The Secular, a Christian Contribution to the East/West Dialogue

  • Gabriel Vahanian
Part of the Radical Theologies book series (RADT)


Slowly, ineluctably, wider and wider, the gap is decisively yawning between the traditional religions of religion and today’s religion of religions, between yesterday’s and tomorrow’s paradigm of religiosity. A specimen of the latter is in fact what Michael Crichton is advocating in an address to the Commonwealth Club under the title of “Environmentalism as Religion.”1 And, precisely because it is so indebted to the Judeo-Christian tradition, environmentalism must sever its ties with it and, turning away from religion, unambiguously turn to science in order to keep on the right track. His point is clear: turn to science, or else the environment (actually more secular than religious) will go on bearing the religious stamp of regional, ideological, and even political rivalries with which it has been compromised around the globe. Except that Crichton overlooks one question. On what grounds can one so naively presume that science is and will remain congenitally more objective and less partisan than religion and, therefore, less exposed to any kind of subservience, external or internal? And, moreover, on what grounds can one presume that a science that makes use of a language as its own conveyor exhausts all the treasure of language? Forgetting all the Lyssenkos2 and other Mengeles,3 he continues to spin the modernist myth of a science deprived of self-serving interests and resilient as well to political and ideological or crassly mercantile manipulations. And only once that is said, might there no point in trying to fault him for arguing that the environment will not be spared prophets of doom and other false prophets or gurus unless it is buttressed up with a new type of religiosity or unless traditional religions, challenged by a globalizing world, should undergo a radical mutation. Otherwise, our emerging, urgent as well as legitimate concern for the environment will remain partial and even become so parochial as to end up having altogether run out of whatever environment there is left.4


Local Idiom Traditional Religion Religious Socialist Original Good Biblical Tradition 
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  1. 2.
    T. D. Lyssenko (1898–1975). An advocate of a biological theory based on dialectical materialism as opposed to one inspired by capitalism and yet dismissed by Stalin when Johann (born Gregor) Mendel (a founder of modern genetics with his theory of heredity, 1822–1884) was rehabilitated in the Soviet Union.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Josef Mengele (1911–1979), nicknamed The Angel of Death at Auschwitz, practiced live experiments on human beings.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    G. Elijah Dann, Leaving Fundamentalism (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008) was very much a passion for me.Google Scholar
  4. 13.
    Will Herberg, Protestant, Catholic, Jew ( Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1955 ).Google Scholar

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© Gabriel Vahanian 2014

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  • Gabriel Vahanian

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