secularist, I ask myself do I want to draw up our own secular lines? Then
I think of all of the haggling and consternation that would bring because
there is little secularists agree upon. Religion has already drawn their
lines, and I say good for them. Do we want two societies? I defer to Durant
and Santayana here because this isn't feasible or sustainable. What I really
want is the freedom and liberty of self determination without a governmental
or religious chain. I've concluded that as an American citizen that I am in my
element and have adapted to my environment.
in theory shouldn’t or need not be a destructive force. Are questions
daggers? Isn’t education a good thing that is superior to superstition?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a healthy dose of skepticism. It is the
aggressive, demeaning, destructive type of secularism that we are endangered
by. Groups like Freedom From Religion Foundation, Center for Inquiry, American
Atheists, American Humanists Association and others like P. Z. Myers whom write
things like these Sunday
Sacrilege: Bad Without God are
classic examples of what aggressive, destructive secularism looks like. For
those that cannot discern things, Myers confesses to having subversive goals
and wanting to tear down the convention of morality in the preceding link. Myers
is the poster child of aggressive secularism. It isn't secularism, per say,
that is detrimental... it is the wrong type of aggressive secularism that we
should be wary of.
I see society headed down the path that Durant describes. I don’t
necessarily think that the ultimate destination has to end up in chaos…but
we will unless secularism and religion make sustainable adjustments.
is at fault here? This will surprise many of you, this isn't a one-sided, 100%
secular movement causation of the problem. First, the Christian churches need
to re-focus upon the basics and present a genuine, purified presentation of
your faith. Things have gotten out of hand the past few decades! Don't cry
about secularism if you model it to your congregations. Along these lines,
this writer has been impressed thus far by Pope Francis with his humility
& efforts of reform and to clean things up. As any Tennessee Temple
University graduate knows, "Everything rises and falls upon
secularism is the main problem. I'm aware that these are fighting
words, but organized secularism doesn't read the right books! I have yet to
read of one American organized secular group that has acknowledged or
mentioned Durant & Santayana (the antidote against aggressive secularism!)
The "Will Secularism Destroy Society"
article was first posted upon Ex-Minister website in January 2011, still three
and a half years later, no other secular group dares mention Durant &
Santayana. Why? The Skeptical Inquirer, July/August 2014 issue, posts a page
upon their website entitled "Would the World Be Better Off Without
Religion? A Skeptic's Guide to the Debate" that fails to mention the most
significant historian (Durant) upon the subject matter. Why? Ignoring something
significant as Durant & Santayana on the subject matter leaves a good man
to the conclusion that they are either ignorant or have sinister intentions as
a movement. I think both apply!
writer challenged the The Skeptical
I wanted to know why Durant &
Santayana's insights were omitted from a magazine that supposedly caters to
intellectuals? The editor refused to answer the question, I doubt that he
could intelligently do so. What I later found amusing was that a PH.D came to the editors defense and had the audacity
to deny Durant without apparently having
read him. A lazy man could read the "Cliff Notes" version of Durant
just by reading his quotation above.
be done about aggressive secularism? Proposing a strategy...
question becomes, what should be done to change the destructive course of the
secular movement? Can it be reformed? Does it need to be destroyed? Or could
it be that the movement is a progressive tool that has more lives than the
Freddy Kruger character from the Friday the 13th movies? Whatever the opinion,
it is very clear to me that they are major players engaged in the culture war.
They can and do ignore us, but we cannot afford to ignore them! They won't go
away, they can't be reasoned with. Contrary to popular opinion, reason is
their weakness...not their strength. This writer is a social/fiscal
conservative, I've discovered when you challenge the secular movement leaders
they retreat. There are certain ideas that frighten them, there are certain
truths they must ignore to survive. Silence is damage control. We're in a culture war. We didn't ignite it, but we have to
If we care to change things,
we must employ a "smash mouth football" type of strategy against
aggressive secularism. We must line up Durant &
Santayana and "run them down their throats" because they have
no answer for their scholarship. We must be relentless and question the
intellect & humanity of anyone that favors or protects aggressive
point where we lose the battle is when the exasperated secular leader chooses
silence and ignores his critics.
