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Luc Ferry argues that modernity and the emergence of secular humanism in Europe since the eighteenth century have not killed the search for meaning and the sacred, or even the idea of God, but rather have transformed both through a dual process: the humanization of the divine and the divinization of the human. Ferry sees evidence for the first of these in the Catholic Church's attempts to counter the growing rejection of dogmatism and to translate the religious tradition into contemporary language. The second he traces to the birth of modern love and humanitarianism, both of which demand a concern for others and even self-sacrifice in defense of values that transcend life itself. Ferry concludes with a powerful statement in favor of what he calls "transcendental humanism"—a concept that for the first time in human history gives us access to a genuine spirituality rooted in human beings instead of the divine.
Certain currents in modern thought made of freedom something absolute, which then becomes the source of values.... In this case it is the individual conscience that decides categorically and infallibly what is good and what is evil. To the affrmation that one has to follow one's conscience is added the affirmation that a moral judgment is true because it has its origin in conscience. The inescapable claims of truth disappear, yielding their place to a criterion of sincerity, authenticity, and of "being at peace with oneself." Side by side with its exaltation of human freedom modern culture questions-- oddly enough--its very existence.... The questions about freedom and morality cannot be separated. Though each individual has the right to be respected in his or her own journey, there remains a prior moral obligation to seek the truth.
Excerpted from Man Made God: the Meaning of Life by Luc Ferry Copyright © 2002 by Luc Ferry. Excerpted by permission.
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