Earlier today I read an article titled “The Secular Worldview has Gaps that Need to be Bridged“. I wanted to address the issues I had with the author’s viewpoint outside of just writing a comment.
Their opinion, concisely, is that humans are wired to passionately engage with good vs evil narratives, but that gaps in secular worldviews prevent people who cheer on fictional heroes in grand “Battles of Good vs Evil” from responding like those heroes when evil arises in the real world.
Specifically, that because secular worldviews do not acknowledge evil as its own “Force”, they cannot perceive this “Force of Evil” — defined by the author as “a coherent force that consistently works to make the world worse” — in the real world and so do not engage their moral and spiritual passions to battle it.
As a person who holds a secular viewpoint, I do not agree with what the author said.
First, and most important, I think the author is making the common mistake of failing to recognize that it is much, much easier to recognize evil in a fictional narrative that is professionally directed to highlight it using common tropes that are easy for the audience to spot so they know what side to root for. Reality is almost never that straightforward or simple.
Second, I think the author needs to become more familiar with Occam’s razor. Not the simplified “the simplest explanation is most likely true” version that is commonly recognized, but the rule of parsimony which I’ll summarize as “don’t complicate explanations without necessity”. As an example, the author suggested that this “Force of Evil” was a good way to inspire people to fight evil in the world, but did not give any reason why it was necessary, effectively only saying that it would be convenient due to its inspirational value.
Given that we have seen how easily this good vs evil narrative can be hijacked, such as attacks on “evil” Democrats who purportedly sacrifice children in the basements of pizza parlors and other such QAnon conspiracies, I think engaging in it ourselves will do much more harm than good, as it is a quick and dirty approach to people doing such things
Third, we can explain the existence of what the author calls evil much more effectively by simply pointing to the tendency of people to look for quick and dirty shortcuts that usually only make things worse. You don’t need a malign “Force of Evil” for this, just the understanding that it comes from a “just good enough” perspective that creates a loop that feeds on itself. Quick and dirty solutions tend to break down, requiring additional intervention, which is likely to also be quick and dirty, which tend to break down, and so on.
In conclusion, I would recommend that the author worry less about recommending that people with secular viewpoints use quick and dirty approaches (like a traditional good vs evil narrative), and more about recognizing the undeniable flaws of such approaches in order to find ways to more effectively approach problems like this.