– Tom Uytterhoeven –
I just started reading Jerome A. Stone’s “The Minimalist Vision of Transcendence“, and he immediately raised a question I cannot answer myself. Stone describes the secular life, on p. 3:
Given that the meaning of secularity is the loss of a transcendent source of meaning, secular existence will either find a source of meaning within this life or it will find this life essentially meaningless. Quite possibly there may be a vacillation or ambivalence between these two modes by an individual or culture, but these two represent the types of secular existence within which the ambiguities and dynamics of secular life are placed. (…)
Having lost the transcendent source of meaning, secularity either tries to find an immanent source or finds no meaning at all. And having lost the transcendent source of judgment, self-assured secularity has no perspective from which to criticize its attachment to relative meanings. The secular world tends to be caught between a self-assurance tending to fanaticism and an alienation tending to despair.
What I would like to know is whether atheists recognize this, whether this description fits their experience (maybe not as in ‘personal experience’, but as in ‘experienced around me’). Is secular life caught between being meaningless or being too self-assured? Comments on that are welcome, and would really help me understand what Stone is describing here.
One further remark: Stone seems to build his distinction between secularism and religion on the refusal or acceptance of a “transcendent source of criticism and renewal or help”. I’ll have to wait to comment on that: it’s not clear yet (remember, only at p. 3!) what he means by that. But is rather obvious that an appeal to transcendent sources is often just what a religious fanatic would do. So this post is not aimed at throwing blames back and forth between religious believers and atheists about who is the most fundamentalist…