Dan Popp
The religion of secularism
By Dan Popp
May 12, 2013

There is a religious war when two worlds meet; that is, when two visions of the world meet; or in more modern language when two moral atmospheres meet. – G.K. Chesterton

The April edition of Imprimis from the wonderful Hillsdale College arrived in my mailbox the other day. This issue features an article by author, educator and very knowledgeable fellow R.R. Reno, Ph.D. But I'm afraid that the premise of his article, Religion and Public Life in America is dead wrong – in the sense that if believers accept his premise, America is dead.

Dr. Reno's foundational assumption is that there's a political battle being waged between the adherents of religion and those with no religious affiliation. And the irreligious are now doing their best to drive out and shut up and otherwise marginalize the religious. This is a very popular view. But if the dispute is between the objective, non-aligned, unbiased, secularists and the devotees of religion, then religion is beaten before it has had its turn at bat. To give a closely related analogy, the person who can paint himself as "non-partisan" rises above the field of pointless bickering occupied by petty partisans. He seizes the moral high ground solely on his self-identification. The question is no longer which party is better – a pox on both their houses! Something Greater Than the Partisan is here.

Similarly, if religion X says that killing babies is wrong, and religion Y says it's right, then we have a moral contest. But if religion Y is allowed to position itself as something transcending religion, it has won the issue outright.

In the past, "religion" was understood to encompass man's duties to God and the methods of discharging them. That includes not only praying and singing hymns, but being a conscientious worker or student; maintaining an honest business; loving your wife; respecting your husband; obeying your parents; keeping your word; helping your neighbors; and a lot more, including proselytizing. Our entire being – heart, soul, mind and strengthis required for the religion of Jesus. Our faith is not something that can be boxed in a church building.

Now that we have an understanding of the word "religion," how can we define "secular"? It simply means non-religious. I would expect that a secular government, in theory, would be neutral toward all religions. How can we square this connotation with the Obama administration's naked hostility toward the practice of the Christian faith? But the problem isn't just one President. Going back a century, the United States government has plundered the property of its citizens, enslaved some persons to work for others, engaged in national gambling schemes, approved the slaughter of innocents, kept the guilty alive if not free, taught disobedience to parents and scorn for the Bible, encouraged sloth and envy, and done many other things contrary to my religion. Each heavenly Commandment probably has a dozen federal programs arrayed against it. I can hardly agree that the government's relentless anti-Christ attacks have nothing to do with religion.

What Dr. Reno calls secularism is in fact the state religion of the USA. It has a god: the state. It has an orthodoxy: creeds of climate change, Neo-Darwinism, Keynesianism, socialism, and others. It has priests, which we call "teachers," indoctrinating catechumens from temples called public schools. It has ushers called "agents" to collect the involuntary offerings. And of course it has its good works. The state religion is all about almsgiving, at least on the surface.

So in what way is the "secularism" of Washington D.C. not a religion? Well, it doesn't call itself a religion. But many Christians say that "Christianity is not a religion; it's a relationship." And I agree with their meaning, even as I reluctantly class Christianity as a religion for the sake of some discussions. Will the encyclopedias now rewrite their articles on Christianity to begin, "Christianity is one of the three great monotheistic whatchamacallits"? Is something not a religion just because its adherents don't wish it to be called such?

All laws are based on morals, and morality is based on our perception of Ultimate Things, which is another way to describe theology. So all laws are at root religious laws, and all arguments for or against any law are religious arguments. If, as our founders declared, all our rights come from God, then every law we invent to secure those rights is religious in its essence. Likewise, every law we devise against those rights comes from a spiritual source. Secularism as Dr. Reno understands it may exist somewhere, but it does not exist in Washington, D.C. If we cede this issue, we surrender America to the followers of a deceitful, violent and extremely intolerant religion.

© Dan Popp


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