Bruce Logan

Jane Bowron’s For Dawkins’ Sake (Stuff, Dec 28, 2020) is puzzling; criticism that slips into unintended satire.   

The “dyed in the wool secularist”, perhaps most of us, should “ignore the Christian calendar” because “Christianity is seen as an affront to most secularists”. It is out of date and we should consider Matariki (Maori New Year) instead.

Ms Bowron will not be alone, but no matter how anyone spins it, the Western world, including New Zealand, is sustained by the Christian story. Take Christian theology and ethics out of Western Civilisation and it loses its raison d’être. For example, the idea of universal human rights is uniquely Biblical, intimately tied to having been born in God’s image. That source of intrinsic human dignity is essential to any version of equality before the law.

“Secular” is a Christian creation and it is neither neutral nor self-sustaining as Ms Bowron appears to think. An authoritative secular exists only in the West and has a constrained and accessible history. “Saeculum” for the Romans described Fortune’s capriciousness while it gave substance to St Augustine’s model of the two interacting but uniquely different “Cities”.

The creation of the secular was an attempt to explain Christ’s “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s”.

It was never meant to be a total description of reality and it still isn’t even if the “dyed in the wool secularists” think it is. And it is this attempt to make it a total and inclusive cultural reality that is so vainglorious.

The secular has neither countercultural authority nor philosophy without the Bible story of creation. For example, notions of diversity and equality or anti-discrimination legislation only make sense in the context of the unique declaration of human dignity found in Genesis. Even the cult of diversity and inclusion is a mindless Christian heresy.

Secular as a self-sustaining ideology reduces the significance of human meaning to a tautology: I’m human therefore I have dignity, I have dignity therefore I am human. It cannot offer humanity any coherent sense of meaning and if it attempts to do so it acts as a parasite on its Christian host.

And anyway Ms Bowron is too late. It’s all been done by the French in 1793. They wanted a Republican and secular calendar, 12 months of 30 days and a week of 10 days. All beginning at year one. Notre Dame was set up as the Temple of Wisdom complete with its own goddess. The new secular seasons were based on Nature. Alas, the presumptive fertile goddess remained barren for the fleeting 12 years she was worshipped.

Ms Bowron’s suggestion that New Year be transferred to Matariki ominously echoes the efforts of the French revolutionaries in 1793.

Any attempt to establish a secular calendar is a rejection of any coherent explanation of human dignity and would open up the way for an alternative state religion. That would mean the loss of one of the great benefits of Christianity, the existence of an absolute but merciful God above the state. A belief in the God who demands justice for the weak and relief for the poor.

The “dyed in the wool” secularist wants an Empire without God, but western civilisation rests entirely on the belief in a just and merciful God. Without that  the Empire might accept the foundation of human rights for a while. Soon it will forget and believe itself to be the author of every right it imagines.

A return to Matariki and its implications might be attractive from a distance, but it would become a manipulation of Maori religion by the state as it tried to make sense of diversity dogma.

Already human rights are no longer about protection of the individual. They are increasingly about the discovery and preservation of a self-selecting politicised tribal identity. Belief in the uniqueness of individual identity is being overwhelmed by the state’s recognition and reinforcement of a sanctioned tribalising identity. Freedom will fly further from us in an evacuated secular state.

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