Blog Template Theology of the Body: Does Protestantism = The Rise of Secularity?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Does Protestantism = The Rise of Secularity?

(It's an honest question)

Christopher Hitchens recently wrote a book entitled God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Obviously, this sad intellectul has determined that the secularization of a culture (in terms of the purported separation of church and state, and the denuding of a culture's intellectual/artistic references to faith and spirituality in public) is not only possible and beneficial, but vitally necessary.

In some ways, Hitchens chimes in with the undercurrent Reformation principle that the transactions of the Christian faith are purely interior. Accordingly, Christians should not be surprised that religion in America (I mean real religion) is becoming increasingly privatized, a matter of the "choice," "preference," and prerogative of the individual or the nuclear family. The Protestant Fathers may be spinning in their graves at what their progeny are up to, but it's true: modern Protestants generally refuse to acknowledge the common, binding quality of the Christian faith, and have gladly relinquished their birthright to act corporately as the holy nation, the people of God. You see how far the modern Western society has come.

In the USA, celebrated Boston University sociologist Peter Berger has suggested a possible connection between secularization and Protestant Christianity (and he is being descriptive, not offering an evaluation as to which religious persuasion is superior). In sum:

If compared with the fullness of the Catholic universe, Protestantism appears to be a radical truncation, a reduction to "essentials." Protestantism requires an immense shrinkage in the scope of the sacred as compared to Catholicism. Sacraments are reduced to a minimum, divested of their magical qualities. The miracle of the Mass disappears. In general, miracles are given little or no credence. The vast network of saintly intercession disappears altogether. In short, Protestantism rid itself as much as possible of mystery, miracle and magic and created a "disenchantment of the world." The Protestant believer no longer lives in a world penetrated by sacred beings and forces. Reality, for the Protestant, is polarized between a radically transcendent divinity and a radically "fallen" humanity which is made entirely devoid of the sacred. Between God and man lies an altogether "natural" universe. The umbilical cord between heaven and the earth is cut. Humanity's relationship to the sacred is reduced to one exceedingly narrow channel: God's word. All that remains is the cutting of this one narrow channel of mediation to open the floodgates of secularization, to create a world in which "God is dead." A sky empty of angels becomes open to the absolute conclusions of the astronomer and the astronaut.

Various sociologists have agreed that Protestantism, at the very least, is an historically decisive factor in the process of secularization, regardless of the importance of other factors as well.

... what do you think?