A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Secular Fundamentalism and the Myth of Neutrality

As I was driving this morning, I was listening to a discussion on a talk-radio station concerning the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney. The host had asked for individuals to call the station and express their views on whether his Mormon faith would influence his politics should he become President.

What intrigued me about the discussion was not so much what people believed about Romney's faith in relation to his politics, but the unquestioned assumption among callers and host alike, that while religion was biased, secularism was neutral in its view toward religion and, therefore, politics.

One of the great deceptions of the Enlightenment that continues to be believed in the twenty-first century is that there is a neutral place in which one can stand in order to view religion and politics: that realm is called "the secular."

Of course, such a view is simply false. Secularism is no less biased against religion than religion is biased against secularism. If one accepts Paul Tillich's definition of faith as "that which ultimately concerns us" (as inadequate as the definition is), then the faith of secularism is revealed in its desire to eradicate any vestige of religious context from the public square by making religion a purely private matter. In making religion purely private, religion is made irrelevant.

I am not suggesting that Mitt Romney's Mormonism, nor Hillary Clinton's Methodism, should not be a topic of conversation in reference to their respective political points of view, and how that might influence the presidential office; what I am stating unequivocally is that it is also in bounds to ask how a prospective presidential candidate's secularism and/or atheism (if there ever were such a person seeking the office) would influence his or her politics in reference to religion. Secularism by definition is biased against religion. It is simply honest to admit it.

Solid arguments have been made by others more intelligent than I, that the growth of secularism in any nation has a clear effect on the politics and laws of those lands concerning abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia, to name only three examples; and, yes, I believe that those Christians who are "pro-choice" have, embraced secularism, at least on that issue. But my point is that the more secular a society becomes, the more it turns in a certain direction in reference to moral matters. This is hardly neutral.

I know there are some people "sweating bullets" over whether George W. Bush wants to turn America into a theocracy; perhaps those persons would do well to consider the possibility that the secular fundamentalists in our midst are working toward making the United States an atheocracy, where the only people who can legitimately participate in the political process must accept the one cardinal and false doctrine of secularism: its neutrality toward those who have faith in something more than what can be seen.

I have no objection to secularists and atheists being part of the public forum and political discussions so important to all of us; all I am saying is that we must be honest, whether we are Christians or Mormons, Hindus or Secularists, that when it comes to religion and, therefore, politics, no one stands on neutral ground.

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Cross-Posted at RedBlueChristian.


Ted M. Gossard said...

Allan, Interesting post. And I think you bring up an important point.

We Christians need to work at seeing everything in light of the kingdom of God come in Christ. This brings a devastating critique across the board on our politics today, both Democrat and Republican, I believe.

But as to secularism versus faith-orientation, I do think there is another stream emerging, that questions modernism's embrace of objectivity. Not to say that the old stream isn't still here with strength.

On Christians and other religious people and pro-choice, I think what's going on here has to be nuanced more, than to simply say they've all succumbed to secularism in that. Religions and others struggle at when the fetus becomes human. I have no such struggle myself, believing at conception it's human life and must be treated as a person. But other Christians and people of faith don't share that same belief.


Ted M. Gossard said...

Not to say Christians don't cave in to secularism (including on abortion and in becoming pro-choice). I'm sure it's infected us all, at some point.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Thanks for your comments. As always your posts are quite thoughtful.

You are correct that there is a genuine questioning of the modern notion of objectivity in the current discussion, but when secularism becomes the "default setting" if you will, when it comes to politics, it cannot help but become the standard; and perhaps "standard" is better than the term "neutral."

As far as abortion goes, you are once again right that the matter is more complex, but it must not be forgotten that the pro-choice position would have been quite impossible without secularism. In addition, it is no accident that secular culture and a pro-abortion stance seem to go hand-in-hand. To put it another way, there is a reason that we do not see secular societies becoming pro-life.

Secondly, while I am all for nuance, there are times that nuance should be avoided for the sake of effect. There are times when nuance can take the power out of an argument. Jesus was not always nuanced in his criticisms of the Pharisees.

And, yes, secularism infects all of us. On the religious right side of the equation, the free market attempt to make everything and everyone a commodity is a compromise with secularism.

I always appreciate your insight, my friend.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Allan, Thanks. I agree with all you say.

I will say, and I don't know as much about this as I should, probably to mention it at all- that Muslims and Jews do not see the fetus as human at conception. There is more to that. I don't know enough to go on. But I know of at least one Christian who has a theory based on his theological view of what constitutes a human, as to when the fetus becomes human. I personally don't care to get into all of that. But I think it's worth knowing that there are different thoughts on this out there, that do not necessarily arise out of secularism.

But good comment back to me. Thanks, brother.

Anonymous said...

Secularism is not another word for agnosticism. Secularism goes beyond atheism, it is anti-theism.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Again, you highlight the need for nuance in the argument.

I would suggest that the very issue of when the fetus becomes "human" is a nod toward secularism. As my former teacher Stanley Hauerwas noted years ago, Christians should not ask when human life begins, but instead we should hope that at conception, life is human.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Allan, Perhaps you're right here. I certainly concur with Hauerwas' statement.