If the postmodern movement has taught us anything it is that facts about of cultural heritage, about our history, only have meaning within a larger story. While the same postmodern culture has conditioned us to view any universal, common notions with suspicion, there is no denying that deconstruction of detail alone cannot produce any sense of a common human ethos. What our culture needs is a reevaluation of what makes us human, what drives us, what this great society we are a part of was built on. The project here is to rediscover the religious roots of our humanist ethos in an attempt to better understand ourselves and the society in which we live.
This is an introduction to the Christian Humanism project that follows the outline set in Professor Jens Zimmermann’s book, Humanism and Religion: A Call for the Renewal of Western Culture, published by Oxford University Press. Each post in this category will explore some aspect of the book and identify the major points Professor Zimmermann identifies as important to understanding this concept of Christian Humanism and its importance to Western society.
The fact is that Western countries are facing challenges that cannot be addressed by mere pragmatic politics or bureaucratic management. Finding a better way to do things or a new system to manage things will not lead to any satisfying condition. Simply put, we need to ask the ‘why’ questions and move away from the ‘how’ questions. We need to reintroduce questions about meaning into an education system that has become a factory for skills-based teaching rather than self-understanding. We need to reintroduce religion into the public forum and not “tolerate” people’s religious views as long as they practice them in private. We live in a democracy and the highest of democratic principles is to be open to a public discussion about our wants and desires.
This discussion is vital because humanity is more closely interconnected than at any other time in history. If globalization means anything, it means increasing proximity of diverging cultures and the inevitable collision of cultures that are unfamiliar with each other’s ideals and practices.
In France the Sarkozy government is moving to ban full-face coverings for women. For a majority of French women this means nothing but for the few thousand that wear the niqab and burka, it means stigmatization and rejection from mainstream culture. French Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said it was a victory for democracy and for French values. However, the question must be asked, how does one define “French values” and what does the Justice Minister mean by democracy?
The purpose here is to explore how these divergent cultural habits and how they are often dependent on religious worldviews concerned with the ultimate end of human existence. Growing religious and cultural pluralism demands from political and legal authorities a work of political and social integration. For this to work, we need to deepen our understanding of the religious roots of each cultural group seeking membership in Western society.
This is our endeavor, we hope you will be with us on this journey.
You can buy the book and follow along with the discussion too. It’s expensive but worth it!