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The Secular: Hidden and Express Meaning
by Iain T. Benson
...the single phenomenon of the difference between [lexical and speaker's] meaning is of importance to us in two very different ways: first, because it is an important key to the history of the human mind and human civilization; second, because it is a source of imperfect communication between human beings.
Owen Barfield, Speaker's Meaning (1967) pp. 34 - 35.
The term "secular" is one of the defining terms in the modern state. Whether a person is religious or not, everyone seems to use the term "secular." Politicians, judges, school board officials, atheists, agnostics, religious adherents—in short, believers of all sorts use it. What is common to almost all of these categories, however, is that the term "secular" is generally used as short hand for "distinct from or separate from religion." In this manner it occupies an important place in many contemporary discussions of the state. It is a central term in the self-definition of such areas of society as politics, law and education. Despite the central place the term occupies, little attention appears to have been given to its historical meanings. Attention to history and to the changing meaning of the term "secular" and its cognate terms, however, illustrate a significant shift in the direction of intolerance to religion and the place of religion in society.
This paper will examine a few meanings for "secular" with a view to identifying some possible lines of alternative interpretation. The paper does not attempt to provide answers for the many questions it raises. It is hoped that the questions themselves will be useful for others; perhaps as prolegomena to more detailed work.
One of the premises upon which the paper is based is this: given the prominence of the term "secular" in contemporary discussions of the state, those who are interested in the sacred have much to gain from an appreciation of how the term "secular" is defined. It is, after all, how the age orients itself towards or sees itself in relation to the sacred that is bound up within these definitions.
This paper examines the "secular" as that term has developed in the English language. Whether a similar shift has occurred in the relevant term in other languages would be interesting and significant but is beyond the scope of the present essay.1
The Terms "Secular" and "Secularism"
The monumental 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica gives us the following entry on the secular:
Secular (Lat. saecularis, of or belonging to an age or generation, saeculum), a word with two main branches of meaning: (1) lasting or occurring for a long indefinite period of time, and (2) non-spiritual, having no concern with religious or spiritual matters. The first sense, which is directly taken from the classical Latin, is chiefly found in scientific applications, of processes or phenomena which are continued through the ages and are not regularly recurrent or periodical, e.g. the secular cooling of the earth, secular change of the mean annual change of the temperature. The word is thus used widely of that which is lasting or permanent. In medieval and Late Latin, secularis was particularly used of that which belongs to this world, hence non-spiritual, lay. It is thus used, first to distinguish the "regular" or monastic clergy from those who were not bound by the rule (regula) of a religious order, the parish priests, the "seculars," who were living in the world, and secondly in the wide sense of anything which is distinct, opposed to or not connected with religion or ecclesiastical things, temporal as opposed to spiritual or ecclesiastical. Thus property transferred or alienated from spiritual or temporal hands is said to be "secularized"; "secularism" (q.v.) is the term applied in general to the separation of state politics or administration from religious or church matters; "secular education " is a system of training in which definite religious teaching is excluded.2
This entry begins by identifying what it refers to as "two main branches of meaning"—two express meanings if you like. But note that the second "branch" contains a hidden meaning which is, in fact, quite different, not discussed and, in fact, undeveloped. This "hidden definition" (if we can call it that) is the definition in which the secular is not lacking in sanctity. Thus it is not purely scientific (if by scientific we understand as a "hidden" meaning that it is not sacred) nor, as the entry erroneously states, "non-spiritual." The sacred meaning of "secular" is essentially ignored beyond the common but undeveloped and unreconciled reference to those "secular priests" who are often mentioned, but whose significance to the express conception of a "sacred secular" is not apparent. So seamless is the transition that it might be easy to miss it.
Re-read the above entry focusing on the question whether a "parish priest", living in the world (rather than the cloister) can be said to be, as the entry states, "non-spiritual." Is not this "secular but religious" meaning completely overlooked in this entry? We shall see that this is a common failing. The purpose of this paper is to examine that "hidden" meaning of the "religious secular": that use of secular which identifies a wordly realm but not stripped of religious significance. Why has this use of "secular" been missed in recent definitions and largely excluded in common popular use? Perhaps a clue to the current areligious or anti-religious use is to be found in the notion of "secularism" itself.
An analysis of the term "secular" needs to ensure that it does not build in an assumption that there is a bifurcation between something called the "secular" and something called "religion." This paper will argue that what might be termed the bifurcative use of secular makes up a large part of the "hidden" meaning of "secular" in our times and that such uses often mask a "secularistic" intent and purpose—to strip public life of a role for religious belief and practice.
Consider the following definition of "secularism:"
Secularism, a term applied specially (see Secular) to the system of social ethics associated with the name of G.J. Holyoake (q.v.). As the word implies, secularism is based solely on considerations of practical morality with a view to the physical, social and moral improvements of society. It neither affirms nor denies the theistic premises of religion, and is thus a particular variety of utilitarianism. Holyoake founded a society in London which subsequently under the leadership of Charles Bradlaugh advocated the disestablishment of the Church, the abolition of the Second Chamber and other political and economic reforms.3
Secularism on this reading "neither affirms nor denies the theistic premises of religion..."; so matters stood, apparently, in 1911, when the above definition was published. But matters are certainly not so now.
An Internet search of the term "secularism" discloses a wide variety of sources. One of them is, in fact, the very society that was founded by the aforementioned Charles Bradlaugh in 1866. The National Secular Society, as it is called, states on its official web site that, inter alia, "[w]e are especially concerned with the abolition of the blasphemy laws, minimizing indoctrination in denominational schools and the phasing out of religious education." Amongst its principles the NSS states: "[w]e assert that supernaturalism is based upon ignorance and is the historic enemy of progress."4
It would seem that "secularism" at least on this reading has moved some way from not denying the premises of theism. Quite apart from the changes to what "secularists" now affirm or deny, there is more here than the dictionary or encyclopedia uses suggest.
Secularism of this sort has set itself expressly against religion. Do the modern dictionaries note a religious and an "anti-religious" definition of the secular and secularism itself? We shall see that they do not.
A leading American dictionary, The New Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language, contains the following entry for "secular" and its correlates:
Secular, Coming or observed at long intervals; extending over, taking place in, or accomplished during a very long period of time (the secular refrigeration of the earth); pertaining to this present world or to things not spiritual or sacred; disassociated with religious teaching or principles; not devoted to sacred or religious use; temporal; profane; worldly (secular education, secular music); not bound by monastic vows or rules (a secular priest as opposed to a regular). An ecclesiastic not bound by monastic rules; a secular priest. -secularism, Supreme or exclusive attention to the affairs of this life; the opinions or doctrines of the secularists. -secularist, One who theoretically rejects every form of religious faith and every kind of religious worship; also, one who believes that education and other matters should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element. -secularization, The act of secularizing or the state of being secularized. Secularize, To make secular; to convert from religious or ecclesiastical to secular or common use.5
Note that the notion of the "religious secular" in the above set of definitions is limited only to the priestly use. The notion that there could be a religious view of a "sacred secular" has been ignored here and dominated by the secularist definitions. The "secularistic" sense has dominated the dictionary entry just as thoroughly as that interpretation has dominated contemporary culture.
Finally, to complete our review of dictionary and encyclopedia entries, the Supplement to the Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (1987) adds the term "secular-minded" by citing quotations from T. Veblen (1899), Augustine Birrell (1930) and Northrop Frye (1957) as sources for the term. The Northrop Frye entry, from The Anatomy of Criticism, reads:
In the Anglo-Saxon congregation of Wulfstan there must have been a few secular-minded highbrows who were thinking...of the preacher's mastery of alliterative rhythm.6
Few would see the anachronism of Frye's attribution of a modern bifurcation (sacred/secular) to an age that did not recognize it in those terms. The point that needs to be underlined here is that these sources, whether encyclopedic or dictionary, support the same categorization, disclose more than two different meanings for the "secular" but draw little by way of conclusion from these different uses. What is clear is that the secularist interpretation adopts the anti-religious or anti-sacred meanings of the "secular" which as we have seen were present but "hidden" in earlier descriptions.
