Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Is Secularism Doomed to Superficiality and an Incapacity to Sustain the Human Spirit?

9/6/2016—Mark Miller has done a tremendous service in translating the thought of Bernard Lonergan into a more or less easily digestible bite-size in his book on Lonergan, The Quest for God and the Good Life (2013). I highly recommend it.

After making the attempt on a couple of occasions to read Lonergan’s masterpiece, Insight, I believe I am in a position to say that Lonergan is quite a daunting thinker. Mark Miller renders Lonergan much more accessible then he would be to most of us on our own.

There is a chance that Lonergan is the key to the renewal of American public life. Lonergan was a great student of the human being and human civilization and their trends. Clearly a religious thinker, Lonergan nevertheless was quite secular in describing what human nature is like and how human thinking works. There is a real naturalism in Lonergan that does not dissolve the possibility of transcendence.

It is a serious question how secularism will respond to the emergency of American public life. Democracy is broken and it is not clear how it happened or what can be done about it. Nor is it clear at all that secularism possesses the depth of resources – – or maybe I should say the resources the depth – – that would permit a renaissance of hope. I am shocked by the absence of hope and presence of cynicism among so many Americans, especially the young.

But how can a secularist approach anything with depth? After all, the point of secularism is that this world is all there is. The key to that puzzle must be to recalculate depth in this world. In that regard, a translation of religious terms must prove possible.

To see what I mean, consider the following poem by Jesuit Superior General Pedro Arrupe, quoted by Mark Miller in his book (I am unable here to properly format it):

Nothing is more practical
than finding God, that is, than falling in love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything. It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love, and
it will decide everything.

The question is, can this poem speak to a nonreligious consciousness?

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