Are We Poised for Another Great Awakening?

Jun 12, 2023 | Freedom Forum

The term “Great Awakening” is used to describe several religious revivals that occurred in the past.  North American Christianity had at least three periods from the 18th to the 20th Centuries where there was an intense spiritual fervour among a significant number of the population.  Such “Awakenings” are evidenced by charismatic preachers who travel the country exhorting the people to repent and reform their ways into compliance with the Biblical teachings of personal piety.

While these “Awakenings” were spiritual and religious phenomena they had a dramatic impact on the social and political real-life experience for the body politic.  The preachers’ sermons found their way into the popular press and their call for societal reform helped reinforce the importance of free speech in a free press and religious freedom.  The exhortations called for the renewal of personal duty to God that found expression in familial responsibilities to wives, husbands, and children.  It renewed a vigour for political honesty and duty to one’s country that despised political corruption and deceit.  The rhetorical skills developed in the pulpit and manifested in the passionate religious debates within the churches were easily transferable to the political lectern and the judicial bar.  The political and judicial offices where highly influenced by the religious revivals of their time. 

The religious foment led to the abolition, temperance, and the women’s suffrage movements.  Rather than being bigoted and oppressive as often claimed by modern critics of religion, the Great Awakenings led to more- not less -freedom.  The human individual was marked for special favour because each was made in the image of God and “endowed” with inalienable rights.  As late as the 20th Century one may see the religious language of the various charters of human rights.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article One states, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” (Emphasis added.)  Even the Canadian Charter observes that “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law…” (Emphasis added.)  These are but echoing the July 4, 1776, Declaration of Independence that spoke of “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” holding that the self-evident truths “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Emphasis added.)   

The Great Sexual Awakening

Over the last fifty or sixty years we have been living through another “Great Awakening” of sorts – I have referred to it in the past as The Sexular Age.  It has all the hallmarks of previous religious movements, but a polar opposite.  The religious awakenings called for personal piety respecting the Judeo-Christian sexual norms.  What we are experiencing now is far different. 

Western democracies and their laws were once in accord with the Judeo-Christian principle of marriage as a heterosexual, monogamous relationship.[1] It was “a society of shared social values where marriage and religion were thought to be inseparable.”[2] This is no longer the case.  The last 60 years has been a turning point.  No longer are the religious moral norms in sync with the law regarding sexuality and marriage.[3] The advance of equality claims based on sexual orientation and the redefinition of marriage called into question the place of religious influence on law and public policy.

Ironically, the Sexular Age has religious overtones. In many ways Christianity and its norms have been displaced by a new religion, a new religious revolution. This Age embraces the body and pursues “erotic justice” as “an unexpected yet delightful pathway for spiritual renewal and replenishment.”[4] Michel Foucault declares:

Today it is sex that serves as a support for the ancient form – so familiar and important in the West – of preaching. A great sexual sermon – which has had its subtle theologians and its popular voices – has swept through our societies over the last decades; it has chastised the old order, denounced hypocrisy, and praised the rights of the immediate and the real; it has made people dream of a New City. The Fransciscans are called to mind. And we might wonder how it is possible that the lyricism and religiosity that long accompanied the revolutionary project have, in Western industrial societies, been largely carried over to sex.[5]

Sex, “the immediate and the real,” with its ecstasy of pleasure, gives life meaning. “Jerusalem” references every metropolis of the world where pleasure is experienced without fear of judgement of an angry God. The worshiping masses are singing hymns, listening to preachers of the new faith that brings sexual liberation to all.

Sex, in all its permutations, is what defines our age. It has become the focal point not for the physical gratification alone but for all it represents – the rebellion, the revolution against the past’s power structures. The demand for recognition of the value of sexual pleasure is fast becoming an argument that it is a human right. The “constitutional right of sexual intimacy and bodily autonomy”[6] requires “sex-positive law,”[7] claim the legal scholars who are taking up the cause.

The Sexular Age is iconoclastic. All references, all societal norms and notions of deviancy that would limit sex to a heterosexual union that includes the expectation for a lifelong commitment of one man and one woman has become anathema. Thus, the groupthink of the collective (ironic as that is) is becoming manifest. There is dissonance with historical norms. Such heterosexual norms are viewed as social constructs meant to maintain power relationships controlling a capitalist economy for the haves against the have-nots. 

The Sexular Age seeks to remove from all public and private space any reference to norms of previous generations that would in any way limit the fundamental right of the individual to do or be whatever they want – including, but not limited to, identity as male, female, non-sexed, or non-gendered.[8] The individual is free to choose to be in mutual relationships with whomever and how many they so choose, for whatever purpose, or however long. The ultimate right of the individual to choose for themselves whatever sexual identity they desire is paramount. The right to seek “freedom to experience the full range of human emotions, behavior and relationships, without gender defined constraints”[9] is championed.

The Sexular Age claims that individuals should not be forced into a pre-determined sexual identity based on biology and culture.[10] Yet, at its core, it seeks to create a collective identity based on sexual orientation. Paradoxically, it claims to be hyper-individualistic, but it is also collectivistic in telling the individual what a member of a sexual minority must believe that membership signifies. The inherent contradiction of this approach is yet to reach its apogee.

Already there are signs that the coalition of sexual identity minorities is strained and may be coming to an end in time of a “New Great Awakening” the question is will it be one based on the religion/s created by Artificial Intelligence or traditional religious faiths – such as Christianity.

The New Great Awakening with Artificial Intelligence?

Yuval Harrai, one of the prominent speakers at the World Economic Forum is warning us that Artificial Intelligence (AI) may well to take on the role as humanity’s new god or gods.  The AI god can be expected to write a new religious text to replace the current Bible and other sacred texts that has been in use for thousands of years.[11]  That will lead to new religious cults. 

