need for dogma'
FROM A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT N international group of sociologists and theologians, meeting in Rome this week to analyse unbelief, wondered if such a thing existed. A German scientist said established churches might be on the wane, with mankind moving into an era of personal beliefsnot unbelief.
A French sociologist said Mao Tse-Tung worship among European students might be evidence of a deeply-rooted need for some sort of dogma.
The debate, attended by more than 4,000 people, came on the opening day of a symposium on "The Culture of
Unbelief," sponsored by the Vatican Secretariat for NonBelievers and the Sociology Department of the University of California.
Prof. Thomas Luckmann, of Frankfurt University. put forward his hypothesis of a personalised "invisible" religion. He said the terms "belief" and "unbelief" made no sense if applied to archaic societies where religion pervaded every aspect of life. They emerged only when churches emerged as a "specialised" segment of society and dictated rules of belief and behaviour.
CHANGED PATTERN Prof. Luckmann said that pattern had already been altered by the existence in modern society of various competitive "official" models of religion. This had led to a world where "the individual shops in a market offer various brands of religious and quasireligious representations.
"I suggest we live in a period of transition in which a particular social form of religion — established churches — is on the wane." This might be replaced by "highly privatised subjective belief systems." If
that was so. "unbelief . . is about to disappear entirely as a social fact."
Prof. Francois Isambert, a sociologist of Lille University, said the spontaneous development of small religious groups "michro-churches" seemed to belie the theory that the world was "in a progressively growing state of unbelief."
New groups "have made themselves new dogmas, revealing a human need for dogmatism," he said. "The Maoists in Western countries are a phenomenon that is extraordinary enough."
garded it as his right to end his life whenever he wished.
Lord Ailwyn (Conservative) asked why the chronically ill could not be treated as humanely as "our four-footed fricnds," and Lord RitchieCalder (Labour) spoke of an aunt who had been rendered a "slobbering, helpless" creature at an early age.
For the Government, Baroness Scrota, Minister of State, Health and Social Security, said that there would be a free vote on the Bill, but that in general the Government thought the practical difficulties so grave that the Bill would be unacceptable.
A dramatic moment in the debate came when Lord Segal, a surgeon, told the House that 40 years ago he had deliberately ended the life of an incurably injured new-born child. The choice lay between the lives of the mother and child. The child was sacrificed but was still alive when born, but terribly injured. He bathed the baby himself, immersing its head first The Bishops' Conference of Scotland interrupted their biannual meeting in Aberdeen to send a telegram to peers discussing the Bill. Attacking the proposed legislation they said: "In the discharge of our duty as spiritual leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, we exhort our people to join their voices to the protests already being made by other Christian leaders and to unite with all men of goodwill in enlightening minds about the extreme gravity of allowing such a measure to reach the Statute Book."
On Wednesday a letter from Cardinal Heenan in The Times attacked words "that are increasingly used to disguise rather than to disclose reality."
The poor had become the under-privileged, the starving the under-nourished. Immorality was now called permissive morality. If we are to make euthanasia legal, the Cardinal said, we ought to drop the gentle Greek and use plain English.
"The Secretary of the Euthanasia Society would not then have written of doctors providing a service to their patients by 'giving them euthanasia.' He would have said bluntly that in the proposed voluntary Euthanasia Bill doctors are empowered to kill, on demand, the patients they cannot cure," the Cardinal said.