Secularism & Class Conflict

The key difference between the seventeenth- and the eighteenth-century examples is the consciousness of the emerging autonomy of secular life.  This autonomy is strengthened by the tendency apparent in secular life for economic growth to result in the splitting of society into new kinds of class division.  The relations between classes become in crucial ways relations of conflict.  It is of course true that throughout the course of these conflicts there are attempts to continue the appeal to common norms and to revive the older social and moral values, but the changing structure of society makes it only too obvious to all parties that the alleged authoritative norms to which appeal is made are in fact man-made, and that they are not the norms of the whole community to which in their own way men of every rank are equally subject.  In so far as the norms which do govern the new standard economic, political, and social relations between classes are given a religious significance, what happens is that religion is invoked to justify the norms which one class wishes and is able to use against another.  (13-14)

Alasdair MacIntyre | Secularization and Moral Change


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