Thursday, August 20, 2009

Are we living in a post-secular age?


There was much talk of living in a post-Christian society. It’s a concept I’ve heard often before and I wish more people would take it seriously. What I found challenging, though, was the additional idea that we are living in a post-secular society too.

What does that look like then?

Grace Davie (Religion in Britain since 1945) argues that while we may well be a post-Christian society, we are not a post-religious society by any means and questions to what extent we were ever a secular society. It is clear that spirituality is alive and flourishing, just not in the conventional expressions we always recognise. In today’s society, it seems, people don’t often want to be fitted into someone else’s story. The individualism of the current age has allowed all sorts of people to “buy off-the-peg” and to mix and match. They want their own story. Crystals, Wicca, meditation, Kabala, Druidism, horoscopes – all of which are on the rise – and many others attest to a spiritual hunger. Just consider the rise of the roadside shrine as an example. Most people who leave flowers at the site of road accidents would be unlikely to consider going to church but there is a sense of the spiritual which seems to be untapped.

Add to this the growing trend of seeing the religious professional such as the priest as an expert, in a society where experts are increasingly mistrusted, and we can perhaps see why the official line is treated with scepticism.

The worshipper increasingly sees himself as consumer: “This is what I want at my wedding/my child’s baptism/my mother’s funeral. What do you mean you think it’s inappropriate?”