Monday, June 25, 2012

The secular narrative

The Anchoress puzzles over why the media is so fascinated by Leah Libresco's conversion.  She does a good job of breaking down some of the points but I think a simpler explanation is possible.

The media, as much as the rest of our secular culture, has been pounding the narrative that religion is on the way out.  It bases this off of the dwindling influence that religion seems to have on government and culture in Western industrialized societies.  There is also the deconversions that occur in troubling numbers in same countries.

These facts form a narrative.  Only uneducated and illiterate people still hold to religion.  Backward countries, the poor, etc are the religious types.  Educated and enlightened people move beyond all that, leaving religion as a quaint but archaic way of forming a moral people.

Ms. Libresco's conversion throws that whole narrative "off-script."  She's a Yalie.  She talks about Math and Science as casually as I do about video games or sports.  She would be the ideal product of the modern culture.  Except she's "defective".    

The reason why she is so fascinating is that the media's own prejudices against the religious preclude them from understanding.  They have drilled the narrative so far into their thinking that seeing her conversion is the equivalent of an epileptic seeing a strobe light.  It fries the brain.

The problem obviously is not Ms. Libresco, but the narrative.  For starters, religion isn't dying.  In fact, the Catholic Church is exploding.  John Allen's article on the subject points out that the priest shortage is a result of numbers.  Far from falling numbers of people who believe we are, save for the previously mentioned Western countries, growing and in some cases spiking.

Second, the intellectual heritage of the Catholic Church brings quite a few bright minds over the centuries.  Augustine, Aquinas, Newman, and a wide variety of brain power have shaped and added to the intellectual juggernaut that is the Church.  It is simply ignorance (and in a lot of cases arrogance) that causes the modern world to dismiss that tradition.

Finally the secularizing countries of the West are actually on the decline.  Europe, which in theory is ahead of us backward Americans, is facing an unprecedented economic crisis.  Multiculturalism is rapidly eroding the concept of country.  And finally the more secular you are the more likely that you won't have kids.  Most European countries are way below replacement levels.  In a few generations, the enlightened will have contracepted themselves out of existence, and the countries will be taken over by the "ignorant religious rubes."

Ms. Libresco's conversion, while no mean permanent,  hopefully will show (once they get over the shock) that religion is not a four letter word. And that far from checking one's intelligence at the door, the Church not only allows but in a lot of ways demands that one uses their intelligence.  For those who dwell in darkness, the light may be too blinding initially.  Hence the interest.

No comments: