All posts in Secularism

  • Our Lady On Fire

    Our Lady On Fire
    Brian Zahnd

    It was Monday of Holy Week 2019 and I had just finished leading a noontime prayer service when I heard the awful news that Notre Dame was on fire. Our Lady was on fire! I turned on the television and watched in horror for the next three hours. I hadn’t felt like this since 9/11. I wept. Millions of us did. The French news magazine Paris Match said, “Today, they weep for her in every language.” Ken Follett, author of Pillars of the Earth and an expert on Gothic cathedrals, wrote this:

    “The voice on the phone was urgent. ‘I’m in Paris,’ it said. ‘Turn on your television!’ You know what we saw on the screen: the wonderful cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, one of the greatest achievements of European civilization, was on fire. The scene dazed and disturbed us profoundly. I was on the verge of tears. Something priceless was dying in front of our eyes. The feeling was bewildering, as if the earth was shaking.”

    Like millions of others I watched in real time what seemed to be the agonizing death of a priceless treasure. For me, the most dreadful moment came when the 750-ton spire, already engulfed in flames, finally collapsed. It marked the moment when we all feared Notre Dame would be forever lost. Notre Dame had always seemed eternal, and the medieval builders certainly thought it would last until the Day of Judgment; but suddenly we saw that it could be destroyed. Now that everything was on fire how could Our Lady be saved?
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  • Secular or Sacred Time?

    Nativity_and_adoration_of_the_Magi

    Secular or Sacred Time?
    Brian Zahnd

    What is time? Time is the measurement of motion through space.

    A day is the revolution of the earth.
    A month is the revolution of the moon around the earth.
    A year is the revolution of the earth around the sun.

    But time as such is without any apparent meaning. Just a spinning planet with an orbiting moon orbiting a star…repeating the process for the past four and a half billion years.

    To give time meaning we need a story. Without a story time is pointless and nihilism beckons. (I am of the opinion that the violence that goes under the guise of Islamic terrorism is more likely a form of nihilist rage disguised in religious robes…but that is another subject.)

    For almost two thousand years the church has had the wisdom and creativity to mark time by the gospel story of Jesus. This is time made sacred. Thus the church calendar.
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  • Halloween: A Search For The Sacred

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    Halloween: A Search For The Sacred
    Brian Zahnd

    It’s Halloween. The season of ghosts and goblins, haunted houses and horror movies. The modern observance of Halloween seems, for the most part, to be an innocent celebration of the strange joy of being scared. There’s no doubt that a significant number of us do enjoy being scared as a form of entertainment. After all, Stephen King has sold 350 million books! But why? Why do we like to be scared? I think it has to do with a search for what is most missing in the modern world: the sacred. We like being scared because we are so very secular.

    When modernity came of age it banished the sense of the sacred. Empiricism, materialism, positivism had won the day. Science was now the high priest that would answer all questions and religion was merely the superstition of the hopelessly naïve. We found ourselves in a world without God or gods, a world beyond good and evil (as Nietzsche said), a world without angels and demons. Religion was but hucksterism and nothing was truly sacred anymore. Bob Dylan captured it well when he said,
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