Stand­ing up to our new mono­lithic re­li­gion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

press­ing their frus­tra­tion with sec­u­lar­ism as the pre­ferred ide­ol­ogy of many elites in pol­i­tics, me­dia, and ed­u­ca­tion.

“Chris­tians should ab­so­lutely bring their faith to bear in the pub­lic square,” Mr. Baker con­tin­ues. “They should re­ject the in­flu­ence of sec­u­lar­ism urg­ing them to keep their faith pri­vate and not to ar­gue for a Chris­tian per­spec­tive in ar­eas like pol­i­tics and ed­u­ca­tion.” Yet he also con­tends: “What they must not do is to re­peat the mis­take of min­gling the church’s fu­ture with that of the state.”

Not only is there no ob­jec­tive judge im­par­tially ref­er­ee­ing dis­putes among dif­fer­ent re­li­gious faiths, but the sec­u­lar­ists also of­ten ap­peal to val­ues bor­rowed from Jewish and Chris­tian moral­ity. Mr. Baker, in ef­fect, asks: Are lib­erty and equal­ity or even char­ity and mercy more sci­en­tif­i­cally ver­i­fi­able than the Vir­gin birth or Jonah be­ing swal­lowed by a whale?

“If we are equal,” Mr. Baker writes, “it is al­most surely in the sense of be­ing equal be­fore God, be­cause we are in fact equal in vir­tu­ally no other way.” But equal­ity is an im­por­tant part of our coun­try’s sec­u­lar creed, run­ning through the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence all the way through the most con­tentious po­lit­i­cal de­bates of to­day.

In place of sec­u­lar­ism, Mr. Baker does not pro­pose theoc­racy. In­stead, he wants to rely on the mar­ket­place of ideas. “Plu­ral­ism is bet­ter than sec­u­lar­ism be­cause it is not ar­ti­fi­cial,” he main­tains. “In a plu­ral­is­tic en­vi­ron­ment, we sim­ply en­ter the pub­lic square and say who we are and what we be­lieve.” We there­fore can make ar­gu­ments de­rived from re­li­gion, leav­ing our coun­try­men free to ac­cept or re­ject them as they would purely sec­u­lar ar­gu­ments.

Of course, the Amer­i­can civil re­li­gion may not be sec­u­lar­ism as much as what has been called “ther­a­peu­tic moral deism” — the ab­stract faith in a mostly im­per­sonal God who wants us to think nice thoughts, much like the con­cept Mr. Baker re­jected when he be­came a se­ri­ous Chris­tian. “The End of Sec­u­lar­ism” doesn’t much ad­dress this.

Nei­ther does the book make it en­tirely clear that we are wit­ness­ing the end of sec­u­lar­ism or a beginning of re­li­gious plu­ral­ism, any­more than Fran­cis Fukuyama’s most fa­mous book re­ally pre­saged an end of his­tory. But Mr. Baker has pre­sented us with a fair, ju­di­cious and mostly per­sua­sive ar­gu­ment against a pub­lic square that has no clothes.

W. James Antle III is as­so­ciate ed­i­tor of the Amer­i­can Spec­ta­tor.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A mon­u­ment with the Ten Com­mand­ments on them is re­moved from out­side West Union High School in West Union, Ohio in June, 2003

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