Beacons in the fog: the secularisation process and the interplay between secular and religious experiences (September, 2022)

Culture and religion

I suggest that the indecisive nature of this ongoing process and the persistence or, if you like, the resilience of the religious experience across space and time, can best be understood in the light of a singular interpretative framework of the human situation, by means of which religions have tended to offer a fairly persuasive answer to the demands for meaning of our species in its different avatars. This interpretative framework is based on a simple heuristic that many people from very different cultures and conditions have been able to share and, as a result, that has enabled them to communicate about their corresponding experiences.

It is what we might call a pentagonal schema of the human situation with five key terms or points of reference. I summarise these as: (1) a vision of life and history as an open drama, before a relatively indeterminate audience of witnesses; a drama whose development depends largely on the relatively free decisions that we choose to make. This leads to (2) some questions about the meaning of such decisions, including the ultimate questions about the meaning of a life meant to last, and of death; (3) an ascensional impulse that includes the attempt to bring some order to the world (consistent with the answers to those questions), or at least to contain the disorder, which entails the tension between being in the world but not being entirely part of it; (4) a sense of limits, including those of our own ability to answer those questions, and thus to be able to understand and bring that order to the world, which refers to some kind of a search for help. (5) All of the above (drama, questions, impulse and a sense of limits) experienced by people in society, not as an aggregate of isolated individuals but (with more or less distance between them) as part of a network of interactions, feelings, beliefs and interests, in other words, as part of a community or of a network of communities.



The paper is the English translation of "Faros en la niebla...", also available in our ASP Research Papers collection.