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Friday, October 26, 2007

The cold indifference of the post-Christian culture

Maimon Schwarzschild notices that charity tends to be contingent upon a certain religion:

The New York Times ran a front-page story recently about an elderly man who starved to death in Japan, having been denied help by the welfare bureaucracy. The man kept a diary as he died: heartbreaking to read. The Japanese welfare bureaucracy seems to have been notably heartless, and not only in this case. There are other, similar cases of starvation in the past year or two in Japan, according to the Times.

There is this brief throwaway in the lengthy Times story:

With no religious tradition of charity, Japan has few soup kitchens or other places for the indigent. Those that exist — run frequently by Christian missionaries from South Korea or Japan’s tiny Christian population — cater mostly to the homeless.

If the Christian world is on its way to being post-Christian, will the tradition of Christian charity persist? Or is the ethic of charity liable to go down with the faith that inspired it?

Atheists argue from theory that the ethic of charity doesn't logically HAVE to disappear from a culture as its number of Christians drops. And this is true, in theory. Both historical and current evidence, however, demonstrates the opposite; I would go even farther than Schwarzschild and predict that those countries which continue proceed in a post-Christian path will soon begin to see the same sorts of arguments for slavery and/or caste that they are currently seeing in favor of eugenics, infanticide and euthanasia.

What the atheists have failed to understand is that secularism is not an end destination, it is merely a point on the path towards paganism. Atheism's primary emotional appeal, the release from religion's sexual shackles, is overwhelmed by paganism's offer of the erotic made divine. This is particularly true for women, for whom the nominally rational appeal of atheism is practically nil.

There will be no fully secularized societies of the sort which appear so often in science fiction. In fact, the infant science of socionomics points to humanity already having passed secularism's high-water mark.

There is also some evidence that religion becomes more important to people as bear markets progress and less important as bull markets progress. At the stock market low of wave (II) in 1857, 22 years after the peak of wave (I) in 1835, newspapers reported that people in New York City were lined up for blocks to join churches for the first time. In contrast, it was in the late 1960s, near a multi-decade stock market top, that a national magazine asked on its cover, "Is God Dead". In extended periods of social depression and war, religion is generally a central aspect of people's lives. In long periods of social ebullience, religion plays a secondary role. Thus, social mood trends appear to affect not only the style of religious practices but the very importance of religion itself. We can see both aspects of this influence in the rise of fundamentalism in the form of terrorist activities by radical Muslims and efforts by Baptists to get stories in Genesis taught as science.
- Pioneering Studies in Socionomics, Robert Prechter, 2002

In light of these observations, it is intriguing to note that the recent housing and stock market peaks coincided rather closely with the sudden appearance of books such as The God Delusion, The End of Faith and God is Not Great on the best-selling lists. They are likely indicators of cultural change, but almost surely not in the way their authors had hoped.

According to the socionomics forecast, one should anticipate disease, war and increased racial conflict as well as a series of religious revivals. And, of course, longer women's skirts....

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