We shall now attempt to draw conclusions beyond the dictionary or encyclopedic categories by examining a few related concepts that help us better to comprehend how an anti-religious or anti-sacred view of time actually makes the secular incoherent.7
Time and Eternity: The Horizontal versus the Vertical
There is neither time nor science without measurement. The question of what time is, then, turns in part at least on how we view the measuring of it. Once the possibility of measurement has begun we became aware of time. How does time relate to the questions of the sacred and religion? How do different religions view time? Moreover, theoretically, can the realm of time and measurement encompass timelessness? This paper will deal with the questions of time and eternity so as to suggest that a current focus on one definition of the secular (as the realm of time without attention to eternity) excludes pre-emptively considerations of questions regarding eternity.
The question of what the secular is necessarily relates to how we view time. Is time "all there is" or is time only a "part of what is"? This question lies at the heart of considerations about the meaning of "secular" but it is a question seldom discussed in this connection.
From its earliest usage, the term "secular" has been viewed in various ways depending on whether one is focusing on time or on eternity. The secular priest was "in the world" rather than "in the cloister." The worldly focus was on time rather than eternity. The secular priest tried to bring eternity into time in as profound a way as he was able. Eternity was what time was. Time was what eternity was not. The sacramental united the two so that eternity could (and did and does) view time in light of eternity. What concept of "secular" can there be if there is nothing against which to place it?
When both time and eternity were reconciled, any use of the term "secular" which focused on time was not a statement against the sacred, just as a focus on science is not necessarily a statement against the sacred. Modern science suggests significant convergences between theology and science, prompted, in part by research in the fields of cosmology and sub-atomic physics. Science is no less sacred than time is the enemy of eternity. They are all different but related.
We shall see that it is in atheistic and anti-religious times that the secular becomes anti-religious because it is at such times that the concept of eternity poses a threat to time itself. Eternity ceases to exist if time can comprehend it. Those who view time as "all there is" deny eternity by defining the secular (implicitly or explicitly) as "all there is"—as all that can publicly be. But what then is the secular? Definitions are, in a sense, contradistinctions. What is the secular if it is everything but not religion? What has happened to religion in the secularist reading of the secular? It is simply avoided as "private" or derided as "superstitious." But these moves are a sort of lexical and philosophical sleight of hand and will not serve as an argument where the theory of pluralism purports to grant an equality to all citizens including those who are religious. How can such citizens be equal if they are, by definition, required to "leave their religion(s) at the door?"
How can beliefs that come from religious convictions stand in a lesser place than beliefs that emerge from atheistic or agnostic presuppositions? Why should one's belief, say, in the dignity of the human person, be deemed less "public" if premised on religion than the same belief based on a non-religious perspective?
The "secular" can be viewed in relation to the sacred, or in a manner that divorces the secular (or time) from the sacred. This divorce of time from religion or from the sacred may be express or implicit. It is express when, for example, religion is viewed as an enemy to be opposed. Thus, as we have seen above, for the National Secular Society, it is essential that "secular" means "free from religion." It is implicit when a politician or even religious figure refers to the state or the law as being "secular" by which they mean "religion-free." The secularistic definition has triumphed—at least in usage. The reality and accuracy of the description, however, is another matter.
Making the Hidden Meaning Express: The Secular as a Jurisdiction
The term "secular" has also been used and continues in use as a term that is not divorced from religion where the term marks the jurisdic-tional domains of the Church. Thus, in Roman Catholic usage the terms "secular priest" denotes a priest who is in the parish rather than the cloister. The "secular clergy" are those members of the clergy who are "in the world" and have not taken vows of poverty and obedience in the same manner as the "regular clergy" who take the usual vows of the monastery to poverty and obedience.
Another "jurisdictional" use is seen in relation to the term "secular institutes." The Code of Canon Law defines a "secular institute" as an institute of consecrated life "...in which Christ's faithful, living in the world, strive for the perfection of charity and endeavor to contribute to the sanctification of the world, especially from within" (The Code of Canon Law, 1983 Canon 710).
