I have been receiving several malicious ‘hate tweets’ over the last few days in response to my last tweet about my time with leaders and church planters in eastern India and the fact that the church is multiplying there. The one received today I thought was interesting. It said that people in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq needed me so I should leave the country. May be it is true after all. Although they are ‘closed’ to the Gospel at the present time and not as receptive as millions of Indians are, I believe there will come a day when that will change. As in several other parts of the world, Hindu fundamentalism is on the increase in this nation. In contrast to the West, India is becoming more religious than not. (The word ‘secular’ has a different connotation in the Indian context. It means “accommodating and accepting of other religions” rather than “a-religious”).
India, considered as the world’s most spiritual country is the birthplace of four major religions – Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. People following these religions amount to over twenty percent of the world’s population. India also holds the second largest number of Muslims in all the world. In a deeply religious country like this, it is difficult to be an atheist although there have been a few prominent ones like our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. In the present time, an outspoken atheist is usually frowned upon as in the case of one publicly coming out as gay.
I am trying to process all this in the light of the current reading, Culture and The Death of God by Terry Eagleton. The author has employed a fascinating narrative on western culture’s increasing secularism and the marginalization of God. He tracks this over several eras from the age of Enlightenment to the present post modern 9/11 days. “When human reasoning becomes autonomous, it approaches divine status; but a rationalized world is also one in which God’s presence gradually dwindles, so that he grows remote from rationality and becomes accessible only through faith and feeling.” (Eagleton 2014, 34)
Unless one is fairly conversant with philosophy, psychology, cultural studies, the history of art, literature, political theory, history and several other fields of study over which Eagleton has a amazing command, the book certainly isn’t a quick breeze through. As enlightening and interesting as it is, the book cannot be read and digested with the same ease with which it is incredibly written. Although the basic subject matter of the book is related to secularism and the exclusion of religion and faith from daily life of the West, this last reading for the DMin course work was more or less a culmination as well as summary of much of the reading and writing that I have done over the last two years. Why do I say that? Almost every paragraph reminded me of a reading from the past – on sociology, culture, religion, history and the like.
Another sentence that caught my attention, “As the power of religion begins to fail, its various functions are redistributed like a precious legacy to those aspiring to become its heirs. Scientific rationalism takes over its doctrinal certainties, while radical politics inherits its mission to transform the face of the earth.” (Eagleton 2014, 175) The questions I have: will the face of the earth truly be transformed through these? Can man ever kill God? I guess the author himself turns around and says no.
Eagleton, Terry. Culture and The Death of God. London: Yale University Press, 2014.