Thursday, 3 April 2008

Unheeded Warnings

I play a very large and popular MMORPG with a group of acquaintances and friends, largely European, and mostly Dutch. Becoming more involved and known, I listened recently to a conference conversation, while playing, which turned to the subject of religion. Without the slightest change in momentum, statements were made along the lines that all non-empiric beliefs are ulimately no more worthy of attention than the tricks of stage magicians, the Crusades were as bad as the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and that bringing up a child in any form of faith is a form of abuse.

During the conversation itself I was (uncharacteristically, unfortunately) quiet, being shocked in disproportion to the sentiments expressed. I was profoundly disturbed. Here was a group of intelligent modern youths spouting forth the most ridiculous sentiments, equating any system of metaphysics with tomfoolery, radical militant extremism with a territorial war (admittedly badly waged), and giving a child a view of reality (some form of which they must be given if they are to make sense of their existence) with abuse. That they commmitted such philosophical and historical faults was not the origin of my unease and shock, but that their comments, phrasing, and the general tenor of the conversation was that of a deliberately self-delighted schadenfreude in the loss of faith. It seemed that, for these individuals, a loss of any form of belief is a salutary thing.

Notice: not the rejection of one belief for another that is more coherent and truthful, nor the rejection of belief because of a careful judgement on its veracity, but a flat unconsidered denial without reflection. And how they exulted in this, wallowing in crass superiority as if mindlessly flowing with the modern currents of opinion lifted them above the unthinking masses towards the light and glories of the Modern Unbiased Man!

Now I cannot bring myself to pass judgement on them individually. No doubt many of them have suffered harm in some way that sours to the concept of belief. However, their patterns of thought show forth that radical secularism that the Holy Father has so extensively and profoundly written about, and engaged.

I had read before the Pope's warnings about the fundamental underpinnings of this secularism, and its widespread nature in Europe, but I must admit I thought this was rather plain "Vaticano-speak", couched in the necessary generalities of journalism. However, after experiencing it at its fount, I find his warnings both prudent and alarming. I have not listened closely enough. Similarly, all the towering and thundering warnings about bio-ethics the past few years from Rome had begun to sound rather repetitive, until the recent debacle of animal-human hybrids. Now the constant vigil of Rome in saying "what can be done, should not always be done" is frighteningly apt.

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