When a Culture Stops Finding Joy in God,

When a Culture Stops Finding Joy in God, October 3, 2012

it begins to seek thrills in transgression. The other day we talked about blasphemy and the bourgeois values that most New Atheists affirm in their timid “transgressions” against the Christian tradition. We noted that the New Atheists still sanely hold lots of things sacred. That’s why they don’t advocate race war, or slavery, or wife beating, or child abuse, or the rape of rain forests. Those things would be violations of real sanctities for them. True, they are lesser sanctities, in the theistic picture of things. But real sanctities they remain, including for Christians.

But a culture that enshrines “nothing is sacred” at its core (as fools like Christopher Hitchens did, even as he unconsciously observed all sorts of the sanctities just mentioned) and which gets its substitutes for happiness, not from the joy that comes from God, but from the electric thrill of shocking bourgeois piety?  Such a culture sooner or later starts searching for fresh ways to offend, to stab the numbed nerve back to life. And so the New Atheists will inevitably find *their* pieties blasphemed by a fresh generation of soul-numbed wretches in search of new boundaries to push. Case in point: Disney child star Brenda Song.

Tres transgressive, no? Let’s go all Nazi chic! It will drive the folks crazy! Mass murder is, like, sooooo cule!

Special bonus: The article this appeared in, before an editor fixed it, called the swastika “the symbol used by Nazi soldiers in World War II to identify Jewish people.”  The doom of a culture of transgression is historical illiteracy, since all that old stuff is stupid crap we’re making fun of, not trying to learn from.

To their credit, they did call it “wildly inappropriate” though, so there are some vestiges of the old sanctities still operating in that newsroom.  Brenda’s generation will see to gassing those sanctities. And some future generation will see to gassing the people who reverence them. Nothing is sacred, remember.

People seriously believe that a post-Christian culture is going to be a paradise of freedom and not a bizarre melange of moral chaos and police surveillance state.

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  • Blog Goliard

    My local library is busy celebrating “Banned Books Week”. Setting aside the tendentiousness of their definition of “banned” (all it takes is one person anywhere in the world who ever suggested that a certain book shouldn’t be read by someone)…this is simply another manifestation of transgressive chic. Different in degree from the picture above, but not different in kind.

    Speaking of the picture…does the Disney starlet machine intentionally churn out brain-damaged train wrecks, or is this an unintended byproduct of the process of manufacturing Disney Channel child stars and pop tarts?

    • Mark Shea

      When the one thing all those train wrecks have in common is Disney, Occam does suggest that the problem seems to be Disney. Ask poor Bobby Driscoll: “I was carried on a silver platter … and then dumped into the garbage.” Disney is a huge and evil machine designed to simulate interest in the family while manufacturing Lindsay Lohans, Miley Cyruses, Cristina Aguileras, and Britney Spearses for the delectation of pervs. I can imagine no more horrible fate for a child than hearing the words, “Disney wants to sign you.”

      • Rosemarie


        This is why I’ve begun praying for the kids currently employed by Disney.

        One more error the article made: Amanda Bynes was a Nickelodeon star, not a Disney star.

  • A Philosopher

    So by “sacred” do you mean anything more than “morally significant”? I think lots of things are morally significant, but I don’t, in the sense that I understand the word, think that anything is sacred.

    I also expect a post-Christian culture (to the extent that I understand what would count as such a thing, and to the extent that I expect us ever to have such a thing) to be, like all other human cultures, a bizarre melange of the good and the bad. I suspect that, like the pre-post-Christian cultures, there will be a good amount of moral chaos and police surveillance mixed in.

    • Ted Seeber

      By sacred, at least in the case of the Blasphemy context, we mean “Anything that if contradicted, you would get angry rather than examine the other person’s point of view”. On Leah’s blog I offered the idea that abortion should never be a choice, is an example of a modern blasphemy against common American culture.

    • In secular terms, I guess one could define sacred as something more valuable than I am. It is something worth sacrificing for, (even if one does not sacrifice to it).

  • Ted Seeber

    Isn’t this more a symptom of denial of history, than denial of God? After all, WWII was so three generations ago!

  • a post-Christian culture is going to be a […] bizarre melange of moral chaos and police surveillance state.

    This is this American’s general impression of the state of the UK. Is there someone out there that can confirm/deny?

    • English Catholic

      Pretty Much, we could do with an invasion by the US Marines

  • Korou

    Christopher Hitchens found plenty of things sacred. Intellectual integrity and freedom of speech, for example.

    • Ted Seeber

      “freedom of speech, for example.”

      I wonder if he found the actions of the Freedom From Religion Foundation to be as obscene as I do based on that?