Clearly, in these jurisdictional uses the term "secular" therefore, is not preemptively non-religious; in fact, in this use of the term "secular", the sacred dimension is maintained in relation to the order of time. It is really a matter of which strand of contemporary interpretations one focuses upon. It is when one begins to consider the many contemporary appearances of the term "secular" that one soon realizes that the anti-religious use has achieved near universal domination—even amongst those religious adherents who one would have thought would be opposed to such usage.
If, as is argued here, "secular" is conventionally seen as a defining aspect of the state, it would be a serious error indeed if religious believers use the term incorrectly. Just such an error has occurred in general usage of the term. The sacred realm has, as a result, been largely preemptively driven out of culture (law, politics and education) by hidden usage on the part of both religious and non-religious believers.
It would seem those who focus upon the material perspective will tend to imbue all dimensions of thought or spirituality with that perspective. In a similar fashion, those who focus upon the spiritual perspective will imbue all dimensions of thought and material itself with the spiritual perspective.
Turning the Tables: The Illusion of a non-sacred Secular: Secularistic Fundamentalism and Theocratic Atheism
For those who believe in the sacred, there is no "secular" realm if by "secular" we mean non-sacred. Yet many religious believers today speak of religion in contradistinction to the secular. This is a grave error. To commit this error is to hand the sacred to those who would clip time from eternity. To those who would devalue eternity by reducing its meaning to time itself—to those, in short, who do not accept the sacramental or sacred aspects of being itself.
The language of a materialist or materialistic time will make of all aspects a diminished frame as it cannot describe what it will not attempt to comprehend. Just as one might describe the colour scarlet to a blind person by saying it is like the sound of a trumpet, so the spiritual and transcendent can only be described to a materialistic age in terms it might comprehend. This will involve all the language which has been diminished by materialist assumptions.
Here, one might anticipate an objection to this plea for linguistic reclamation. One might hear it said that "language reflects the beliefs of an age, you cannot change beliefs by changing language alone." To this, one might respond that "though one cannot change beliefs by language alone, yet hidden uses that mask beliefs can be re-examined once the hidden, and perhaps unacceptable, uses are made clear." If a particular set of uses hide an unfair set of assumptions (such as, for example, an approach to the "secular" that would tend to drive religiously informed consciences out of the public sphere but leave atheistic or agnostic consciences intact—which is, in fact, the current situation) then something should be done to correct the imbalance. Here lexical error calls for lexical solution.
Owen Barfield, author of the quotation that appears at the head of this paper, has noted the crucial point that "...the most fundamental assumptions of any age are those that are implicit in the meanings of its common words."8 Barfield was of the view that one should pay special attention to those times when words change their meanings. One such time is in the last century in connection with the term "secular", when the "hidden" meaning of a "sacred secular" has been almost totally overtaken by the secularistic turn in culture to replace the term "secular" with a reading that is anti-religious and anti-sacred. Barfield notes:
One good reason for troubling to concentrate on the moment of change of meaning is that it directs our attention—awakens us—to fundamental assumptions so deeply held that no one even thinks of making them explicit.9
Barfield makes a distinction between "speaker's meaning" and "lexical meaning" and notes that shifts in language can occur both by expansion of meaning and by contraction. He then states something of great importance to the change in the meaning of "secular" when he discusses the notion of lexical contraction. Of this Barfield states:
Whereas expansion of meaning can be seen to be the product of the mental activity of individual speakers, contraction of meaning can also be—it generally is—the product of their passivity. It is more often the product of something like force of habit, or rather the inertia of habit.10
The "inertia of habit" is evident when religious believers or believers in the idea of the sacred permeating all of human existence and all aspects of culture use the term "secular" as if it means "free from religion or the sacred." In short, they do not mean what they say.
When the language of the spirit continues in an age increasingly dominated by language framed by or formed within materialistic usage it is important to see the effects of such a change on the terms that describe the religious or sacred sense. It is as if the secularistic usage must redefine all sacred uses. For those who do not subscribe to an anti-religious reading, however, such changes should be resisted lest we communicate conceptions that we do not hold and that are, in fact, antithetical to our deepest convictions.
