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Spirit & Eco-Community

Self-absorbed and selfish, we've lost our beliefs - and the plot

Scientific, technological and economic advances offer better explanations for the secularisation of modern society than sin, though they may also open up new occasions for evil conduct. They present a challenge that those of us who are practising Christians have yet to meet. Indeed, we are in danger of castigating and condemning them, like so many Canutes ordering the tides to turn back.

Secularisation in Britain has gone so far ? despite, or perhaps because of, the existence of established Churches, the Church of England and in Scotland the Presbyterian Church ? that fewer than o­ne person in 10 is a regular church attender. The decline in the USA is much less dramatic than it is in Europe. A very large majority of Americans believe in the fundamental Christian doctrines, and regularly go to church.

The Catholic writer G K Chesterton o­nce said that the trouble when people stop believing in God is not that they thereafter believe in nothing, it is that they thereafter believe in anything. The spiritual void in secular societies is filled by a mélange of dreams, emotions, pagan myths and a vague mysticism engendered by popularised versions of Asian religions, especially Buddhism and Hinduism. That mélange may be a spiritual accompaniment to globalisation, a picking and choosing among religious ideas and experiences easily accessible through the proliferation of channels of communication and sources of information.