I've been considering, as part of my longish article and/or head-start on a small book that I've been writing, the problems of post-modernism encountering an Orthodox, sacramental worldview. One of the things that most readily strikes me (and which I spent the majority of lunch writing about), is that the prevailing philosophy in the post-modern, scientific West is that of death-worshippers.
I know it doesn't seem that way at first, but bear with me here.
Consider one of the dictums that I take as axiomatic in our culture: Live life to the fullest. Seems pretty life affirming, doesn't it? Enjoy life as much as you can...but notice that the unspoken subtext there is because you are going to die. All of the sudden, it doesn't seem so life-affirming, eh? Consider a popular retirement/investment commercial which exhorts its viewers to "Live your dream"...where the unspoken subtext is while you can. All of these delightful ideas put into our heads by our wonderfully enlightened, scientifically educated, liberated society--are, in fact, tenets of a death-cult. The mythology of our rational postmoderns is fundamentally that of Aztek priests cutting people's hearts out on top of vast stone pyramids (and, while I'd love to flesh out this comparison more fully, I'm going to have to leave it unstated in the interests of time). Basically, by saying, "This life is all there is, so do whatever you can while you can," we have returned to the same death-enslaved mythology that held our entire human race captive from the expulsion from the Garden until the Resurrection of Christ.
You see, the Eastern Church pretty clearly teaches that human beings sin because we are going to die. This prevailing mindset of maximizing any form of pleasure you can because you're going to rot in the ground eventually is, almost exactly, the textbook definition that the Church Fathers give for sin. Moreover, it is precisely the enslavement to death that Christ came to overcome. As the Resurrection Troparion proclaims, "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down Death by Death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!" It is that he defeated Death by himself submitting to Death. He has risen from the Dead, and broken the power of death--and has promised this also to those who love him and are partakers of his body and blood, to those in the mystical communion with him through the Church. Therefore, we have no need to fear death, those of us in Christ, and so are set free from the burdens of sin. We forget this, of course, and so still fall to temptations...but that doesn't change the reality of the promise.
The post-modern world, then, isn't so very different from the pre-Christian pagan world. The only difference is, it has denuded the already diminished witness of the Western Church and reduced it to irrelevancy--because, sadly, the broken churches of the West have forgotten the tenets of the ancient faith...and have forgotten what it means that Christ was victorious over Death itself.