donderdag 29 november 2012

Secular Varieties

What to do when it does not happen automatically any longer?

I mean: if believing in a God is no longer just automatically there. Indeed, isn’t this the situation of many of us? If we do not ourselves come from families where the Eternal One was still a living presence, then we're all at least heirs of traditions in which His presence obviously used to be self-evident and is not so anymore.

His absence may be experienced as a loss, even if  it was never your personal part. And also a society as a whole can miss it, even if that society is largely secularized. What do people do with that loss?

Some find a substituting idea or ideal. Perhaps physicist Robbert Burggraaf is such a person. In any case, he believes in something bordering to timeless purity, namely the existence of the unity of all human knowledge, in which everything is in a meaningful way connected. That inspires him to continuously explore the world in in his scientific studies and that earns him the meaningfulness he’s looking for.

In Jewish, even synagogual circles the loss is often quite obvious: a personal God is no longer there for everyone, and for some already so for a very long time. But a kind of compensation has been found: just continue with the rituals. Make Kiddush on Friday night and Havdalah on Saturday night. Build a booth with Sukkot, tell stories with Passover and eat diary food with Shavuot. That way you stay close to tradition and a living reality remains palpable.

In Christian circles the struggle with the loss is more intense, probably because the disappearance of theistic belief with most people took place relatively recently. Indeed, until the sixties the dogmas and proofs of God’s existence were still alive in those circles. The emptiness of modernism that has come in its place still feels raw and menacing.

To serve as a counterbalance against this threatening chill the declared atheist Ger Groot recommends post-Christian seekers to resume the ancient rituals, without the theological ideas that originally went with them. Because rituals have their own strengths and create their own reality which cannot just modernistically be effaced. And that feels warm and beneficial.

To master the art of ‘ritual without faith’ Christians look at the way many Jews practise  that already much longer. Thierry Baudet says in this respect: “It may be a good idea to reappreciate Christianity in a secular way. Many Jews do so with regard to Judaism, they often don’t believe a word of the Torah, but nevertheless discover a lot of wisdom in the religious tradition. They are proud to see themselves as Jewish, and realize that the rituals and usages in some strange way complete our existence”.

Exciting. But I do not know whether Christianity is equally well suited for this approach as Judaism is.

Also see Mission Completed