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6 Civilization in Crisis WE HAVE BECOME accustomed to taking the secular character of modern civilization for granted. We have most of us never known anything else and consequently we are apt to think that this is a natural and normal state of things, so that whatever our own beliefs may be, we do not expect modern civilization to pay much attention to religion, still less to be based upon a religious conception of existence. Actually; of course, this state of things is far from being normalj on the contrary; it is unusual and perhaps unique. If we look back and out over the world and across the centuries, we shall see how exceptional and abnormal it is. It is hardly too much to say that all civilizations have always been religiousand not only civilizations but barbarian and primitive societies also. For in the past man's social life has never been regarded as something that existed in its own right as a law to itself. It was seen as dependent on another more permanent world, so that all human institutions were firmly anchored by faith and law to the realities of this higher world. No doubt human life in the past was more insecure than it is today; more precarious and 66 The Historic Reality of Christian Culture more exposed to violence and to the catastrophic accidents of famine and pestilence. But on the other hand this world of disorder and suffering was only a part of reality. It was balanced and compensated by the larger, more permanent world from which man came and to which he returned. So that a civilization was not just a highly organized form of social existence with its industry and art and scientific technique, it was both social and religious-two worlds of reality bound together by a visible fabric of institutions and laws, and by objective conceptions of justice and authority which gave them validity. As I have shown in Religion and Culture and elsewhere, all the great civilizations of the ancient world believed in a transcendent divine order which manifested itself alike in the cosmic order-the law of heavenj in the moral order-the law of justicej and in religious ritualj and it was only in so far as society was co-ordinated with the divine order by the sacred religious order of ritual and sacrifice that it had the right to exist and to be considered a civilized way of life. But today this ancient wisdom is forgotten. Civilization has cut adrift from its old moorings and is floating on a tide of change. Custom and tradition and law and authority have lost their old sacredness and moral prestige. They have all become the servants of public opinion and of the will of society. They have become humanized and secularized and at the same time unstable and fluid. As civilization becomes materially richer and more powerful, it becomes spiritually or religiously weaker and poorer. For a long time in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and to some extent in America today, this state of things was welcomed as a positive achievement. Individual freedom, political democracy and economic progress were regarded as ends in themselves, which would provide their own solutions to the problems that they created. It was believed that the secularization of culture was favorable to human freedom, since men would be freed from the incubus of authority in Church and State, and the functions of the latter would be reduced to that of a neutral guardian of order and security. In fact, however, the progress of scientific technique has led to the Civilization in Crisis increasing concentration of power. Even the weakest and the mildest of modern governments possesses a universal power of control over the lives of its citizens which the absolute monarchies of the past never dreamt of. Nevertheless this enormous concentration of power, which is to be seen alike in politics and economics and scientific technique , does not produce moral prestige as in the past. The politician and the civil servant do not possess the mana of the barbarian chief or the sacred majesty of ancient kingship, and it is the same with the industrialist and the scientific technologist. They are all regarded as ordinary men who have happened to succeed in their professions and have climbed to the top of the tree. But it is questionable whether this state of things can last, for there is a glaring disproportion between the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813220420
Related ISBN
9780813209142
MARC Record
OCLC
815969435
Pages
296
Launched on MUSE
2013-02-13
Language
English
Open Access
No
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