Saturday, December 8, 2007

Religionists Seeking Political and Cultural Hegemony

At one time in the not so distant past, the United States was routinely recognized as a secular society. By this it was meant that civil society was free of the impositions of religious dogma and a citizen's faith, or lack thereof, in religious doctrine was his or her personal choice.

The right-wing evangelical movement in this country has, however, attempted to rewrite our history and remake the U.S. into a “Christian Nation,” a concept anathema to our founding fathers. In so doing they have tried to stigmatize the terms “secular” and “humanism” in the same way that the terms “socialism” and “atheism” have been stigmatized in the past. Bill O’Reiley’s decrying of the so-called “War on Christmas,” the supposed attempt by “secular progressives” to subvert the ‘Christmas spirit,” which he trots out each December, is in actuality one front in the premeditated attempt by right-wing extremists to wage a war on secularism and to subvert and destroy our first amendment right to be free of religious intimidation and control.

Now this war on the secular underpinnings of American culture and society has been openly declared by Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for president and a self-avowed Mormon. In his recent “Faith in America” speech Romney declared:

“In recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

"The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust.

"We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders – in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'

"Nor would I separate us from our religious heritage. Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a political office, is this: does he share these American values: the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty?”

The above quote is chock full of misinformation and doublethink. The idea of a “religion of secularism” is particularly pernicious and a complete oxymoron. Religion is “belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe,” while secularism is characterized by being “not specifically related to religion or to a religious body.” Secularism is not a religion but a guiding principle for a civil society free of religious domination! What Romney proposes is the exact opposite, a society founded on a presumptive set of faith-based beliefs.

Culturally, renewed attempts are being made to censor children’s classics that have a non-religious tenor, such as the Harry Potter books and the recently released film “The Golden Compass.” Non-believers, agnostics and atheists are portrayed as “outsiders” who are a threat to American cultural (i.e. religious) values. This two pronged attack, both cultural and political, is gaining adherents in both political parties as candidates pander to the lowest common denominator within the electorate.

I’m greatly encouraged that many patriotic citizens are beginning to come together to challenge these assaults on our fundamental right to freedom from religion, which is as inherent an America right as freedom of religion. I for one could care less what anyone believes in on a personal level, but will fight for and defend my right to be free of the imposition of those beliefs on me and other non-believers in the public square.

No comments: