The Australian tourist visa is going to take a LOT of work. And documents.

Spent this morning doing some paperwork and sending out a lot of necessary emails and will be working on other things a fair bit after this entry. Afterwards I’m planning to go to Taikoo Shing at Quarry Bay for lunch and the Hong Kong Book Centre sale. Up to 80% off!!! So much for my avoiding bookshops.

I’m reading Secularisation by Edward Norman. I’ve actually taken out my highlighter and pencil and have been making little notes on the margins. I think I miss reading academic journals and crunching big words and ideas, and this is a nice throwback. It’s a great book to read before falling asleep. A reminder how I used to fall asleep in exhaustion in the middle of reading journals when doing research. :p Some quotes of the main points follow.

The main reason for the velocity with which the Church is in decline derives from its own internal secularisation, from its voluntary and largely unconscious adoption of the ideas and practices of benign adversaries…

A society of plural values is one in which the population…is divided with itself about the moral foundations…Christianity is no longer perceived to consecrate the operations which lie at the centre of the life of the state…Then who can name the ideology or moral system whose application defines the moral authority of the state?…

The morality of material welfare is self-evident…The age of ideology…almost every other form of distinct and coherent political thought is almost seemingly at an end – for the time being.

Into this extraordinary void comes an inarticulate and unrecognised materialism, characterised…by the priority of base human need over the recognition of higher purposes in human association….

A polity which defines its existence around an acceptance of the legitimacy of moral and value diversity…is necessarily secular. If the components of the pluralism are to be accorded practical equality and esteem then the state…ought therefore to become less involved with higher moral prescriptions…and is restricted to questions of safety and public defence, material welfare and utilitarian education, and regulation of such procedures of economic exchange as may address decisions about social equity….What it lacks in any coherence about the pedigree or philosophical authority of the morality whose application lurches forward into increasing expressions of what used to be called totalitarianism.

…The leaders of English Christianity appear completely integrated with the common assumotions which sustain acceptance of the ‘plural society’, largely, it is to be supposed, because they make the common error of defining it almost solely around issues of ethnic, rather than moral, diversity…

That was from the Preface. Then it goes to the first chapter, Humanism. It really boils down to a difference in what humans think of themselves and their entitlements as such, I think. Are human rights really inherent to us or are they just a set of abstractions created by arrogance, or are they in-betweeners created by accidental intellectual and cultural contingencies of society?

It’s a really interesting book, and I find myself agreeing (or at least relating) with most of the points. The thing with arguing about religion, though, is that no one wins. Like Montaigne said, all we can do is throw rings at truth and see who can get the closest to it.

But that’s only for this lifetime. As of now anyway. As to the next lifetime – well, that is another matter. What I love about 1 Corinthians 13:12 is that it essentially tells us that one day we’re going to see what a bunch of idiots we really are right now. :p


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