Unless we number ourselves amongst the secularists who speak this way out of their convictions, the "secular" as an age or time is not properly understood as a "non-religious" or "non-numinous" realm. Key words such as "belief" and "faith" themselves have also been turned in a secularistic, that is to say, anti-religious direction. Those who believe in the importance of the sacred must beware of the secularistic usages when they speak of "unbelievers" and "faith" in such a way that they provide barriers between those who believe in time and eternity and those who deny eternity.
There are No "Unbelievers" and Everyone has Faith
Once belief and faith are recognized as necessary aspects of human engagement with the material world, it then becomes clear that all people are believers and everyone has faith. It is a question of what a person believes and in what (or in whom) they consciously or unconsciously place their faith/belief, not whether they believe anything. To believe there is no order of eternity is a belief. To have faith in oneself and ones' own perceptions is to have faith of a kind. Yet, religious believers who have not recognized how these terms "belief", "faith" "secular" and "unbeliever" are being used in contemporary discussions simply stagger from usage to usage, at every turn falling into holes carefully prepared by secularists to diminish the place of religion and the sacred in contemporary culture.
A belief is not the opposite of that which is material for we must believe in what is material to act within it. Faith is not the opposite of what is material because we must have faith to trust in it. Believers are those who act on assumptions—which is to say, everyone. This was recognized by Cardinal Newman who wrote at about the time that the term "secular" was being co-opted by secularism that: " Life is for action. If we insist on proofs for everything, we shall never come to action: to act you must assume, and that assumption is faith."11
Just as there is no secular realm without faith, so there are no human actors who do not have faith and act upon beliefs of a variety of sorts. The religious realm and religious believers are no different in kind from materialistic believers who do not orient their beliefs toward religious ends. The degree to which materialistic ends offer a satisfactory account for individual persons or communities is another matter.
All human endeavor, all states, all forms of government depend upon articulated and unarticulated, conscious and unconscious beliefs. Religion is largely an unknown factor to materialists but that which is material is not so unknown to religious believers. It is, at its fullest, comprehended and encompassed. Most religions view matter as good, just as being is good. In Christian terms, "For God so loved the world that he created his only begotten son that whosoever should believe in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). A robust ontology necessarily undergirds any sacramental theology.
The opening phrase of this oft-quoted verse demands emphasis. The adages that "Grace perfects nature" or that "everything in the intellect first appeared in the senses" do not mean that nature or natural faith or the senses are the enemy of God, sanctity, sacredness or wisdom. It could be said, in fact, that God loved the world into being and keeps it in being moment-to-moment by Grace through loving.12
We ought to be apologetic about our beliefs, but in the right way. Our apologetics should begin with a sincere recognition of the many ways in which the language of faith and the secular has and can be misused.
The sacred web of life is not intended to be a snare just as time is not intended to be eternity and the secular is not intended to be the enemy of the sacred. Secularism of the currently dominant sort will not last because it is, ultimately, too dry a soil for the human spirit and human communities. Secularistic premises cannot satisfy because they are not a true description of things—they emaciate the beliefs of the non-religious while treating unfairly the beliefs of the religious.
We do the sacred no service if we continue to employ the secularistic usages for those things that are actually sacred. There is no "secular" realm if by "secular" we mean—non-religious. Time is too small a container for eternity. For many post moderns this will come as a surprise. That is a good thing in a secular society and points to the reclamation of the properly sacramental secular.
