Ask Mr. Autodidact: Secular Catechism
I received this request from Giulio Parisi:
Thank you for your excellent podcasts and articles. I just recently
discovered your work through a YouTube wormhole, where I found a
late-1980s PBS documentary about the 1960s. Your commentary in that
documentary was so sharp and illuminating, I sought out your website.
My question is about your thoughts on what Tim Keller has described as
the Catechism of Secularism. These beliefs have so completely
dominated our culture that they are like the air we breathe. These are
summarized as follows:
- You have to be true to yourself.
- In the end you have to do what makes you happy.
- Nobody has the right to tell anyone what is right for him or her.
- You should be free to live any way you want so long as you’re not
harming other people.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this concept. Should
traditionalists be concerned with these values? How would you explain
the flaws (and possibly the benefits) of such values to children
growing up in this culture?
Let’s take up the questions on by one and then try to come to a general conclusion.
The first proposal is “You have to be true to yourself.” We are inevitably reminded of Polonius’ sententious declaration in Hamlet,
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all- to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
To deny the puniness of our own contribution to our “self” would be an act of ignorance even more than of ingratitude. I have never heard of Timothy Keller, but if he is the fellow who wrote a highly praised book on marriage, then this catechism proves he is an almost complete idiot. I say almost because no one is perfect.