We began to look at Alasdair MacIntyre’s Riddell memorial lectures gathered under the title Secularization and Moral Change in the previous post. MacIntyre is best known for his book After Virtue. Here, we continue to summarize the other two lectures that make up Secularization and Moral Change. Again, I refer the reader to Peter Webster’s summary. Continue reading
In a previous post, I offered a longer excerpt from what is surely the best-known work of the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, his 1981 After Virtue. I have also made some brief comments on After Virtue in this post. A good academic biography of MacIntyre can be found at the IEP. Here, I’d like to look at one of his earlier works, the 1964 Riddell Memorial Lectures, published in 1967 as Secularization and Moral Change. A good introduction to the social context of the book can be found on Peter Webster’s post on it; Webster rightly notes that “little of MacIntyre’s little book will surprise the modern reader in matters of fact”, and suggests that MacIntyre’s use of Marxist class analysis may strike the modern reader as “quaint”. (In all honesty, I should recommend you to Webster for the superior summary and analysis.) The ever-excellent Adam DeVille argues that “The Benedict Option” of Rod Dreher, which took its title from the final page of MacIntyre’s After Virtue, is incompatible with what MacIntyre actually writes here in Secularization and Moral Change. DeVille writes about this also here. A reviewer “Caleb” over at Goodreads suggests the same.
Secularization and Moral Change is three lectures; over the course of these three lectures, MacIntyre sought “to raise three questions and to find answers to them”.  Those questions were:
1) “[W]hy [has] secularization […] not progressed any further than it has done, especially among the working class”, 
2) “[W]hether religious decline is a, or the, cause of moral decline”,  and
3) “[W]hat effect secularization has had upon English Christianity”.
By secularization MacIntyre simply means “the transition from beliefs and activities and institutions  presupposing beliefs of a traditional Christian kind to beliefs and activities and institutions of an atheistic kind.” [7-8]
The three lectures tackle these three questions in order. Here, we deal with question one.
I expect to get back to the question of intention vs. impact soon, as I have two posts left before that series is completed. In the meantime, I have several posts that are nearly finished, and which I’ll release first — including this one, which is relevant to those intention-vs-impact entries.
Ray Suarez was the moderator for that panel (Suarez’s publications and broadcast list can be found on his Wikipedia page; with regard to his many credentials that earned him a role on this panel, Suarez is the author of The Holy Vote: The Politics of Faith in America among other books). The panel was originally slated to include four people, but ended up only including three:
1) Molly Worthen, who is currently Associate Professor at UNC Chapel Hill (Molly has published two books as of this posting, the most recent is the topically relevant and well-received Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism),
2) Leon Wieseltier, the now-fallen former literary editor of The New Republic for almost thirty years and contributor to The Atlantic until he fell under the axe of the #MeToo movement in 2017, three years after this panel was held — for Leon’s fall, see first here at Vanity Fair, then (in any order) here at The Atlantic, here at the Weekly Standard, and here at The New York Times for stories (with regard to this panel, Wieseltier is the author of the book Kaddish, which is also an audiobook; he also wrote an obscenely expensive book titled Against Identity that seems to be an expanded version of an article he wrote in 1994 for The New Republic), and
3) Arsalan Iftikhar, a Virginia-based human rights lawyer and media commentator whose website can be found here (prior to the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival he’d only written one book, so far as I can see: Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era; he has written only one other book, so far as I can see, the 2016 publication Scapegoat: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedoms, which received an endorsement from former US President Jimmy Carter; his most recent article is about how Islamophobia is predicted by politics, not religion).
4) The original panel list included Peter Beinart, whom we’ll get to in the next post, but it seems that Beinart could not attend because of a death in the family. Only a few years later, Beinart would take what I imagine must have been some of his working notes from this session –and perhaps even inspired by an ethnic twist on a line of exchange from this session (Iftikhar: “[…] the religious intolerance in America is becoming more entrenched… Suarez: “…even as people are becoming less religious.”)– and turn them into an article for The Atlantic titled: “Breaking Faith“, or, alternatively, “America’s Empty Church Problem”, where he argues that a decrease in religious participation correlates to an increase in more primitive animosities from an ascendant, elemental, and rigid set of in-group out-group formations.
Back to the Aspen panel. The blurb for the panel is as follows on the Ideas Festival website:
After a rapid increase in their ranks over the last decade, the “nones,” or those who claim no particular religious affiliation, now represent one-in-five US adults. What portrait does this leave us of the future of faith in this country? And how are communities of faith changing internally as they witness the same demographic and generational shifts as the population at large? Will church groups see the same hollowing out of the middle as the political and economic landscapes, with a trend toward both ends of the conservative vs. reform spectrum?
Below are a set of abbreviations and transcriptions from that panel, with timestamps for the Soundcloud recording of the panel. I have not been exhaustive, but I’ve caught everything that I thought was interesting. If a section is in quotes, it’s nearly exact. If it’s not, fidelity ranges from abbreviation to almost-exact-but-I’m-not-rewinding-that-one-more-time.