By "properly sacramental secular" one here points towards an appropriate recognition of the strengths and weaknesses of both the civil order of government and the sacred governance of the Church. The Church does not, and ought not, ordinarily (short of breakdown of responsible government) to have the role of running the state. The state, on the other hand, has no competence to guide on matters of faith and morals (and thus state control of religions is the enemy of full human freedom). The state does, however, have the duty to protect the freedoms of conscience and religion, which in the Canadian Constitution, are listed as the first of the "fundamental freedoms."13
In relation to the current exclusion of teaching about religion in most public education in Canada, author Lois Sweet has noted the existence of "secular fundamentalism."14 In accord with usage in this paper this might have been more accurately termed "secularistic fundamentalism." Similarly, there can also develop what Jacques Maritain, a generation earlier, termed "theocratic atheism." The shift that led to this kind of atheistic theocracy is part of a more general change, only some aspects of which are proper. Maritain described the shift from a sacral to a secular age as "...something normal in itself, required by the Gospel's very distinction between God's and Caeser's domains."15
Maritain also notes that this shift has been accompanied by "a most aggressive and stupid process of insulation from, and finally rejection of, God and the Gospel in the sphere of social and political life. The fruit of this we can contemplate today in the theocratic atheism of the Communist State."16
The long road to this understanding of the proper realms of Ceasar and of God within Roman Catholicism reached an important level in the Vatican II document Dignitatis Humanae. With respect to the appropriate understanding of the relationship between Church and state, the document sets out that:
(6) ...The protection and promotion of the inviolable rights of man ranks among the essential duties of government. Therefore, government is to assume the safeguard of the religious freedom of all its citizens, in an effective manner, by just laws and by other appropriate means. Government is also to help create conditions favourable to the fostering of religious life, in order that the people may be truly enabled to exercise their religious rights and to fulfill their religious duties, and also in order that society itself may profit by the moral qualities of justice and peace which have their origin in men's faithfulness to God and to His holy will... government is to see to it that the equality of citizens before the law, which is itself an element of the common welfare, is never violated for religious reasons whether openly or covertly. Nor is there to be discrimination among citizens.
It follows that a wrong is done when government imposes upon its people, by force or fear or other means, the profession or repudiation of any religion, or when it hinders men from joining or leaving a religious body. All the more is it a violation of the will of God and of the sacred rights of the person and the family of nations, when force is brought to bear in any way in order to destroy or repress religion, whether in the whole of mankind or in a particular country or in a specific community.
...in the exercise of their rights, individual men and social groups are bound by the moral law to have respect both for the rights of others and for their own duties toward others and for the common welfare of all. Men are to deal with their fellows in justice and civility.
(7).."Furthermore, society has the right to defend itself against possible abuses committed on pretext of freedom of religion. It is the special duty of government to provide this protection. However, government is not to act in arbitrary fashion or in an unfair spirit of partisanship. Its action is to be controlled by juridical norms which are in conformity with the objective moral order.
These norms arise out of the need for effective safeguard of the rights of all citizens and for peaceful settlement of conflicts of rights. They flow from the need for an adequate care of genuine public peace, which comes about when men live together in good order and in true justice. They come, finally, out of the need for a proper guardianship of public morality. These matters constitute the basic component of the common welfare: they are what is mean by public order.
For the rest, the usages of society are to be the usages of freedom in their full range. These require that the freedom of man be respected as far as possible, and curtailed only when and in so far as necessary.17
Within Roman Catholicism (and some Protestant groups—though not those that have a strong or soft theocratic perspective), a separation of Church and state is understood as essential in order for both religion and government to perform their proper functions. The proper role of God and Caesar cannot be understood unless the term "secular" is rethought.
The functional separation of Church and state is not shorthand for a separation of all aspects of society from religion or religious influence; such a meaning is implied or express, however, in secularistic understandings of the matter.
The separation of Church and state as a jurisdictional necessity says little about the benefits of the co-operation of Church and state. Secularists use the former in a manner that attempts to render the latter impossible. Refusal to acknowledge the valid place for religion and religiously-influenced beliefs (including religiously-informed consciences) in all aspects of public life is an earmark of inappropriate "secularization" and current anti-religious bias. Given the general use by religious leaders and religious intellectuals, of what this paper has termed the secularistic use of "secular" (for example where the analysis turns on such false bifurcations as "religion and the secular") it will likely take a great deal of conscious effort and patient work to reorient religious and general societal usage in a direction that is both fairer and more accurate: see, for example, Peter Berger, who, in a book that is rife with such usages, refers to such non-realities as "secular intellectuals" and "a massively secular Euro-culture". In both cases the term "secular" is used in a manner that fails to describe accurately what is at issue.18
The careful distinctions necessary to affirm the proper recognition of the role of religion and the state, of law and politics, of secular and secularistic need to be learned and incorporated as an antidote to both "theocratic atheism" and secularistic fundamentalism. Other religions, and here one might mention certain forms of Islam and Judaism, may well need to develop similar jurisdictional understandings (between government and religion) if citizens in countries where this balance needs to be redressed are to avoid the catastrophic over-extensions of either atheistic or theistic fundamentalism. In either case a proper understanding of the meaning of the secular will be of assistance in this re-ordering.
