AFTER SECULARIZATION by The Hedgehog Review, Spring & Summer 2006 Volume Eight

By The Hedgehog Review, Spring & Summer 2006 Volume Eight Numbers One & Two

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Looked at from the point of view of consumption, however, cathedrals are places that offer a distinctive product: traditional liturgy, top-class music, and excellence in preaching, all of which take place in a historic and often very beautiful building. A visit to a cathedral is an aesthetic experience, sought after by a wide variety of people, including those for whom membership or commitment presents difficulties. They are places where there is no obligation to opt in or to participate in communal activities beyond the service itself.

Most Christian churches have abandoned their supernatural focus, and the therapeutic benefits of faith (once firmly second place to placating God and ensuring salvation) are now advertised as the main point. The attitude of most believers has shifted: from being loyal followers to being selective consumers. 36 2 Nan Dirk De Graaf, Ariana Need, and Wout Ultee, “‘Losing My Religion’: A New and Comprehensive Explanation of Three Empirical Regularities Tested on Data for the Netherlands in 1998,” Patterns and Processes of Religious Change in Modern Industrial Societies—Europe and the United States, ed.

Against that example, the social impact of New Agers seems trivial, and I take two points from the comparison. First, only a religion that has an authoritative reference point outside the individual is capable of providing a challenge to any status quo. Left to our own devices a combination of sloth and self-interest will always make sacrifice unlikely. Although New Agers are fond of talking of their revelations and therapies as life-changing, in practice mostly what changes is merely attitudes to their circumstances.

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