1) Religious skepticism or indifference.
2) The view that religious considerations should be excluded from civil affairs or public education.
“For far more evangelical leaders around the world, the influence of secularism, not Islam, is the major threat, according to a newly released survey.” –World Magazine
“The leader of the Catholic church in Scotland has used his Easter address to attack ‘aggressive secularism’, suggesting there were ‘those who would indeed try to destroy our Christian heritage and culture and take God from the public square.’”– The Guardian
“A natural outcome of assimilation and secularism is atheism, and it’s a pernicious threat to Jews.” — Jewish Defense League
“And that’s what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.”– Mike Huckabee
“Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate,” — Pope Benedict XVI
I have never understood why there is freedom of speech, and yet we cannot pray in schools or talk about God. I can’t be the only one wrestling with this. Yes, religious freedom in America is under assault from secularization and even such groups as the gay rights movement.–Kimberlie Zakarian, LMFT, La Vie Counseling Center
Many religious people, of all traditions, see secularism as a threat, a way to drain God from human life, to flip Him the bird, to create a “naked public square” in which God doesn’t receive His due as creator and ruler and which is harmful to society since that society will lack God’s guidance. They see secularism as the destruction of religion, as not just the rejection of religion itself, but the denial of religious people a place in the decisions and direction of society.
These people look back to a golden time, when men and women were united under the guidance of a specific tradition, guided by the words of a prophet and the laws of the divine, when there was certainty and clarity in how to live and that certainty was reflected in the structures of society: it’s laws, morals, etiquette. These were societies where a person could be sure of his or her place, not just in the world, but in the afterworld, where society proved it’s love for each individual by making it difficult for them to sin, to miss the goal God had for them, the future for which they were created.
Now they see a world increasingly secularized, which has no place for a very important part of the human experience: the spiritual. They are being repeatedly told that the laws of their societies cannot be determined by divine revelation, that the religious tradition upon which the society was built is no longer relevant to modern decision making, that they have no voice and no power which would allow them to prevent or punish what they see as sin or wrong-doing which is occurring around them. That they must stand by as others flaunt the revelation of God-established traditions which have stood the ages. That for some reason, the modern world is different and the rules must change.
Which is exactly the point. Times have changed. We are no longer a world made up of monolithic societies separated by vast distances and ignorance. We are one world, every part becoming more and more heterogeneous united by modern communications and transportation. I think those who refuse to recognize it and see the place of secularism suffer from:
- lack of faith
Now before we continue, let’s get something straight. I am quite religious. I’m a long time follower of the passionate desert God of Abraham, Jesus and Muhammed (pbuh), the God of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, the God of Rumi and Hafiz, the God of the Grail Seekers and the Troubadors and the Kabbalists. I see the world through the lens of my faith, my knowledge and my devotion. Very spiritual, very religious.
Yet, I think secularism is a great thing for every believer in every tradition and that the objection to it comes from a wrong headedness about what following the Divine means.
Laziness. The folks who dislike the idea of secularism want the society around them to reflect their religion and it’s doctrines, to display and teach it’s practices . . . so they don’t have to. But that makes no sense to me. Why should I worry about my kids praying in school if I’ve got them praying at home and in my chosen house of worship ? Why should I worry if the Ten Commandments are posted on the courthouse wall if I have them in my home ? Why should I want the state teaching people about my religion when I can do that ? Why should I want the state controlling what’s for sale on the book shelves when it’s my duty to follow my tradition’s guidance in choosing what I read ? If the parents are established as the “priesthood” of the home, why would we rely on outsiders to do our job ?
In other words: if I’m practicing my tradition fully, I don’t need the state to do any of this stuff. I can do it myself, with the help and support of a community of fellow believers. And if the state prevents me from doing any of those things I’m supposed to not do, then I really don’t get any credit (karma, blessings, discipline, baraka, whatever) from not doing it. Where’s the challenge in choosing not to sin if I don’t have the opportunity to do it ? Secularism, a situation in which I have to work to practice my tradition with my own strength, will and choice, is actually beneficial for me as a practitioner. Unless I’m so lazy I want folks with guns and badges to live my spiritual life for me.
Lack of faith. As though God can’t make things happen the way S/He wants without our help. Does God really care who controls hunks of land in the Middle East ? If so, why doesn’t He send some angels down to settle the issue ? Does He care what books are on the shelves, what food in the stores, what movies on Netflix ? Not really, because God doesn’t live “out there”, in the sky or another dimension or the like. The basis of so much of the hatred of secularism is based on the idea that we can fool God, that if we make things look holy and sacred, He’ll think wonderful things about us. But that’s foolish, because as the experts will tell you, God isn’t “out there”, He’s “in here”.
“Allah says, ‘neither My Heaven or My earth can contain Me, but the heart of My believing servant can contain Me.” – Islamic Hadith
“nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” – Luke 17:21
“Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself.”― Rumi
“We are closer to man than his jugular vein”- Qur’an 50:16
“The God within is your Spiritual Heart. Your Soul. And in that individual Soul, rests God- rests the One. Go into your soul and your heart-space which can be Awareness, Love, Compassion, etc…and just BE your heart-space. BE your Soul so that you can LOVE unconditionally.”~Ram Dass
The point is, that secularism cannot separate anyone from Divinity, because Divinity isn’t out where secularism works: the world. (“Be in the world, but not of the world” ?). Divinity lives within us, connects with our heart, works through us (“body of Christ”). For the anti-secularists to believe that anything our society does can really separate us from the Divine is a lack-of-faith. Our work isn’t out in the world, but in our own hearts, minds and souls and thus we become the hands and voice of the Divine. Which leads to:
Blindness. The anti-secularists don’t see that secularism is actually an opportunity for any and all believers. Look at societies which try to embody a religion is law and rules. Saudi Arabia, medieval Europe, Communist Russia, present-day China, Iran. Those set-ups are fine if it’s your religion and your interpretation of that religion being made law (and in the modern day world, what are the chances of any country being that monolithic ?). But if it’s otherwise, the result is chaos. Persecution, violence, brutality, oppression result. How easy is it for any believer to live out her tradition in such an atmosphere ? In such an environment survival becomes an issue, let alone fully living out one’s calling as a believer. Not to mention the shame and ugliness which then becomes associated with the ruling religion (Christianity will never get over the Inquisition).
Much better for the believer is a benign secularism which ignores religion, any religion, and leaves it totally up to the individual and voluntary associations (church, mosque, coven, synagogue, etc.). Of course, this means such a society must have the basic rights structure to allow such a system: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of assembly and the other classics which leave us free to practice our religion and then act as free and equal members of a society.
We do step into a naked public square, where no gods are invoked, no scriptures waved around, no prophets quoted. And no guns fired, no heretics or witches or gays burned, no Jews gassed, no Mormons lynched.
But that doesn’t mean Divinity isn’t present. S/He will work through the heart and voice of every believer there who, inspired by their God, will rally reason, proof and the common good in the marketplace of ideas. If God is in the hearts of His followers, He can’t be stopped. No one needs to explain why they voted as they did. It can be because they thought it out or prayed for guidance. Consulted the tarot or the Torah. This shouldn’t be an issue and no one is prevented from expressing the will and voice of their Divinity. As long as they leave the guns and the stick of authority at home.