Sunday, May 18, 2014

Dear New Atheists: A Letter to the Wise Guys

It is very odd that the New Atheists and their supporters don’t really understand the meaning of the word secularism. It is especially odd because they throw this word around so much.

When we say, rightly, that the United States is a “secular republic”, we do not at all mean that it is an atheist republic. Rather we mean that our government does not make policy on the basis of any one particular religious denomination. This is the Founders’ concept of secular.

Our Founders recognized the wisdom of not allowing any of the competing Christian denominations to control the new state. They presumed, of course, that America would be a nation populated mostly by believers, but they legislated so that citizens of different creeds would each be required to allow space for the practices and teachings of those of other creeds. This is the American meaning of secular, as it is also the sense of our idea of separation of church and state.

Neither the concept of secularism nor the idea of separation of church and state suggest in any way that religious Americans must give up working to bring public policy into accord with their unique ideals and ethics. This is emphatically not the meaning of "secular government" or "separation". Rather, these concepts only mean: No particular religious tradition has a special right to make of the state its own instrument.

Many sharp minds have observed in recent years that the New Atheists behave as if they were a new religious movement--an especially aggressive religious movement with a clear agenda of pushing others out of the public square.

I fully agree: New Atheism is a kind of religion--in my view a kind of fundamentalist religion. For them, as long as they haven't hounded faith out of America, there can be no peace. They will work indefatigably to curtail the rights of Americans to practice their different faiths because, by definition, those faiths, not being New Atheism, are a menace to public well-being.

To the growing number of supporters of this aggressive new clique, as a Catholic, I would like to say the following.

Welcome to the American scene. Please try to behave as if you had some understanding of what this scene is all about.

Especially try to keep in mind that you are just one creed among many. You are certainly NOT America's default creed. That is not at all what Jefferson intended by "separation of church and state". Neither does it do justice to the American meaning of "secularism".

In other words, New Atheists: You've no more right to call the shots (whether in education, or public health policy, etc.) than any of the other creeds you spend most of your time trying to misrepresent and belittle. (Each of which, misrepresent and belittle, seems to be a sacrament in your church. Am I right about this? How many sacraments do you have altogether? Will censor be one of them soon?)

Your right to seek followers and promote your tenets will be respected. When, however, you try to take this right away from citizens of other creeds, then you are offending against our constitution and our nation's founding principles. And be sure that we of other creeds will fight back; we will do it to keep your un-American ideas from gaining hold. We will fight back not because you don't believe in God--that is certainly your right--but because you seek to undo the basic political order that has kept us together as a nation for almost 250 years.

To conclude: If you show that you understand the meaning of "secular democratic republic", you may continue with your proselytizing. To the degree that you try to change our secular democratic republic to an "atheist republic", to that degree we will do our best to shut you down. To the extent that your mission is predicated on taking our rights away (and sorry, but that's exactly how you've presented yourselves so far) we will really have no choice.

A word to the wise.

Or rather: A word to the wise if there are any such among you. Because, you know, "wise" and "wise guy" are not the same thing. Nor are science and scientism--this latter being the intellectual basis of your new pseudo-empiricist religion.


Eric Mader

* * *


New Atheist Truthiness and How to Fight It: Three Words

No comments: