The Faith Debate in America; Will It Follow Europe's Secularism?
Byline: David Cowan, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The debate about faith in America today represents a critical juncture in the nation's story. The outcome may determine whether America will go down the route of secular humanism that Europe has long since tread, or keep religion a vibrant element in the public square and in the life of citizens.
There are a range of faith issues alive in America today: the role of Christian values in the presidential election, President Bush's important faith-based initiative, public use of religious symbols, the identity of the Christmas season, the role of the Ten Commandments in our understanding of justice, and our response to the rise of popular Islam. These are a few of the faith issues that the Europeans just don't get.
In Europe, professing faith in public seems to cause an embarrassing shuffling of feet or a sneering response that we have moved beyond doctrinal matters, in the same way that adults do not believe in Santa Claus.
In this spirit, Europe has ensured God is left out of the new constitution, only churches that preach a social gospel are listened to, scandals in the church are the only high-profile stories, and minority religious groups are either listened to out of fear or met with complete incomprehension.
In Britain this contrast is made clear by attempts being made to pass a law banning incitement to religious hatred, which has caused English comedian Rowan Atkinson, aka Mr. Bean, to lead the defense of the right to freedom of speech, which includes the right to insult religion. The new laws would pave the way to repealing the law of blasphemy, so you can be as insulting as you like about Jesus, and introduce a law defending religious groups against attacks on them, as long as it's not Christian, presumably.
The philosophical basis to this European rejection of faith is the resounding confidence in the faith of secular humanism, which seeks to keep religion in its place as a sociological phenomenon. The beliefs of religious groups are seen as essentially marked by the same cultural blight, and can be treated as boiling down to the same ethical injunctions to be nice people. Religion is perceived at best as a means by which all roads lead to the same God, or at worse is a delusion and a denial of humanity. …