AbstractB.J. van der Walt’s concentration problem
This contribution probes the concept of secularism, a key notion of B.J. van der Walt’s “Transforming power” (2007). It is found that Van der Walt’s interpretation of secularism rests on a double assumption. The first assumption is that human nature is intrinsically religious. Humans cannot live without putting their trust in something. The second is that this religious nature manifests itself in “concentrated” ways, rather than dispersing itself over a plurality of objects. These assumptions in tandem explain why Van der Walt holds the view that atheism, agnosticism and even overt indifference in matters of faith are at heart propelled by convictions that share the main features of positive religions. It also explains why he assumes that all these convictions tend towards one and the same goal: to gain dominance in the public realm.
This article is sympathetic towards the first assumption, and skeptical towards the second. It is argued that the “concentration- thesis” fails to do justice to world and life-views that obviously do not claim total allegiance. To illustrate this point it turns to the phenomenon of “multiple religious participation”, as well as to different strands within contemporary humanism. It concludes that the main problem may well be that secular culture has little to offer to satisfy the innate religious drive in humankind.