Standing up to our new monolithic religion
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.
A monument with the Ten Commandments on them is removed from outside West Union High School in West Union, Ohio in June, 2003