CELEBRATION OR SILENCE UNDER SECULARISM?

FREEDOM-OF-RELIGION-ACT

American school children are taught that Europeans came to the new world for greater religious freedom. Such freedom is supposed to be facilitated through the process of secularism, separation of church and state. But does secularism produce religious freedom? Religion is not only missing from the political sphere, it is largely missing from the public sphere altogether. (The exception seems to be in instances where there is money to be made.) And rather than freedom for people practice any faith of their choosing, faith traditions have become marginalized. Under secularism, freedom of religion is often silenced instead of celebrated.

How do we celebrate faith traditions rather than silence them? The answer starts with abandoning our ideas of mutual exclusivity. Listening to people talk about their faith, and even if their faith is not your own, does not reduce the amount of your own faithfulness. A Christian can show enthusiasm or support for a Jewish friend studying the Talmud, without being less of a Christian. A Jewish person can support a Buddhist friend to return to a neglected meditation practice, without being a sinner. An Atheist can even wish a Muslim, “Happy Eid”, without compromising their own philosophy.

It’s not about philosophy vs. philosophy, but people holding up people. When people start to support others’ spiritual beliefs without bias, then secularism will be able to provide true freedom. That is the only way to make it fair. Either every tradition and philosophy is silenced, or all are celebrated. As long as people insist on picking and choosing one faith over others, silence will be the only option for secularism.

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3 thoughts on “CELEBRATION OR SILENCE UNDER SECULARISM?

  1. A more accurate description, despite it being a neologism, of our founders’ goals would be a “sectular” society. Christianity was, and really still is, the de facto faith of America. All of their writings make it clear that they were thinking in terms of differing sects / denominations of Christianity.

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    1. Thanks for your interesting take. ‘Sectular’ is a great way to describe that interpretation. I am curious as to your perspective on how our founders’ goals (specifically the constitution and the first amendment) should be interpreted in modern times.

      Those supporting gun restrictions often cite the second amendment stating that it must be taken in context and can only be applied to weapons of the time (muskets and the like). That argument does not stand up with gun enthusiasts. If the freedoms of the constitution evolve with weaponry, wouldn’t the same logic have to apply to religion? Christianity may have been the de facto religion then, but it does not fit into that role so neatly now. I am not a gun enthusiast. I do not think that the freedom to bear arms and the freedom of religion are dependent on one another in their own right, but it brings to light an interesting question of interpretation: Which components of the constitution are tied to their context in time, and which are timeless?

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  2. As for what our founders seemed to have envisaged, judging by their writings, the 1st Amendment religious clause was meant to protect the church from the state, not the opposite…though that specifically included there never being an official state religion. That’s also tied up with the 2nd Amendment since it was reworded several times so that one’s religious doctrine couldn’t be used to prevent you from being in the military / militia. Then there’s the fact that the 2nd Amendment is the only thing other than good wishes protecting all the other parts of the constitution and the founders knew that when they wrote it.

    As for the bulk of the 2nd Amendment – it devolved, rather than evolved with time and history. Some people’s view of it as pertaining to muskets and the like but they’re looking at it wrong. Those muskets and the like (including cannon, which were privately owned) were the battlefield arms of the day. A straight evolution would mean we could easily get M-16’s / M-4’s instead of merely AR-15’s.

    That all being said, things do change. One of the biggest changes being we have so many, many more laws now, all of which impact the constitution in some form or other.

    But Christianity is still the de facto religion in the US. That hasn’t particularly changed. Just the “quality” of the congregation and the orthodoxy of it has. Churches seem to be dying off, not underlying faith.

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