Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Secularism, The Culture War, & The Anti-Secular Perspective

I've previously written about the ongoing culture wars dividing the US. One of the most important battles being waged in it is whether or not we are going to continue living in a secular society that separates religion from government. There are forces out there that are trying to push religion into all aspects of government and public life and who are only stopped by the constant and determined effort made by secularists. It is apparent that the more religious a person is, the more likely they will support an encroachment of religion into government. There are many conservative Muslims out there who are advocating for Islamism, and there are Christians out there who want the Bible back in the classroom in the form of creationism. Some of them even go further and want sanctioned prayer in schools and religious based legislation created and passed that would force others to observe their religious duties.

While debating people like this recently I have learned a few things about the way they think and I want for a moment to see the war from how it looks from their perspective.

First, some of those who want religion formally in government think that secularism is itself a religion, being shoved down their throats. I have already argued against the notion that secularism is a religion, but from the theist's perspective, is he/she right in their belief in an ever-increasing and intolerant form secularism chipping away at their religious liberties? Imagine if we had an officially Christian government, and those who were in favor of preserving this rule were forcing non-Christians to observe their faith's traditions and rules? Would I be upset? I certainly would. Is it possible to live in a Christian country and not be forced to observe any practices that are Christian? Yes. There would still be issues of whether schools teach from the Christian perspective, or whether tax dollars go to support the church, or whether other religions would have equal rights to Christianity. These policies exists in many secular and non-secular countries around the world.

Second, the problem I have when I try to look at the issue of secular government from the anti-secularist perspective, is that I do not see their comparison that they are the persecuted majority as they claim to be. Sure, there have been cases of religious liberty being prevented, and I am against this as well, but it seems that the secularist is fair in preventing the encroachment of religion into government so long as we recognize that (1) secularism is not a religion in itself, and (2) that we officially live in a secular democracy. I've always felt that religion is a private matter and that it should be kept where it belongs, in private. The problem with some religions, is that its adherents are never happy just believing, they must convince others to believe as well. If religious people would simply just keep their religions to themselves, and adopt the secular principle when it comes to politics, I'd have little problem with them.

There is a lawsuit leveled by the American Atheists to remove a Tennessee law that forces citizens to acknowledge god's existence by asserting that the “safety and security of the commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.” I never even understood the concept of god protecting the US from terrorism. Does he prevent terrorists from hating or attacking the US like some sort of divine firewall? If so he must violate free will in order to do so. Anyway, the law clearly violates the first amendment, and it is one small battle in a never ending war with anti-secularists.

As I've said before, I believe in fair secularism. I wish to preserve religious liberty and freedom of thought and would hate to ever see a system of state secularism where the state decides what can and cannot be believed. Anti-secularists see any stoppage of the mention of a deity a violation of their religious liberty, but what they fail to see is that the mention of a deity in a law is violating the rights of those who wish to be free from religion. The argument is what side should win and take precedence. Should the non-theist, atheist or non-religious person, be forced to acknowledge and respect a god they do not believe exists and might even hate? Would that be worse than if the theist or religious person has the name of his or her believed deity removed from law and government legislation? I think it is less of a violation to the theist to not have their deity mentioned than it would be for an atheist to be forced to acknowledge any deity. If the theist wishes to have their god acknowledged, they are free to do so privately.

I know this answer will not satisfy those who believe in god and actively want others to publicly acknowledge their deity. To them I will say this: secularism preserves and protects your religious liberty and is one of the reasons why religion has historically thrived so much in the US. This debate will rage on as it has pretty much since this country's inception. More reports from the front lines of the culture war are sure to come.

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