The Sacking of Secularism: Chief Rabbi Denounces Secularism as Threat to Western Civilization

200px-SirjonathansacksSecularists are often blamed by religious figures for everything from hurricanes to teen pregnancies. Now, it appears that secularists are also responsible for religious extremism and, oh yes, the demise of Western Civilization and Europe as we know it. No, this is not the latest religious tirade from Tony Blair. It is Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks of Aldgate, who clearly pinned the blame for the demise of Europe on those who hold secularist views. Lord Sacks, 61, is Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth since 1991.

Lord Sacks insists that the rise of secularism has diminished the influence of “tolerant religion” which he compares to the rise of fundamentalism — an apparent reference to Islam. In an annual lecture to the think-tank Theos in London, he noted that Europe was the world’s most secular region and the only one experiencing population decline. This, he suggested, is due to the fact that religion pushes family and parenthood. The result of the rise of secularism, he explained, is a drop in population which is being overwhelmed by fundamentalist immigrants. It also has created dangerous “relativism” due to people who are no longer following the direction of religious leaders like himself.

SiegeofAntiochHowever, he is most concerned about production of Judeo-Christian babies. Religion, he insists, means bigger families which means more people to resist the threat of fundamentalism: “Wherever you turn today – Jewish, Christian or Muslim – the more religious the community, the larger on average are their families.”

He also accused secularists of having no sense of sacrifice and duty — for that, it appears, you need God: “In that [secular] culture, where will you find space for the concept of sacrifice for the sake of generations not yet born? Europe is dying, exactly as Polybius said about ancient Greece in the third pre-Christian century.”

He added: “Albert Camus once said, ’The only serious philosophical question is why should I not commit suicide? I think he was wrong. The only serious philosophical question is, why should I have a child? Our culture is not giving an easy answer to that question.”

Lord Sacks holds to a rather old saw: that Western Civilization is doomed without a religious foundation. He ties that view to a more concrete notion that it all comes down to the population numbers — whoever has the most kids wins. It is not really the size of your population but the size of your ideas that ultimately prevails in history. The Mongols had a large population and a successful army but left little cultural or political influence on history despite actual conquests. The Visigoths and other cultures left an equally light historical footprint. Was it for lack of faith or the lack of civilizing values?

Our principles will prevail because they are right and tied to basic human needs for free speech, association, and, yes, religion. Ironically, those who advocate faith-based politics like Blair and Obama are threatening those values by aligning themselves with the force of intolerance like Egypt, here. The Chief Rabbi should be more concerned about the growing sacrifice of free speech on the altar of religion than how we need to drop our secular values if we want to survive.

He ends with this dire warning:

“Let me be blunt. Either we win or the fundamentalists win and that is the challenge. If the fundamentalists win, I wouldn’t hang around too long.”

Secularists might not be too aggrieved if Lord Sacks did not hand around too long.

For the full story, click here.h

35 thoughts on “The Sacking of Secularism: Chief Rabbi Denounces Secularism as Threat to Western Civilization

  1. Mike–

    I also think many religions are sexist.

    I’d say that people like Hitler and Stalin saw themselves as leaders trying to make things better for people like themselves…for people who obeyed their rules and orders…for people who helped keep them in power…for people who went along with implementing their evil programs…for people who did not speak out about the atrocities being committed in their countries.

    I guess I find it hard to believe that such leaders saw themselves as heroic. But then again…you tell a lie long enough–you may begin to believe it yourself.

  2. Lottakatz,
    As much as I detest religious fundamentalism and truthfully find most religious representations of what God is (including Judaism) as puerile, I have known many in my life who were religious and yet were as human beings thoroughly commendable. It
    thus bothers me at times when anti-religious people are so quick to characterize all the religious by the pompous nonsense spouted by religious leaders.

    As with your Aunt there were many good Catholics in the 60’s and 70’s who risked their freedom and their lives to help their fellow human beings. Making fun of religious precepts is too easy a sport, that fails to notice some who motivated by their beliefs, can truly be heroic. Life and humanity are too complex to ever judge by absolutes.

