… is from pages xvi-xvii of Philipp Blom’s 2010 book, A Wicked Company:
Even today, the public discussion about moral and political issues is no longer framed in an explicitly religious context, but the change in terminology only conceals the all-pervasive influence of the unexamined theological ideas underlying it. Our vocabulary has changed, of course: We no longer speak about the soul but about the psyche; we have exchanged original sin for inherited, psychological guilt. But the cultural soil on which these ideas flourish has remained the same, and all too often our worldview is inherently religious without our even realizing it.
DBx: Although I am not at all religious, I fear nothing from people in commercial society who are consciously so. Aware of one’s epistemology and worldview-roots, intelligent religious people – who are many in number – discuss, think, learn, and teach. As long as no one attempts to compel others to share – or to act as if they share – his or her theology, all is well.
What is frightening is religious belief held unawares. What is dangerous are theologies that are believed by those who accept and evangelize them, and passed off to others, as if these theologies are products of science, of ineluctable reason, or of material history.
These secular dogmas are numerous. They include belief in the reality of a “will of the People” – belief in the state as both creator and savior, a being capable of working miracles and lovingly willing to do so as long as we give to it enough devotion – belief in the inherent goodness and majesty of all nature excluding modern, commercial human beings – belief that one’s nation is one’s father who deserves unquestioning allegiance and obedience. Yet because the priests, nuns, and preachers of these dogmas are unaware that they are promoting religious beliefs – because these evangelists present to the public their gospels and predictions as science – they pose a real danger.
We moderns, in most places on the globe, have thankfully come to accept that different acknowledged religions can co-exist peacefully as long as none is given special privileges by, or suffers special disadvantages from, the state. No one today thinks that Catholicism must either defeat or be defeated by Judaism or Mormonism or Scientology. The very notions of defeat and victory in this realm of acknowledged religions today seem silly. Any such theological set of beliefs may arise and thrive as long as it can persuade enough people voluntarily to adhere to it and support its earthly presence.
But very different and far more vicious is a religion camouflaged as science. Because every sensible person correctly understands that scientific truths are universal rather than personal – the laws of physics cannot operate for Stephen differently from the way they operate for Sarah – adherents of religious dogmas accepted as science will today attempt to impose their dogmas on everyone and to persecute as intolerable scourges of humanity those who dissent.