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Forces of Secularity in the Modern World

Volume 1

Series:

Stephen Strehle

Stephen Strehle is a leading scholar of church/state issues. In this volume, he focuses his rigorous historical analysis and philosophical acumen upon a topic of great interest today and source of cultural wars around the globe—the process of secularization. The book starts with a discussion of early capitalism and how it saw the real world functioning well-enough on its own principles of individual struggle and self-interest, without needing religious or moral principles to meddle in its affairs and eventually dispelling the need for any intelligent design or providential orchestration of life through the work of Darwin. The book then discusses the growth of the secular point of view: how historians dismissed the impact of religion in developing modern culture, how scientists conceived of the universe running on self-sufficient or mechanistic principles, and how people no longer looked to the providential hand of God to explain their suffering. The book ends with a discussion of how the Deist concept of human autonomy became a political policy in America through Jefferson’s concept of a wall of separation between church and state and how the US Supreme Court proceeded to dismiss the importance of religion in shaping or justifying the values of the nation and its laws. The book is accessible to most upper-level and graduate students in a wide-variety of disciplines, keeping technical and foreign words to a minimum and leaving scholarly details or debates to its extensive notes.

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Introduction

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Today many Christian people find the greatest threat to their existence within the growing secularity of western culture. They express less concern about the polemical differences that divided the church during the days of orthodoxy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and spend more time wondering about the prospects for basic Christianity surviving as a viable force of culture in the future. Indeed, they find Jesus expressing this same concern and warning about god-lessness in the “latter days,” where the people are living a worldly existence of “eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage” (Mt 24:38), without any thought about a higher or transcendent calling in life and no fear of any imminent visitation from the heavens above (Lk 18:8). Here these Christians find Jesus expressing their same concerns over what people these days describe as “secularity.” Today sociologists use the term to describe a disposition that finds religious categories irrelevant, that interprets the world as a self-sufficient system, containing an autonomous causal nexus or immanent force, negating any need for divine intervention, let alone a cataclysmic coming of the Messiah. The process of “secularization” is described as a tendency to liberate culture from religious authority, control, and significance.1 Bryan Wilson delineates certain aspects of this process in these “latter days”:

Secularization relates to the diminuation in the social significance of religion. Its application covers such things as, the sequestration by political powers of the property ← 1 | 2 → and facilities of religious...

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