If you think that is far off – think again.  Already in Germany a group of 300 attended an “experimental” church service that was completely run by an AI preacher.[12] 

“For thousands of years, prophets and poets and politicians have used language and storytelling in order to manipulate and to control people and to reshape society,” Harari noted. “Now AI is likely to be able to do it. And once it can… it doesn’t need to send killer robots to shoot us. It can get humans to pull the trigger.” [13]

There is no question we are moving toward a “Brave New World” far different than what Aldous Huxley ever envisioned.

If we know anything about history and human nature it is that human beings are hardwired to be religious.  As lawyer Philip R. Wood stated, “…we may be able to beat the universe. If the universe has no plan for us, then we have to have a plan for ourselves. If the universe has no god, we will make ourselves god.”[14]

While there are dangers as Harari admits he is optimistic that “throughout history, religions dreamt about having a book written by a superhuman intelligence, by a non-human entity” and that “in a few years there might be religions that are actually correct … just think about a religion whose holy book is written by an AI. That could be a reality in a few years.”[15]

Harari is putting his faith in AI’s ‘correct’ religion. What exactly is this ‘correct’ religion?

What kind of religious debates may we expect in such a future?  An AI generated text – with AI ‘biblical’ stories – creating a different cultural narrative than what we currently know.  Will this AI religion be open to opposing views, or will it seek dominance and compliance with its teachings?  Will governments, who accept these new religions demand that schools teach the new religion/s and limit the civil rights of the non-believers in the AI god?

Are we about to face  a “Great Awakening” or a “Great Disappointment’? 

Or, will there in fact be a “Great Awakening” as understood in religious history whereby we all repent for the crazy ideas and sins of humanity as rightly understood? Will we come to repent for the damaging teachings of a manmade created AI religion and authority? Will we repudiate or embrace our traditional religious roots? 

Make no mistake about it, we are entering an era of religious fervour such as the world has not seen before.  The question is:  What will be this new Great Awakening?

I cannot but wonder if we are all participating in a Greek tragedy wherein the hubris of man leads to his demise.  This is a time of the clarion call to become students of history and internalize the best of our philosophical, religious, political, and social principles that made our society successful. Humility is a must.  Without that knowledge and wisdom of the ages we are bound to relearn the painful lessons of our ancestors.

[1] Don S. Browning, “Family Law and Christian Jurisprudence,” in John Witte, Jr. & Frank S. Alexander, eds, Christianity And Law: An Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 169–82. See John Witte, Jr., From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition (1997); see also Hyde, supra note 482at 133: “What, then, is the nature of this institution as understood in Christendom? Its incidents may vary in different countries, but what are its essential elements and invariable features? If it be of common acceptance and existence, it must needs have (however varied in different countries in its minor incidents) some pervading identity and universal basis. I conceive that marriage, as understood in Christendom, may for this purpose be defined as the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.”

[2] Same-Sex Marriage, supra note 178 at para 22.

[3] Sylvain Larocque, Gay Marriage: The Story of a Canadian Social Revolution (Lorimer, 2006).

[4] Marvin M. Ellison, Erotic Justice: A Liberating Ethic of Sexuality (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminister John Knox Press, 1996), 122.

[5] Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, translated by Robert Hurley (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978). Foucault argues, at 5, that sexual repression was “an integral part of the bourgeois order.”

[6] Alana Chazan, “Good Vibrations: Liberating Sexuality from the Commercial Regulation of Sexual Devices” (2008-09) 18 Tex. J. Women & L. 263-304 at 264.

[7] Margo Kaplan, “Sex-Positive Law” (2014) 89 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 89-164.

[8] For example, the Gender Free ID Coalition in Canada states on its website that its vision is “To remove all gender/sex designations from identity documents.”  The “Problem” it sees is this:

“Everybody’s gendered identification starts with a birth certificate. The state ascribes a sex/gender marker at birth, and then “certifies” that gender. But no one knows a baby’s gender at birth since gender identity takes years to be known. So the state is predictably wrong for trans people, whether they identify as the ‘other’ M/F gender or whether they are non-binary. And it may be wrong for intersex people. The state knows it is certifying as true something it cannot know to be true. Trans and intersex people bear the burden of gendered ID that doesn’t match their gender.”

See: “Home: End State-Assigned Gender!” (last accessed October 2018), online: Gender Free ID Coalition <>. The Coalition claimed the world’s first baby given a gender-neutral ID card, see: Zamira Rahim, “Canadian baby given health card without sex designation,” CNN (4 July 2017), online: <>.

[9] Sylvia A. Law, “Homosexuality and the Social Meaning of Gender” (1988) Wis. L. Rev. 187 at 232.

[10] Roger Scruton warns, “It may be that human nature, which enjoins us to love, imposes upon us the religious, civil and legal institutions that abounded everywhere in the world, until exultant intellectuals decided that the time had come to dispense with them. No account of erotic love will be either politically innocent or politically neutral. And it will be the greatest error of a political system that it overlooks the demands of love.” Roger Scruton, Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation (London & New York: Continuum, 2006), 360-361.

[11] TOI Staff, “Yuval Noah Harari warns AI can create religious texts, may inspire new cults, May 3, 2023, Times of Israel,

[12] Can chatbots be ministers? Hundreds attend ChatGPT-led church service,” Kirsten Grieshaber  The Associated Press, June 10, 2023,

[13] TOI Staff, “Yuval Noah Harari warns AI can create religious texts, may inspire new cults, May 3, 2023, Times of Israel,

[14] Philip R. Wood, The Fall of the Priests and the Rise of the Lawyers, (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2016) 1.


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