As if by some grand cosmic design, the interesting folk at Sir Humphrey's have served up a discussion on "secularism" as modern day paganism. A disturbing proportion of the comments are of the type I discussed below. Witness the following exchange:
Kent Parker: I think the general impression in the 'new age' is that when we die, that is it, curtains, the lights go out, kaput, final, los endos. However, assuming we die before our children, they are left to carry on the good fight and their children and their children's children etc etc and so on for eternity.
Hope is just hope, a sense of optimisim, positivity, energy, life...
MikePh: But, Kent, those are gods: the god of Optimism, the god of Life, the god of Energy. They are to be worshipped for their own sake or else there is no "good fight".
God = an abstract noun? I assume what he is trying to claim is that such things are treated as Gods, which I would still say is a load of arse.
Possibly some of the problem stems from people speaking metaphorically, but then treating their metaphorical statements as though they were literally true. The confusion of rhetoric for argument is by no means restricted to theological matters, of course -- the best secular example I can think of in recent memory is the libertarian assertion that when someone steals your property, they steal that part of your life that went into acquiring it, and that you are therefore justified in using lethal force to defend your property, as you are in effect defending your own life. The first part of the argument can only be a metaphorical statment -- as an abstract conecpt, your life cannot be stolen in any literal sense (would that mean you get younger, or would you die sooner?) -- and yet it's then taken literally to justify real-world actions.