– THE MYSTERY OF BEING HUMAN –
for all the sources of significance in our lives, linking the details that detain us with the large facts that contain us, hinting at an understanding in which scientific truth, human meanings, and our purposes, metaphysics and morality, find a common origin and destination. We infidels need something comparable to what is asserted or presupposed in religious rituals to counter the elusiveness and brevity of lives framed by the twin forevers of our non-existence.
While secularisation has brought huge benefits, liberating lives and minds, the project of finding something to fill the emptiness left in the wake of religion has taken humanity into some dark places. By a hideous irony, this has sometimes been particularly evident in lives where a sense of purpose is sought and found in the idea of service to others. The hideous consequences of finding a substitute for the consolations and legitimations of institutionalised religious belief through the top-down transformation of secular life were first seen clearly in the state-sponsored savageries of the French Revolution.
Just how far the wish to give greater meaning to one’s life through devotion to an ideal can be corrupted both individually and collectively was demonstrated by the catastrophic secular religions of the 20th century, in which the greater good was defined by ‘Dear Leaders’, ‘Great Helmsmen’, ‘Fathers of the Nation’ supported by a priestly caste of privileged interpreters, privileged bureaucrats ruling by the document and