In the fall 2018 publication of Modern Age, the great Dan McCarthy’s Editor’s note offered a reflection on the transition from Christianity to what he calls “secular universalism” as the dominant faith subconsciously adopted by society.
He argues that the magnificent shift away from western Christianity (in a broad, vague sense), is not a shift away from faith— its just that the object, so to speak, of the faith has been swapped out. This has consequences, and McCarthy, a true traditionalist conservative who writes like one, mentions a few of them. Due to the perversion of faith,
the spiritual is turned into the temporal, and salvation turns into a worldly concept….. [This] creates longings in political and social life that cannot be fulfilled. This degrades our worldly practices as well as the human spirit, as the means of politics and economics are misapplied toward ends they can never achieve.
Then he applies this to the vastly popular and trending “social justice” theme:
“Social justice,” with its complex mythology of victims and oppressors— saints and sinners— is a cutting-edge development of this secular universalism. It takes from Christianity a certain feeling for guilt and expiation, but atonement is not to be made to God…. Instead, political and other public rituals can purify: denouncing nonbelievers and heretics on social media, for example, or silencing the voice of error by enforcing the right “community standards,” as devised by corporations eager to demonstrate their acceptance of political morality.
What is remarkable is not that there is today some private policing of speech— and, by implication, thought— but the unforgiving and uncharitable political nature of the orthodoxy. The new faith does not respect conscience. How can it if moral truth is found only in one’s conformity to the correct attitudes held by others, and not in one’s relationship to anything beyond humanity?
I would like to simply copy the rest of the article into this space, but this was meant as a short reference to the editor’s note. In any event, I think it adequately summarizes the difficulties built in to modern social life, and all the social engineering trends that have been applied to the New Secular Faith. In all this, McCarthy is likely echoing the work of Paul Gottfried’s work on Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt. Gottfried takes a very detailed look at the religious roots of the paradigms and language of modern secularist faith— especially as they relate to the social justice phenomenon where there are classes to victims and oppressors and where the jobs, among others, of the state is to help remedy this sinful situation.
What I am interested in especially is watching all this develop not only in the general secular institutions (the media, higher education, corporate marketing efforts, the government itself), but also on the evangelical social left— where there is some restraint as to the endorsement of specific personal sins (homosexuality, for instance), but who nevertheless have adopted secularist social frameworks and tensions (victims and oppressors in a class struggle based on various imposed criteria).