I believe it’s important to describe the perspective on reality I intend to deconstruct in this series. While this perspective is expressed and nuanced in many different ways, all modern expressions of this perspective share certain certain features. Fr. Stephen, in his excellent series, uses the metaphor of a two-story house with a basement to describe the universe portrayed by this particular framework. I think it’s one of the better metaphors I’ve encountered. In his metaphor, the first floor is the earth where we live and the second floor is a separate place called “heaven” where God lives. We watch and listen for signs that the second floor really exists and that God inhabits it, but none of that has much to do with our first floor of ordinary life. We live our lives hoping to make it to the second floor and trying to stay out of the basement.
Far too many people today, Christians and non-Christians alike, believe that some variation of the above framework accurately describes what Christianity says about the nature of reality. As a result, sadly, we find that many who call themselves Christian now believe in some form of reincarnation. Others outright reject this gross caricature of Christian faith. I don’t blame them at all. It’s an awful way to understand reality. I’ve believed many things about reality in the past, and I would consider any of them far superior to that view. Even more sadly, many remain and struggle within expressions of this framework, trying to believe that the second floor exists and is inhabited and in fear of torture chambers hidden in the basement. In my own tradition, you find it expressed both in exhortations to “be certain” that you have “really” accepted Christ and by those who commit themselves again and again because it’s virtually impossible to ever “be certain” of anything regarding the second floor.
In truth, it is this perspective that actually enables a secular perspective of reality. Contrary to what some seem to believe, a secular view does not require or imply a rejection of God in at least some form. It is not, strictly speaking, atheistic at all. It simply requires that the religious and “ordinary” spheres be separated. A God who lives on the second floor and who, in practice if not in confession, doesn’t really have a great deal to do with the day to day life of the first floor works just fine from a secular point of view.
Most of us are more secular in our understanding of reality than we recognize. That’s one of the things I hope I manage to address in this series.