1 A starting point on the classical understanding of “secular” could be the entry for “secularis ludici” or “secular games” of ancient Rome. In H. Nettleship and J.E. Sandys eds. Seyffert’s Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (London: William Glaisher, Ltd., 1894, 3rd. ed.) p. 554, the reference to the Saeculares Ludi speaks to the Roman inheritance of the earlier Etruscan practice of having a games to the gods after a period of about 100 years, reckoned as being based upon the longest human lifetime of a generation. The games were held, therefore, about every 100 years. There is no suggestion about the games being “non-religious.” Here the focus was upon a time period, an “age” or “generation” rather than upon a religious or non-religious ethos.
2 Encyclopedia Brittanica (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 11th ed., 1911) Vol. XXIV, pp. 572 – 573.
3 Ibid. p. 573.
5 Virginia S. Thatcher and Alexander McQueen eds. The New Webster Encyclopedic
Dictionary of the English Language (New York: Avenel Books, 1984) at p. 759.
6 R.W. Burchfield, ed. Supplement to The Compact Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987) p. 1053.
7 In another article we have examined the term “secular” with reference to legal usage—particularly in Canadian law arguing that the principles of equality and respect for conscience and religion require a reconsideration of the “secular” as a realm of competing faith claims rather than as a “religion-free” zone that would leave intact only those viewpoints animated by atheistic or agnostic presuppositions: see, “Notes Towards a (Re)Definition of the Secular” in 33 University of British Columbia Law Review, Special Issue “Religion, Morality of Law” (2000) 519–549.
8 Owen Barfield, Speaker’s Meaning (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1967) p. 44
9 ibid. p. 46
10 ibid. p. 46 emphasis in original.
11 John Henry Cardinal Newman, Discussions and Arguments on Various Subjects (London: Longmans, 1899) at p. 295. Professor Thomas Langan in volume two of his projected six volume work on “Truth and Tradition”, Being and Truth (Columbia: Missouri University Press, 1996) sets out an ambitious attempt to develop an epistemology beyond subjectivism and objectivism and does so by an extended discussion of the category of “natural faith.” Four of Professor Langan’s volumes have now been published.
12 Here the link between loving and “knowing God” is worth remembering. For we are told in the Christian Sciptures that one who does not love cannot know God and that loving is greater than knowledge (1 John 4:8; 1 Corinthians 13: 8).
13 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B of the Canada Act, 1982 (U.K.), 1982 (U.K.) c. 11, Section 2(a).
14 L. Sweet, God in the Classroom (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1997) at 211.
15 Thomas Molnar, The Two Powers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986) speaks of the “descralization” of society. This term might be preferred to “secularization” but both terms still tend towards a bifurcation between the temporal and the eternal that fails to hold both together in a sacramental manner.
16 See, The Social and Political Philosophy of Jacques Maritain: Selected Readings (New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1955) at 248 [emphasis added]. Maritain’s choice of the phrase “theocratic atheism,” like the idea of “secularist or secularistic fundamentalism” accurately names what has been a lamentable feature of the 20th century. Maritain offers a helpful insight when he suggests that human society confronted by “bourgeois liberalism, communism and totalitarian statism” needs a view of freedom “...that is at the same time personalist and communal, one that sees human society as an organization of freedoms” at 338 [emphasis added].
17 Walter M. Abbott S.J. ed. “Dignitatis Humanae” in The Documents of Vatican II (New York: Guild Press, 1966) 675 at 684 – 688, ¶ 6 –8, footnotes omitted. Dignitatis Humanae, grew in many ways out of the work of John Courtney Murray S.J.; see J.C. Murray, We Hold These Truths (Kansas City: Sheed and Ward, 1960).
18 Peter L. Berger, ed. The Desecularization of the World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999) pp. 10, 11.