Tags: The | Increasing | Secularism | the | U.S.

The Increasing Secularism of the U.S.

Thursday, 31 March 2005 12:00 AM

A perverse image comes to mind: a vampire cowering in fear when the dreaded cross is flashed in front of him. Thus militant secularists recoil in horror when they are confronted with religious symbols in the course of their everyday lives.

While believers and non-believers come in all different varieties, one wonders what the real animus against religious beliefs and practices must be for agnostics and atheists. Is it simply general discomfort, the way a Michigan football fan might feel in the middle of Ohio State partisans?

Why would an atheist bring a case all the way to the Supreme Court in the attempt to strike the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance? Why would a father sue the Boy Scouts to force them to admit his atheist son to their theistic ranks?

Pared of the usual smokescreen reasons – separation of church and state, discrimination, etc. – the root cause in all these cases is mere hubris – the arrogant, overweening presumption of non-believers that they have the corner on the truth.

Life is, as they say, too short for believers to be worried about the trivial matters that set atheists to vibrating: whether the Ten Commandments should hang in a schoolroom; if Frostie the Snowman must be included in a manger scene; or if traditional Christmas carols should be removed from the high school choral repertory.

What bothers atheists and agnostics is the fact that the religious have a measure of certainty about their beliefs – they believe in a higher power that has some interaction with human beings. Non-believers have no such certainty, only doubts. What is more important, they resent the fact that believers claim certainty.

While believers really don't care that there exist atheists among them – except as souls to be saved, perhaps – atheists can't stand the fact that there are so many believers. So they superciliously construe any public demonstrations or symbols of faith as an affront to their sensibilities – no more, no less.

What concerns believers, however, is the increasing secularization of the country. Since over 80 percent of all Americans claim to be religious, this process is being driven by a minority, using a misreading of the First Amendment – the tail wagging the proverbial dog. It is an irony that atheists claim intolerance by the majority, yet it is they who aggressively run to court to have their views prevail.

Believers maintain that morality ultimately derives from God, who has been revealed to humankind throughout history. By contrast, secularists believe that moral issues can be resolved on a purely rational basis.

These two contradictory positions remain a mystery; suffice to say that every person must reach his or her own answers based upon religious teaching, philosophic questioning and personal experience.

The implications for a society whose members and leaders are not informed by moral and ethical principles are vast. Whether these derive from a higher power is an open question and people will ultimately choose their sides.

Finally, it would be helpful if every truth-seeker would take a course in the philosophy of religion, which might bring some intellectual modesty to these matters. It might similarly even reveal the truth of which Isaiah spoke, about how the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

Barrett Kalellis is a Michigan-based columnist and writer whose articles appear regularly in various local and national print and online publications. He may be reached at

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A perverse image comes to mind: a vampire cowering in fear when the dreaded cross is flashed in front of him.Thus militant secularists recoil in horror when they are confronted with religious symbols in the course of their everyday lives. While believers and non-believers...
The,Increasing,Secularism,the,U.S.
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2005-00-31
Thursday, 31 March 2005 12:00 AM
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