Christianity and the threat of secularismJanuary 19, 2008 — Deacon Duncan
Writing for townhall.com, Chuck Colson tries to make a case linking “extreme secularism” with Islamic fundamentalism. His argument claims that liberal Christians are too soft on Islamic intolerance and too hard on their own faith (an argument which might have a grain of truth in it), but I’m particularly intrigued by his opening line.
In my new just-released book, The Faith, I argue that the two greatest challenges to the Christian worldview come from radical Islam and extreme secularism.
Again, there may be a grain of truth in that statement, but I have to ask: why exactly is Christianity so threatened by secularism? In a word, because their God is not part of secular reality, and that really bugs them.
Secularism is the belief that our relationships with one another ought to be based on that which we all share in common. Different people may have different subjective beliefs, especially as regards religious topics like morality and the existence of god(s). But the one thing we all have in common is that we all experience the same objective reality. Reality is the one universal, infallible, and unbiased standard of Truth, and therefore we ought to turn to the real world, rather than to the subjective beliefs of this or that sub-group, in order to define the values and rules that will govern us all.
Secularism strikes me as particularly fair and impartial, because it allows each one to believe whatever he or she likes with regards to his or her own subjective religious views. The only time one’s views become subject to judgment is when they can be verified by comparing them to the infallible standard of real world truth–and in such cases, one’s views are either consistent with real world truth (in which case they are right) or they are not (in which case they are wrong). It’s not that anybody’s views would be rejected for being unpopular, or because other people had more political or military power over the believer. It’s because such beliefs are testable, and found false by the infallible and objective standard of reality itself.
Though fair and impartial, secularism is a threat to the Christian world view, because Christians make claims about the real world which are inconsistent with what we find in reality itself. Christianity cannot be content with letting each individual believe whatever he or she likes, in the subjective world of his or her own religious views, because that means conceding that Christianity is not an objective, real-world truth. That puts Christians on the horns of a dilemma, since they can neither provide verifiable evidence consistent with the Trinity’s existence, nor admit that theirs is a purely subjective belief. And there is but one way out of this dilemma.
Demonize the secularists.
Granted, this does nothing to actually resolve the dilemma, but it does allow Christians like Colson to turn their attention away from their own existential problems, and focus their frustrations on a convenient scapegoat. Hence Colson’s attempt to group secularists and Islamic fundamentalists into a single category of “enemies of good (i.e. Christianity).” If you think about it, though, it is the secularist view that really offers us the best hope for dealing with both Christian and Islamic fundamentalism. If the rule is that you can’t impose on others what you can’t find a real-world justification for, then we can manage to live together without sending out suicide bombers (or abortion clinic bombers). You can even preach whatever Gospel (or Koran) you like, as long as you respect other people’s secular rights. And if your God never actually shows up in the real world, well, that’s not the secularists’ fault.