Credulity Is Seen Rising in the Wake of Secularization

So Says a Theologian-Sociologist

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BARCELONA, Spain, NOV. 18, 2002 ( Secularization is giving way to an atmosphere where people are open to believing anything, says a theologian-sociologist.

José María Mardones, researcher of the Institute of Philosophy of the Higher Council of Scientific Research of Madrid, will give the opening address at a symposium here next week. At the symposium entitled “Christianity in a Plural Society,” Mardones will focus on the passage from a homogenous to a plural society.

An author, Mardones holds doctorates in theology and sociology. He talked with ZENIT about the decrease of religious practice in the West and the concomitant thirst for spirituality.

Q: What ruptures are caused in the passage from a homogeneous society to a plural world?

Mardones: To live in a pluralist world, the combined result of the influx of the market economy, political democracy, the media, and urban culture, in addition to tourism and unstoppable immigration, creates a very different society and culture from the known traditional and homogeneous society.

In this plural society, the individual is forced to choose — to choose among the numerous products of the market; to choose among ideological options; to choose among different lifestyles, values, behavior, even faith and religion.

Pluralism broke the unified view of the cosmos, rooted in religion, and replaced it by a plurality of views, which range from those of ideologies and science, to advertising.

Pluralism places us in a relativist culture. This is why questions about the meaning of life, direction, identity, appear as anxieties and even pathologies of our time.

Q: Given this phenomenon, how is it possible not to lose one’s religious identity? Is it necessary to be entrenched before the plural society?

Mardones: Nothing will ever be the same. The believer feels himself challenged to believe differently. He is left exposed. He needs a greater personalization of his faith, of the inner experience, of the support of companions with whom to share and nourish his faith.

In these circumstances, which we are living in Spain and practically in the whole of Europe, “conventional” or sociological Christianity is threatened with ruin. It cannot be sustained.

The temptation the Church has is to want to sustain a form of belief that already has little future. This helps to understand the entrenchments and institutional ghettos, but they are condemned to have a precarious life.

Instead, a pastoral endeavor of reinforcement of the life of faith of believers would be preferable, of solid and critical formation to know how to discern the evangelical from the anti-evangelical in this society and culture, and of formation of faith groups that will help and support the believer in this cold and hard situation.

Q: One gets the impression that the secularized society is being surmounted. Are we faced with a new fascination with the world?

Mardones: We are faced with a new fascination with the world. It is not contradictory to the previous. On the contrary, it is its confirmation.

A functional culture that thirsts for sensations dries up feeling and leaves a kind of cracked earth thirsty for meaning and mystery. We are in a period of credulity.

Today there is a return of currents with a thirst for mystery. Around herbalists, gymnasiums, etc., there is preaching of inner harmony, balance, opening to “energy” — forms of new spirituality that are great mixes of very varied things and of superstition. At the same time, they express the thirst of the man of our day.

It must make us reflect that these quests are taking place outside the Church, indicating that we are not able to present the mystery of God.

From this point of view, our era is post-secularized or de-secularized yet, at the same time, a hard nucleus of secularization persists, at least in Europe.

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