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A Definition Of Secular Fundamentalism

Erin Manning, in top form, riffing off the thread about the ACLU suing a Louisiana school over its alleged religious discrimination against a Buddhist kid:

If this case is as reported, then the ACLU is in the right here, as so many have said. Several commenters have asked for a definition of sorts of secular fundamentalism, though, and I’d like to offer one. The secular fundamentalist believes the following things:

–One’s religious beliefs are a sort of personal hobby, like following sports or taking part in amateur theater, with one major difference: following sports or partaking in theater are things the state is inclined to approve of, but religious beliefs are a somewhat undesirable quality for a good citizen. No one objects when a passionate golfer or avid amateur theater participant shows up at the city council to give favorable testimony about the building of a new golf course or new theater building, but religious citizens are supposed to leave their religious beliefs at home, *especially* when speaking in front of the city council or any other government entity.

–While all religions are false, they are not all equal. The good citizen should differentiate between religions which encourage good citizenship (such as those faiths which help hand out condoms to homeless prostitutes, say) and those which do not. Any time people argue in the name of religion against state policies, initiatives, or programs, that is proof that their religion is one of the bad ones that should be stifled whenever possible.

–It is a given that “bad” religions have never done any good, and students must be taught that followers of those religions only did anything good when they went against their religions leaders or violated their religion’s teachings. Christianity is foremost among the “bad” religions, but there are others–however, political correctness may require the secularist to pretend that those other religions aren’t really bad at times.

–Despite the fact that there are some “good” religions, the default belief of the secular fundamentalist is that religions and the state have an inherently inimical relationship. Concepts like the separation of church and state mean, to a fundamentalist, that no church should ever be allowed to interfere in secular matters; however, it is necessary for the state to interfere in church matters all the time, such as when they decide religious employers must pay for contraception and abortions.

–The Bill of Rights must be understood in a secular fundamentalist construct. Not only must a teacher in a public school classroom not *teach* her religious beliefs (a principle most people would agree with), but her freedom of speech must be denied to her from the moment she sets foot on the school campus until the moment she leaves it (except, perhaps, for minor “speech” acts such as wearing religious jewelry–and even that ought to be denied her in a perfectly secular world). It is good and right for a teacher to share–in or out of the classroom–her personal beliefs about love, marriage, sex, family, and life generally UNLESS those beliefs have been informed by one of the “bad” religions. In other words, the teacher who divorces her husband and moves in with a girlfriend should proudly display the girlfriend’s photo in the classroom, but the teacher who believes in traditional marriage must keep her religious “bigotry” to herself.

–Finally, no state institution, entity, or enterprise can be tainted by any suspicion that it ever approves of any religion at all. The secular fundamentalist insists that the only proper attitude to have toward religion is disapproval–mild for the “good” religions, and harsh for any that hold beliefs contrary to the state’s vision for the common good, even if that vision is utterly devoid of actual virtue (and, indeed, sees the very concept of “virtue” as something inimical to good secular values).

More? Readers?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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