I call this the "turtle technique", when they pull their head under
the shell in retreat and count upon us to grant them a "gentlemen's"
response. We realize that the aggressive secularist has the weaker hand and we
in mercy "let them off the hook" to salvage their self worth and
dignity. In faith like manner, we hope we can make a future friend. We reason
that they will "see the light" and join us. I remind everyone that
these are the guys that are sabotaging society and they deserve no mercy. Our
mercy is our peril. While we pull back, they are back at it tomorrow counting
upon our mercy that allows them to conduct future business. If they play
"turtle", we should consider this a mere postponement of our duty
and resume things again whenever their heads emerge from underneath the shell.
We must have the tenacity to finish them off (without being jerks) and chase
the false "gentleman's guilt" away that political correctness has
implanted into society.
Secularism operates with a twisted hypothesis that religion is the world's
greatest problem and that the secularism they are pitching is the cure. If
secularism wants to organize for the good of society, it must immediate cease
and desist from the rugged, aggressive style of secularism that is destroying
society! The odds of this occurring are about the same as winning the lottery.
Organized secularism must be forced to change or die. Churches undoubtedly
have their best minds upon aggressive secularism...how is that working out?
Whenever a cleric seeks engagement, the secularists belittles them for such
things as publicly proclaiming that snakes speak to human beings. Are there any of
clerics "out there" that are optimistic that things will change on it's own? I see a
great need for a parachurch/parasecular organism to stand in the gap!
is a vacuum within society for a healthy secularism that is amiable towards
religion. Aggressive secularism is currently filling that empty space. If secularism is
going to change, that change must come from within secularism! Aggressive
secularism needs to go! It must be destroyed and the funding for a friendly religion
understanding - statesman style of secularism needs to be granted. If those
that have the means to bring this about fail to comprehend this vacuum -- and
fail to fund the right people to build this amiable secular movement -- if
they care about the culture war, they can kiss it goodbye unless they take
at the street level rather than the "Ivory Towers"
once had a gentleman write me because I hadn't posted in a long time. He urged
me not to quit and asked me what was my plan to change the state of organized
secularism? He proceeded to tell me of an academic book he had written,
implying that if they could only read his book then this would precipitate the
Biblical book of Judges laments that "everyone does that which is right
in his own eyes". Mark Twain once said, "A person who won't read has
no advantage over one that can't read". I told the man whom wrote to
encourage me that this battle has to be won upon the street level rather than
the "Ivory Towers." It will be done through reason, accessible
media, and persuasion though winsome personalities with the tenacity of a
happy warrior. It's sad, but our society just doesn't read.
organization’s radical departure from traditional models of secularism
focuses upon a relational embrace of religion and a slower rate of delivery.
We are still working upon the concept, but I would liken it to a
“statemenship type of secularism.” For a 50 something year old man, I have seen a
lot by witnessing religion as a minister, then as a disbelieving ex-minister.
My three years in the former Soviet Union (Latvia) “smacked me in the face” as to
the vast benefits of a religion that I see as myth! Myths can help build a
great society. This doesn't mean that we must give intellectual
consent to the myth, just that we understand the role of a myth in history and
our society without dumping the applecart.
don’t want to foment or increase rhetoric between the parties. This is bad
business and a serious secular mistake. I’m working for a better secularism
that can communicate with people of faith without conflict nor compromise.
Yes, this is possible and the key is working with the clergy!
I'm asking for funding. I'm asking for your support.
closing, I’d like to challenge those wanting to kill off religion by asking
you to re-read and ponder the insight that Durant provides. Especially this
deprived of its religious supports, deteriorates into epicurean chaos; and
life itself, shorn of consoling faith, becomes a burden alike to conscious
poverty and to weary wealth. In the end a society and its religion tend to
fall together, like body and soul, in a harmonious death.
don't want this - do you? Think hard about this.
July 17, 2014All rights reserved