Secularism isn’t a Neutral Position
by Lenny Esposito
Should Christianity have a voice in politics, education, and the public square? Many people think so. They tend to believe that you can hold whatever belief you wish, as long as you don’t “force your faith into a secular government.”1 Organizations like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State have been trying to systematically remove all crosses or any type of religious displays set up on city or county properties. The thought is that in public areas such as schools and government a secular viewpoint is neutral while a religious viewpoint is biased.
But I don’t think that’s true, and neither does philosopher Brendan Sweetman. In his book Why Politics Needs Religion, Sweetman discusses why secularism is anything but a neutral position. He first builds the case that secularism is a distinct worldview with its own specific beliefs. He states that every worldview is what he calls “a philosophy of life” In other words it is the grid through which we see and make sense of the world. Sweetman notes that every worldview holds the following traits:2
- It is concerned with three primary areas: nature of reality, the nature of persons, and the nature of moral and political values.
- It contains a number of life-regulating beliefs.
- Not all beliefs can be fully proven or demonstrated.
- It is exemplified by certain rituals, practices or behaviors.
- It offers a moral code.
- Proponents will explain, defend, and seek to persuade others to their understanding.
After outlining these traits, Sweetman notes how secularism clearly holds to each of the categories above. By denying the interjection of God or any kind of supernatural entities, secularists hold the nature of reality and the nature of persons are purely physical. Sweetman quotes the famous opening line from Carl Sagan in his Cosmos series, claiming “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.” Sagan makes a clearly metaphysical claim yet secularists would never object to this series because of a distinctively religious viewpoint. Of course, secularists claim that the nature of values comes from ourselves…
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