Beyond Idols: The Shape of a Secular Society by Richard K. Fenn

April 3, 2017 | Religious Studies | By admin | 0 Comments

By Richard K. Fenn

This e-book makes an attempt to articulate the character of a mundane society, describe its advantages, and indicates the stipulations less than which this sort of society may possibly emerge. To turn into secular, argues Fenn, is to open oneself and one's society to a variety of chances, a few attention-grabbing and interesting, a few burdensome and dreadful. whereas a few sociologists have argued "Civil faith" is important to carry jointly our newly "religionless" society, Fenn urges that there's not anything to fear--and every little thing to gain--from residing in a society that's not certain jointly by way of sacred stories and ideology, or by way of sacred associations and practices.

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Example text

Never mind that religion has lost some of the trappings and vestments and prerogatives of the institutional church, for instance; it survives in the pursuit of universal human rights that accord dignity to the individual and set limits on the authority of the social system. Those of this persuasion may be relatively pleased to find religion thriving outside of clerical control and welling up in the celebrations of a popular culture that is more electronic than sacramental. Religion may even take the form of aesthetics or science and achieve the sort of beauty reserved in the past for holiness itself.

The abolition of private property will do away with all this once and for all, for it will mark “man’s return from family, religion, state, etc. ” Antique though this reference to private property may seem, there is a point to his vision of a society that is not fragmented by its own institutions. In a genuinely secular society, no institution outlasts its usefulness simply because it has acquired a purchase on legitimacy and can continue to exact tribute or loyalty from clients and the public, whose true interests may indeed lie elsewhere.

Of all such institutions, the sacred is the one that is especially dependent on devotion, that freezes a sense of what is possible, and that stifles human potential under the weight of obligation. I am suggesting that Marcuse’s complaints against private property are better directed against the sacred itself. Private property, he argues, stands in the way of humans working together to make the best personal and collective use of nature. Patents placed on parts of the human genome might be one obvious contemporary example, but the point applies to the whole range of technology and natural resources as well as to the symbols and ideas that are produced socially, in laboratories and universities, studios and sanctuaries.

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