    While I have a set of ethical and moral values I try to live up to, even the most despicable of humans hew to beliefs which they think make them more enlightened. Hitler and Stalin didn’t wake up in the morning thinking “how much evil can I do today,” I’m willing to bet they each saw themselves as taking part in heroic struggles to better the world.

  3. Mike Spindell “One of the things I like about being Jewish is that opinions of people like the Chief Rabbi are meaningless. Each Rabbi represents a viewpoint that is uniquely theirs, though hopefully informed by the extensive literature and debate available. Each Jew is encouraged to develop their own beliefs based on their own moral sense. ”
    _____

    As much as the fundies drive me nuts I never cease to be gladly amazed at how many times the faithful of all stripes can transcend the dogma of their ‘leaders’ and perform honorably and charitably. My aunt is a very faithful Catholic and I often was disheartened to see this intelligent, good hearted person constrained by her devotion in ways that degraded her potential and quality of life.

    During the 70’s when the US support/complicity for the war in El Salvador was reaching it’s peak and refugees were coming into the US in an undocumented status there was a underground within the Church in America that gave them aid and helped them to resettle in safety. An underground railroad sort of thing. It was real grassroots stuff, families being driven to a church, housed with a parishioner for a few days and another parishioner would them to another church in another city or state with a few dollars and new clothes.

    The Church hierarchy was not in support of these activities and the a parish that participated had to watch their backs both regarding the government and their own church leaders.

    My aunt was a busy little bee at that time and happy as a clam with her church volunteerism. I came to find out later, very circuitously and in guarded language that her small, just-barely-getting-by-parish was involved in the effort to help the refugee brethren from El Salvador. I was reassured that of course, all of ‘their’ refugees were legal because Father and the parish would never do anything illegal. I didn’t ask why we were kind of whispering as we discussed the good works of the parish. 🙂

    “Don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters”

  4. My response to Rabbi Sacks’ comments on secularism is identical to my response to Pope Benedict’s comments on the celebration of Halloween. A yawn.

  5. One of the things I like about being Jewish is that opinions of people like the Chief Rabbi are meaningless. Each Rabbi represents a viewpoint that is uniquely theirs, though hopefully informed by the extensive literature and debate available. Each Jew is encouraged to develop their own beliefs based on their own moral sense. Chief Rabbi is a meaningless title, with no real power behind it. As GWLSM mentioned the history of Judaism is rife with those who in retrospect fashion a history to suit their personal beliefs. Any malaise perceived by the Rabbi can be best cured by the development of humans with open, intelligent minds, an equality of the sexes and a belief in the “Golden Rule.”

  6. On the subject of dead composers:

    Apparently when you die, any music you write becomes exactly what you’d expect a talented woman who has a love of late romantic piano works to write.

  7. AY,

    If Beethoven is rolling over, I hope he’s telling Tchaikovsky the news.

    Gyges,

    Yeah. I know if I were God, I’d not be pleased with the quality trend in worship music.

  8. Gyges,

    God’s got to be pissed, he somehow he went from Bach (the whole frickin’ family, not just J.S.) to… Axel Apers.
    ***************

    I am sure that Martin Luther is rolling over as well as Beethoven.

  9. AY,

    God’s got to be pissed, he somehow he went from Bach (the whole frickin’ family, not just J.S.) to… Axel Apers.

  10. I don’t know he may have a point. I was driving tonight and somehow or another I ended up listening to this Christian Radio station. Yeah they lured me with the music, it sounded like a Axel Rose song and got stuck, not listening to the actual word because the demons were all ready in me. Then they started talking about the election and how the moderates were destroying the country. So they were going to do nothing but support extreme candidates.

    I was intrigued, so I listened a little longer and then realized that I was listening to a christian radio station being hijacked by a secularist I knew where it was going so I changed it to mariachi music which was much easier on the nerves. So, you see I do understand the Rabbis words. They ring true, to believe one value sets up a reaction to another set of circumstances in this case however bris this may be.

  11. C.Everett,

    I hope you don’t mind if I use the term incremental infidel. That’s comedy gold.

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