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Faith and Modernity. Lecture 1 The challenge to traditional religion. SECULARISATION AND MODERNISATION. Sociological/historical paradigms The emergence of religion What is secularisation. Challenges to Traditional religion. 1 Intellectual 2 Experiential 3 Socio/economic.

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faith and modernity

Faith and Modernity

Lecture 1

The challenge to traditional religion

secularisation and modernisation

Sociological/historical paradigms

  • The emergence of religion
  • What is secularisation
challenges to traditional religion
Challenges to Traditional religion
  • 1 Intellectual
  • 2 Experiential
  • 3 Socio/economic
the intellectual challenge 1 the naturalisation of religion
The Intellectual Challenge1 The naturalisation of religion
  • The Enlightenment itself was anti-clerical and Deist rather than outright anti-religious
  • but by the early nineteenth century a corrosive ‘naturalistic’ critique of religion, that is one which explained religious concepts and behaviour in a naturalistic way without recourse to superstition or the supernatural, had begun to evolve.
naturalisation of religion cont
Naturalisation of Religion (cont)
  • Key contributors were
  • David Strauss (The Life of Jesus 1837);
  • Ludwig Feuerbach (The Essence of Christianity 1841); [Man created God, not God who created Man]
  • Ernest Renan (La Vie de Jésus 1863)
  • Karl Kautsky (The Origins of Christianity 1908).
  • The natural interpretation of religious behaviour (visions; voices etc.) by William James (The Varieties of Religious Experience 1902) as psychosis; mass hypnosis; hysteria etc concluded this section.
intellectual challenge 2 scientific discoveries
Intellectual Challenge2. Scientific discoveries
  • Lamarck – evolutionary theory (1800)
  • Lyell (geology) – fossils
  • Darwin controversy – The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859)
  • Speed of light (Michelson Morley)
  • Nature of matter – atomic theory
  • Relativity (atomic clocks experiment)
  • Size of/origin of universe = transformed cosmology [Archbishop Ussher (1650) – world began at nightfall preceding Sunday 23 October 4004 BC]
  • genetics

The outcome was that any concept of a world which was

  • a.) constant
  • b.) created
  • c.) designed by a wise and benign creator
  • in which
  • d.) humanity had a unique position,

was under threat.

the experiential challenge
The experiential challenge
  • Natural Disasters from the Lisbon Earthquake (1755) to the Indonesian/S.E.Asian tsunami (26 Dec 2004 –230,000 dead)
  • The horrors of recent history
  • Massive wars; holocaust; genocide; massacre; mass bombing; nuclear weapons and the apparent indifference/silence of God
  • ‘Why did the Heavens not Darken?’ (Mayer) – Adorno – ‘To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. has become impossible to write poetry today.’ (1949) [way these are understood, not way they were meant]
  • Matthew Arnold ‘Dover Beach’ (written c 1851, pub 1867)
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky The Brothers Karamazov (Legend of the Grand Inquisitor) (1880)
  • Nietzsche – ‘God is Dead’ – ‘revaluation of all values’

The Sea of Faith

Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore

Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.

But now I only hear Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,

Retreating, to the breath

Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear

And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true

To one another! for the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

And we are here as on a darkling plain

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

Where ignorant armies clash by night.


God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

—Nietzsche, The Gay Science,[i.e. The art of poetry] Section 125,(1882) tr. Walter Kaufmann

3 the socio economic challenge
3. The socio/economic challenge

People living in the post-industrial revolution comfort zone of consumerism and medicine have no ‘need’ of God for a comfortable life.

  • Declining religious attendance/vocations;
  • separation of church and state;
  • declining social influence of churches locally and nationally

were signs of the diminishing importance of religion.

  • The secularization thesis tied all this up.