I was playing tabletop RPGs at a Christian friend’s place tonight. There was a Bible on a desk where I usually put my beer, but I didn’t want to put it there since I might accidentally spill something on the book. While I don’t hold revere the Bible in the way that Christians do, although I do revere books in general, I wanted to be extra careful since it was a Bible. It got me thinking how modern secular society does not does not hold anything sacred, and it’s harmful for us.
Pretty much every society since time immemorial has held certain things sacred, and other things taboo. Be they primitive stone age societies where they revere their totems and customs, or pagan cultures, monotheists and buddhists that have all their holy books, churches, temples and symbols, which should not never be defaced or treated in a profane manner. Modern societies only care about things they consider necessary such a profit and expediency, and pleasure and comfort. I think this creates a psychological vacuum, it makes us lose perspective on what is important and detaches us from life.
Even if all of these metaphysical notions of gods and spirituality are just man-made constructs and do not exist out there somewhere in the ether, I think psychologically we need something to hold sacred, something to give us limits in order to distinguish right from wrong. Otherwise we degenerate into apathy or debauchery as is evident in modern secular societies. It may not as important what the object of reverence is, as that we have something that we understand collectively to be beyond disrespect.
Different societies have different values, naturally, and it may be completely acceptable in Islamic societies, for instance, that Mohammad should never be made into disrespectful cartoons. It may even be necessary that this is the case for the cohesion of the society. However, in Europe we don’t hold Mohammad as sacred, so for us making fun of him isn’t such a big deal. The issue with the Mohammad cartoon controversies isn’t then that the Muslims are overreacting by getting angry over them, or that Europeans are wrong for depicting Mohammad in cartoons, but the problem is forcing people with highly differing values to live in the same countries. This is fairly obvious.
What isn’t so obvious though, is that even in the secular West in recent decades these kind of religious tendencies are making a comeback. Let’s call this the post-modern society. Cultural Marxists and Social Justice Warriors have their favourite victim classes that are in effect treated as sacred. Some atheists and materialists hold theories such as Evolution as sacred. Transhumanists and other technophiles hold technological progress as sacred. While I think all of these objects of worship are somehow harmful if treated religiously, they highlight the psychological needs of the post-modern man to have something to revere.
It’s not necessarily harmful in itself that the believers in these ideologies behave like fundamentalists, but that they have been bereft of any proper religion as modernity has rendered both Christianity and paganism obsolete in the minds of the majority of post-modern people. Modernity has taught them nothing is sacred, yet in deep in their psychological makeup people feel like something should be sacred they turn to ersatz versions of sacredness.
Therefore, I would say, it is of utmost importance that we either rediscover the old spiritual doctrines or come up with something new. And I’m pretty sure there are people who are trying bring their One World Religion to fill the spiritual vacuum in post-modern men. We shouldn’t fall for that one.