A few weeks back I attended a "campus crossfire" (an open forum debate) at my university on the topic of religion and morality. The event went off fairly well but obviously there were two factions which set themselves apart early in the debate--the atheist group and the Christian group. In the interest of full discloser that atheist "group" was one person who defended his views against the rest.
This scene may seem typical, obviously debates on college campuses are not really all that rare. This debate, however, is slightly an exception when considering that I go to a public university in rural west Tennessee, the buckle of the bible belt. Truthfully, I expected most everyone there to espouse Christian ideals, and with the exception of the one individual I would have been right.
Rationalists, skeptics, secular humanists, whatever buzz word you want to give them intentionally non-religious people have truly made a name for themselves and since their emergence on the scene they have evangelically ushered many into their fold proclaiming that being a non-believer is not only wise, but indeed the most ethical path.
It seems to me then that we have entered a new era of enlightenment. This idea is not uniquely my own or even all that new. Indeed many learned scholars and theologians haven even written that we may be in the twilight of this particular age. If that is true then I feel a bit slighted by the swiftness of its passing and the effects of its reign.
If it is true that we are in the dusk of an age of enlightenment then I feel that more questions should have been answered. Perhaps I can even be as bold as to suggest that many of us feel this way. Certainly there is a contingent of atheists out there who are holding fast to their beliefs and debating the overwhelming majority of theists all over the globe, and likewise there is still a strong contingent of theists steadfast in their resolve that their life will forever remain focused on worshiping an assumed God. I used "assumed" here in the most literal since and hope not to stir any ill will with my word usage. Of course any God is assumed and the Christian God even rewards your assumption in him with a more glowing term--faith.
The real point of this article is to ponder the effects of our waining era of enlightenment. I believe that two titans of thought are at war here and they have reached a stalemate which I suggest is insufficient. As rational people in the twenty-first century I resent that this problem has not made itself more clear. Issues of a metaphysical nature are certainly lofty, but at least in the last era of enlightenment real strides were made. Have we made such strides in today's world?
So I perhaps the Newsvine community can hash out some of the questions left over. Perhaps this era of enlightenment is simply breathing and the present is only a slight inhale in thought and real answers currently which will soon be addressed and handled accordingly with the next breath.
It seems apparent that more and more each day our world is handing itself over to religion which, like any good interest group, has an agenda which may not be well suited for our society. When religion infringes on democracy, for example, how do we continue to call ourselves the "land of the free."
Although to this point my article has been a bit bleak I would like to take a more optimistic path for a moment. Above I mentioned that we are the "land of the free" the second part to that quote is "and the home of the brave." When I see people in rural west Tennessee stand fast to their atheistic, indeed rational beliefs in the face of such opposition even to the rebuttals of learned professors I understand that there has been some true progress in our new era of enlightenment.
At the very least I think it is safe to say that we have allowed for a world where religion ruled. Obviously that is not working out as well as everyone had hoped. Perhaps it may be time for a change, a time of rational thought and ascension to a higher level of ideals. Who knows, it just might be the kind of world where you wouldn't mind living.