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Postcards from Scotland

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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 18/12/2010

I've been pondering on a news item I heard last week on the radio. A team of British archaeologists have discovered sacred stones in the Peruvian Andes which the Incas believed linked the heavens with the earth. Apparently the British team have been saying how 'moving' it all is.
 
What I find fascinating about this is that the only time you will hear British academics ever talking about their feelings of reverence, wonder, awe is in connection with the belief system of previous generations – never their own. Western society holds nothing sacred any more and even from my atheistic perspective I can see how greatly impoverished we are as a result. It means we inhabit a world dominated by materialistic values - shopping malls are the new cathedrals and celebs our version of saints. All that matters is living our own lives.

The French philosopher Andre Comte-Sponville has published an interesting short volume called The Book of Atheist Spirituality. At one point he writes:

Spiritual life ... is the life of the spirit - but only ... inasmuch as we can break free from what Kant called our 'precious little selves', or precious little fears, resentments, self-interest, anxieties, worries, frustrations, hopes, compromises and conceits.

Yesterday someone sent me a link to a Youtube video which brilliantly shows what can happen when the belief system and aesthetics of an earlier age intrude into our self-focused, commercialised culture – into a food court, no less. It is worth watching and strangely moving. Keep in mind, when you watch, that Comte-Sponville argues that societies can do without formal religion but that 'no society can dispense for any length of time with communion.'

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