Someone Else Always Knows What's Best For You

Charles Taylor draws a comparison between the confessional and the therapist’s couch:Taylor_Secular_comp

“[C]asting off religion was meant to free us, give us our full dignity of agents; throwing off the tutelage of religion, hence of the church, hence of the clergy. But now we are forced to go to new experts, therapists, doctors, who exercise a kind of control that is appropriate over blind and compulsive mechanisms; who may even be administering drugs to us. Our sick selves are even more being talked down to, just treated as things, than were the faithful of yore in the churches.”

One of the reasons that I doubt that religion could ever be done away with as in the fantasies of Dawkins or Harris (Hitchens wants it to remain so he can have someone to argue with – look this up on YouTube, I’m serious) is that the impulse in human beings towards the religious in so many ways remains so strong. Here is but one example, the need to have some kind of figure to act as a confessor and healer of wrong thoughts or wrong actions (we might say “unhealthy” today instead of “wrong”). Hemingway gleaned this as well when, in For Whom the Bell Tolls he depicts a republican peasant angry that the fascists control the church for he still feels the need to go to confession.

Of course there are other secular replacements for religion, perhaps the most notable one being that both Marxists and Straussian neocons seemed to come up with exclusive materialist teleologies. There may continue to be a growth of people who mark down that they have no formal religious affiliation on the census, but the religious impulse remains and will find new manifestations in post-Christian societies.