Author Topic: The Myth of Secular Neutrality  (Read 1594 times)

Dan Fienen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 13248
    • View Profile
Re: The Myth of Secular Neutrality
« Reply #30 on: July 07, 2016, 01:27:53 PM »
A second point, and more to the point of the article that I referenced at the beginning of this discussion thread.

Secular materialism, the belief that there is nothing in our reality beyond our physical universe is a belief.  It is no more subject to proof than are alternative theistic belief systems.  Advocates for secular materialism may offer evidence to support their position, as has theists, including especially Christian apologetics, but ultimately it is a belief.  As St. Paul famously put it, belief is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence for which is not seen.  While it is obvious how that applies to religion, it also applies to secular materialism in that the tenets of that faith - that this physical  universe is all there is and that God or anything similar does not exist nor influence the physical universe - also goes beyond what the evidence can prove.  So called proofs for the existence of God are notoriously not rigorous proofs, but proofs for the non-existence of God are no more solid.  Ultimately it is a matter of faith and where you place it.

We are a secular society with freedom of religion.  No one religion is given precedence over other religions.  But on the other hand, all religions are available for worshippers and the freedom of people to follow their religion without hindrance or restraint is a fundamental enumerated right.  Within limits.  At times the needs of the government to provide for the common good mean restricting one religion or another.  It is where to draw that line that becomes an issue.  In the past that has varied.  Minority religions have at times seen restrictions that more popular religions have not.  Native American religions have at times seen their use of peyote severely restricted while even during prohibition Christian religions like Roman Catholics and Lutherans were able to obtain wine for sacramental uses.  Religious rights received greater protection with the federal RFRA in 1993 and subsequent parallel state actions that imposed strict limits on government actions that would restrict people's exercise of their religion and imposed a high bar for imposing burdens, even incidentally, on religion.  Religion does not get an absolute free pass, but stringent tests must be met in order to justify laws, rules and regulations that place burdens on free exercise of religion.

That trend seems to be reversing itself again as the area for free exercise of religion is tending to shrink.  Going back to the HHS contraception mandates under the ACA the attempt was made to restrict religious exemptions only to churches themselves, places and legal entities where the faithful gather to worship.  Religious based institutions that dealt with the public were to receive no religious exemption.  Individual Christians who attempt to apply the tenets of their faith in their everyday life and business have been sanctioned, fined and/or prosecuted if their faith does not fall in line with anti-discrimination laws and the like.  Again, religious freedom does not apply to life in public but only when it is concerned with religious exercises among the faithful.  Then there is the California law that would restrict the financial aid given generally to California students enrolling in college from being used at colleges that have a general religious component to their educational offerings.  Religion could be a part only of those portions of the college devoted to the preparation of church workers with that state to define what that would be.  Discrimination against students and the institutions the choose to frequent simply because they are religious.  Now this Iowa law that would even impose restrictions on what can be said in public worship because it is public.  I agree that the Iowa law will likely not pass constitutional muster, but it does show a continuing trend.  It is proposed by an agency of the state government not some fringe nut group.

Into this a kind of de facto materialistic secularism is offered as a kind of neutral framework in which people can interact irrespective of their religious beliefs.  Only it isn't really working out that way.  First of all the materialistic outlook that looks on all religion with suspicion is itself a belief system that answers many of the same questions for people that religion does.  It becomes not a neutral playing field where all religions may freely interact but a rival system that tends to push all other religions out of public life and make themselves something private to be practiced in private only among the faithful.  In peoples public life they are expected to act in accordance to non-religious even anti-religious secularism.  Not neutral at all but sneakily sectarian.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

Dan Fienen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 13248
    • View Profile
Re: The Myth of Secular Neutrality
« Reply #31 on: July 07, 2016, 01:47:26 PM »
But if religious people feel called to protest, advocacy and actions in support of causes that the progressive establishment dislike, suddenly their religious nature is held against them and the cry goes up that they should not push their religion on others, that they don't get to make laws according to their religion, that their religion should not be a part of the public debate.  Look at how the anti-abortion conflict has been played out, advocacy for the traditional understanding of marriage and the like.  Religious people who do not advocate for the progressives' preferred position are told that their religion disqualifies them from advocacy.

Pr. Fienen - this gets back to the question that I asked above.  What does "advocating for Jesus" look like?  I can understand why religious persons might feel compelled to engage the specific "anti-progressive" causes that you mentioned.  But, I have difficulty understanding how such causes square with "love they neighbor".  And, if advocacy does not square with "love they neighbor", how is it possible to conclude that it is "advocating for Jesus"?
You're operating with an unexpressed assumption, namely that only those causes that are approved by those who consider themselves progressives are truly good for the neighbor and that all those not approved are not good for the neighbor and hateful toward the neighbor.

If I see my neighbor ready to take a swig from a bottle that I know to be poison and he does not, am I "loving my neighbor" if I choose not to become involved?  Wouldn't the loving thing be to stop him from drinking it?  Generally religious institutions and groups organize to support some causes or oppose others because they love their neighbors and believe that what they support will be good for their neighbors and what they oppose will be bad for them.

In 2012 there were nearly 700,000 abortions in the United States.  That is down from previous years.  But even if you allow for abortions in the cases where the baby if born would be non-viable, that is still hundreds of thousands of people who could have lived who now will not.  You may agree that their deaths were somehow a benefit to their mothers, families and communities not to be, as do the advocates for abortion.  (If nothing else, it has been argued, it is cheaper to abort babies than to let them live.  How progressive 8) put dollars over life!?!)  But can you really say that the pro-life/anti-abortion people advocate as they do because they do not love and have no concern for their neighbors?  Is advocating for the most vulnerable and least powerful antithetical to advocating for Jesus?

It has been the contention of many who have advocated for traditional marriage and against same-sex marriage that changing marriage to include same-sex couples will damage the institution of marriage and in the process damage society.  Obviously, many disagree with that position and they have prevailed.  But does the fact that the tradition marriage folks lost that debate mean that they were not operating out of love for their neighbors?  How narrow minded!
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS