Three Enlightenment Ideas That Have Affected Moral Behavior in Our Times

The Privatization of Faith

In our day, this has been taken to mean that faith is a private matter, that it ought be kept to oneself, and that it has no place in the public square. But if Christian faith means anything, it means that my life is to be shaped by that faith, in all that I do, privately, or publicly. It shapes my interior life and, as a result, it shapes my social and my political life. Christian faith was never meant to be a “private” affair. This “privatization of faith” also implies that the judgement of one’s conscience is a law unto itself. That it is subject to no greater law than that of the ego. We hear this attitude in both private conversations and at the public, political level. It is considered the norm today.

But conscience is not something that is “created” by the ego. It is an attribute of the soul, made by God, and God alone. That the conscience is, indeed, shaped by one’s experiences, by the teachings of the Church, and by the quality of one’s upbringing in one’s home. The truth is that it can also be numbed into uselessness by habitually disobeying its imports. Christians who argue the moral position on political, social or economic issues today are often told to “Keep your religion out of MY life,” or some variation on that theme.

In other words, in this age of relativism, morality is no longer seen as a universal concept authored by God, but merely as a matter of private, self-oriented determination. The result of this thinking is a chaotic society full of division, deception, and depression. Because religion has been pushed off to the side either as an antiquated mythology or, ironically, as antithetical to public life, we find ourselves living in a social-Darwinist, relativist hell, where anything and everything goes. The truth? Private morality is a contradiction in terms. There is no such thing.

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