David Wells, in his 1998 book Losing Our Virtue, suggested that
There now seems little doubt that our new healers are offering salvation on strictly secular terms, terms that may bypass moral issues entirely.
Here is a great deal to reflect on in a small space. Consider: if we approach our salvation “on strictly secular terms,” what is included in that salvation? What is not being considered.
If by secular Wells means “not religious” then one thing that must be excluded is anything immaterial, or, if you like, spiritual. So we need our healers to heal us but they are not allowed to believe in the soul, much less to try to find a cure for its ailments. No wonder people become New Age – if the rational approach to the soul provided by Christian revelation is set aside, the only alternative to the person with a touch of spiritual perception is turn to the irrational.
Is despair too strong a word?
And yet this despair has been forced on us through our regulating bodies, almost all of which are enforced by the secular state that governs us. Thus education in America has become the vehicle of despair, and the ACLU will make sure of it. Thus psychotherapy and psychiatry try desparately to be secularly spiritual so as to maintain the approval of the regulators but still do some good for their patients.
We know so very little, but the secular state will only fund what we know and that through empirical data.
Something like faith continues to assert itself, as it always has. But it isn’t part of the public dialogue except during elections.