'Pluralism Is Better Than Secularism'
Byline: W. James Antle III, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Early in The End of Secularism, Hunter Baker of Houston Baptist University talks about his religious awakening. He came to believe that if the God of the Bible existed and was active in human affairs, that had implications for his life. It made no sense, Mr. Baker concluded, to have faith in God and Christianity in the abstract but to live as if there were no God in practice.
In this slim but compelling volume, Mr. Baker argues that this is precisely what secularism asks of us: to hold our abstract religious beliefs in private but live as if there is no God in our public lives together. Religion then becomes like sex in the Victorian era: something best done in private but seldom discussed, much less seen, in public lest someone scare the horses.
The argument for secularism is that it represents a kind of neutrality. Because none of us possesses absolute certainty in religious matters, a secular public culture restricts our political and moral debates to that which is universally accessible. The end result, according to this logic, is that no one's religion is privileged above anyone else's and every religion is treated fairly.
Mr. Baker counters that this argument is false - that secularism, in fact, privileges one very specific understanding of God and religion above everyone else's. It forces people who believe in an active God to pretend He does not exist when discussing matters of public import, and it rests on assumptions no more neutral or scientifically rigorous than most religious claims.
Along the way, Mr. Baker takes the reader through an interesting history of the early Christian church, weaves through the Enlightenment and the beginnings of what he defines as secularism, and he talks about how erroneous interpretations of the First Amendment's establishment clause have helped bring secularism to the United States.
What Mr. Baker does not do in The End of Secularism, however, is engage in appeals to a Christian nation that rejects church-state separation out of hand. Though Christians often bemoan the separation of church and state and claim angrily that the separation of church and state is not in the Constitution, he writes, "they are actually expressing their frustration with secularism as the preferred ideology of many elites in politics, media, and education.
Christians should absolutely bring their faith to bear in the public square, Mr. …