operation secular democratic humanism...
[ABC religion and ethics] Editor's note: Few topics are as contentious today as the role of religion in political debate and public deliberation. Rival positions rely on differing accounts of history, conceptions of "religion" and convictions about the role of the state. Russell Blackford (University of Newcastle) and William Cavanaugh (DePaul University) have both written extensively on this topic, and thus their wide-ranging exchange represents an uncommonly sophisticated treatment of the issues at stake and why they matter.
The Moral Neutrality of the Secular State
Gus note: The editor, Scott Stephens, of this section called Religion and Ethics at the ABC appears to be himself a very committed religious person. The actual link to this ABC section Religion and Ethics is: http://www.abc.net.au/religion. As you can note the "Ethics" part does not appear in the link. It's petty of me to point this out but it needs to be addressed.
This is what Scott Stephens has to say on the subject of religion in regard to Waleed Aly and Andrew Bolt:
And yet there is no denying that Waleed Aly and I belong to the two religious traditions on account of whose hypocrisy "the name of God is blasphemed" throughout the West. The terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 and the torrent of revelations of clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the first half of 2002 produced the ideal conditions of possibility for the emergence of the stridently antitheistic rhetoric and materialist reductionism that would come to be synonymous with the "New Atheism."
I am at least consoled that, within the vast folds of the Islamic and Christian intellectual traditions, the inherent potential for repentance, reform and rebirth is always present, as the unending internal struggle to reflect the Divine beauty in common life goes on. But what resources, I wonder, exist within secular liberalism for the struggle against human ego?
Scott Stephens is the Religion & Ethics Editor for ABC Online.
So on with Gus' rant:
I will start by analysing what Cavanaugh writes at the end of his diatribe:
In the United States we face a secular state, armed to the teeth, that frequently goes to war to defend "freedom" and other secular ideals. The secular state I live in is often no less ambitious in domestic affairs. Blackford rejects the idea of state imposition of Christian or Muslim teachings on contraception, as do I. At the present moment in history, however, such an imposition is not even remotely possible. What is real is the Obama administration's determination to force faith-based organizations - like Catholic charities - to provide artificial contraception to their employees regardless of any beliefs that such practices are wrong. The administration's position is based precisely on the kind of argument that Blackford makes: only secular reasons like health and hygiene count when the issue is a "worldly" one. Religion is essentially otherworldly and religious reasons should not matter when it comes to public policy.
The trivialization of Christianity and other faiths is thus accompanied by the "religion of secularism" that Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart warned about fifty years ago. That is insufficiently neutral for me, and it ought to be even for atheists like Russell Blackford.
Russell Blackford is Conjoint Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Newcastle. He is the author of Freedom of Religion and the Secular State and Humanity Enhanced: Genetic Choice and the Challenge for Liberal Democracies.
William Cavanaugh is Research Professor at the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology at DePaul University, Chicago. He is the author of The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict and Migrations of the Holy: God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church.
Gus: of course, William Cavanaugh is mistaken. He lives in a fish bowl with pretty plastic flowers and an oxygenator at the bottom that makes pretty bubbles. According to the Huffington Post there is not a single professed atheist in the US congress, though of all "congressmen" there could be as much as 19 hidden atheists. That is to say that their constituents would not vote for them should they know their non-religious position. The US state maybe "secular" but 90 per cent of its constituents are "religious" and so strongly religious that more than 50 per cent do not ascribe to the theory of evolution but most accept that guns to kill is a way of life.
Secularism is not a religion. Atheism is not a religion. There is no god attached to either. Clear?. A religion is a belief in A GOD of some sort. Clear?
There is no trivialization of faith. There is only the exposure of conflicts within a faith, conflicts between faiths and conflicts that do not fit our acceptance of comforts brought in by sciences which do conflict with adherence to a faith.