The secularist view of life


Sir, – Fr Brian McKevitt’s attempt to blame all of the ills of the modern world on the rise of secularism seems determined to disregard historical reality and replace it instead with contradictory theocratic propaganda (“Our world is dominated by an aimless secularist view of life”, Rite & Reason, January 3rd).

He suggests that Ireland’s relatively recent dalliance with secularism (one which has been by no means comprehensive if the text of the Constitution or the overwhelming majority of primary schools under Catholic patronage are anything to go by) has left us “abandoning the idea that we are responsible for others, especially children and the sick”.

This seems somewhat difficult to comprehend given that social welfare expenditures and state spending on education and healthcare is higher now than it ever has been in our history.

Furthermore, the assertion that secular ideology demands that “state-made laws must be kept to a minimum” is considerably out of place in an era when extensive and complex regulation is at its most pervasive.

If it really was the chaos of “post-Reformation” Europe that saw the spread of secularism, possessive individualism and other alleged evils to make us abandon any sense of social responsibility, then why has the modern welfare state emerged in the western world as this process reaches its apparently apocalyptic climax?

If the Reformation, was, for Fr McKevitt, the “turn away from Christianity” that was the West’s undoing, then perhaps he would prefer a return to the unquestioned authority of the Catholic Church as it existed in the Middle Ages.

When one considers the whirlwind of conquest, brutality and serfdom that were so characteristic of the unquestionably pious Medieval Europe, it is difficult to accept that justice was anything other than “the will of the powerful”, even if it remains so today.

Even if modern materialistic society is worthy of criticism, has what appears to be astonishing progress over the past 500 years really be dismissed as the descent of humanity into moral decline?

While Fr McKevitt exhorts us “to approach Christ’s gospel and church with at least an open mind”, (and to be fair, most of the citizens of the state probably had minds fairly open to anything when they were told by their primary school teachers from the age of five that these institutions were unquestionably correct), I suspect that he would not like us to extend the same courtesy to any other belief system, culture or idea, given his vehement critique of “tolerance” as the instrument of society’s alleged “disintegration”.

It appears that, although he claims to be concerned that “we refuse to ask if our behaviour is good or evil”, he is more worried that we do not regard as evil anything and everything that he and Christian thought regard as evil. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 15.