Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Secularism and the looming threat of theocracy

Hunter Baker, author of The End of Secularism, has made available online all of an interview he gave for an article about the rise of secularism. He first responded to "What exactly is secularism about?"
Secularism is about removing religion/consideration of God from public life. The desire to do so does not have to be invidious. Those who embrace secularism, including many Christians, often do so because they believe it is a good answer to the problem of religious difference among people in a political community. They think that if they can remove differences among people, especially religious differences, our community will grow stronger. At the same time, secularists tend to see religion as something human beings once needed, but no longer do. They think religion is irrational and extraneous to the things that really matter in life.
Baker's answer to those worried about the threat of an American theocracy:
It is not a valid concern in the United States. Our national identity, formed and shaped by both devout Christians and Enlightenment philosophers, fully embraces religious liberty and the separation of church and state. In fact, there is a powerful religious argument (well delivered by Martin Luther, by John Locke in his Letter Concerning Toleration, by the Baptists, and by others) that coerced religion is actually offensive to God and merely causes people to sin by lying about their convictions.

You hear conservative Christians complaining about the separation of church and state, but they are actually failing to voice their real concern. In fact, they object to secularization of the public square which they feel goes too far. .... Separation of church and state, properly understood, means that the two entities are institutionally separate. It doesn’t mean religious faith can’t be part of our identity as a public community or that the church has nothing to say to the state about politics.

With regard to concerns about theocracy, I think this is an area where men and women of the left have been inconsistent. They loved having liberal clergy “speak truth to power” or “speak prophetically” in the 1960’s. But when conservative pastors and priests entered the fray on the part of unborn children in the 1970’s and 1980’s, they were never given credit for “speaking truth to power”. Instead, they were accused of being theocrats, despite the fact that you can argue in good faith that they were challenging structures of power on behalf of a vulnerable population. .... [more]
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