Reasons for a Religion-Free Society
And how come in a democratic and Christian United States, Nativity scenes and public prayers are banned? How come seventh grader Amber Mangum was forbidden to read a Bible in the school cafeteria during her lunch period at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School in Prince George’s County, Md.? How come British Airways worker Nadia Eweida was fired for wearing a cross?
What led people into such “Christianophobia” and “religion-phobia”?
By exploring history (explore it with me by clicking on this story at NCRegister.com, where a longer version appears), I came to the conclusion that secularism is fed by at least eight ideas and five motives. Ideas are philosophical thoughts of the mind. By motives, I mean selfish or unselfish desires and interests that appeal to the will.
Ideas explain the “whys” and motives the “what fors” of secularism.
Naturally, not all secularists are led by all these ideas and motives. Each one may be motivated by three, four or five of them. I think the following list will help us understand secularists’ mindset and objectives.
1. Radical immanentism. The question about God’s existence is trivial. The only important or existing reality is mankind and the universe. People should live “etsi Deus non daretur” (as if God didn’t exist).
2. Man is divine. If God is nonexistent or irrelevant, “man is for man the supreme being,” as Karl Marx put it.
3. Rationalism. Supernatural faith is false or useless. Human reason is the only source of knowledge and criterion for the truth.
4. The absolutization of liberty. Freedom is understood, in the first place, as liberation from God, religious tradition, the dictates of faith and ecclesiastical authority. Man has the right to independently establish his own criteria about how to live and how to run society.
5. Religion is negative or insignificant, either because it has been and continues to be the source of the greatest evils for mankind or because it is a mere sentimental and irrelevant social factor. Religion, therefore, should die out or occupy a marginal and private role in society.
6. The absolutization of the state. Since transcendence does not provide for the foundations of our civilization, the state becomes the source of all values and human rights. Consequently, the separation between the church and state must be absolute, meaning that the former must submit to the dictates of political power.
7. Scientism. As the only source of knowledge and progress, science and technology have the priority over all ethical and religious considerations.
8. Consumerism. Personal and collective well-being exclusively lies on material goods and social success.
Based on these philosophical reasons, a number of desires and interests can be identified.
First motive: World peace. In a pluralistic and multireligious society, peace among peoples can only be achieved by the annihilation of dogmatic and divisive religion.
Second motive: Social and political autonomy. By getting rid of ecclesiastical authority and religious ethics, our civilization can run its own business in the most efficient and flexible way.
Third motive: Freedom of thought. Independence from obsolete traditions and ideas is the necessary path toward human maturity — the capacity to think for oneself.
Fourth motive: Building a political utopia. Without religion, mankind can establish a better or a perfect civilization — a novus ordo seclorum (a new world order), as it says on the U.S. dollar bill.
Fifth motive: Enjoying earthly life. It seems that religion, especially Christianity, with its insistence on the afterlife and right ethical human behavior, hinders us from enjoying worldly goods.
An excellent summary of these ideas and motives can be found in the lyrics of John Lennon’s famous song “Imagine.” As you read these words, try to identify secularist reasons and goals.
“Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try. … Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for; and no religion, too. Imagine all the people; living for today. … Imagine no possessions. I wonder if you can. No need for greed or hunger; a brotherhood of man. … [J]oin us, and the world will be as one.”
Is it true that a religion-free society with people exclusively living for today will create a brotherhood of man and the world will be as one?
Next, we will take a look into what the Holy Father thinks about secularism. We will also spot its flaws and find arguments and strategies to overcome it.
The secularist project is rooted in some interesting ideas and motives that we must direct in order to build an authentic civilization of justice and love.
Legionary Father Alfonso Aguilar teaches philosophy
at Rome’s Regina
- December 7-13, 2008