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Sally Bolton is one of a small but growing number of influential women at the highest levels of international tennis, and the incoming chief executive of the All England Club knows she has a duty to listen to voices from other marginalised groups who have been ignored for too long.

With nine games of the interrupted regular season still left, Exeter are five points clear at the top of the table and are looking strong.

And of course, most did. They gathered in WhatsApp groups and Zoom watchalongs and sat in their living rooms and bedrooms, quietly savouring.

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You never really think of end moments like this because you are too busy concentrating on each game. What we have achieved has not fully sunk in yet.

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The Big Picture. Secularism is depicted as a pervasive Introduction: Is Secularism Dead? Many critics view it as a cancer.

Still others treat it as a corpse: secularism had its heyday and was fun while it lasted. The turpitude of this concept has been depicted in many colorful ways.

They have spent decades preaching that secularism is literally demonic. The former British prime minister Tony Blair called on all faiths to join together against secularism.

Loss of old allies: another headache for secularism. The world is becoming more religious, not less. He seems unaware of the close and complementary relationship between these ideas.

The very concept of secular government arose during the Reformation and Enlightenment in order to safeguard religious pluralism, which theocratic governments were congenitally incapable of ensuring.

Warren fails to understand that secularism, far from being the enemy of religious pluralism, is its guarantor.

With a similar lack of precision Warren assumes that one cannot be both religious and secular. This flawed idea is pervasive and, as we shall see, has prevented many potential advocates from wholeheartedly adopting the ideals of secularism.

The same misconception can be observed among those who have already proceeded to the eulogy stage, and they are not necessarily religious conservatives.

Those who criticize secularism are liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, Catholics and Protestants, professors and politicians.

They batter away at the idea to a degree that seems gratuitous; in some quarters the attacks amount to demagoguery. Giving secularism a good concussing is largely a risk-free undertaking because in public debate convincing counterarguments have not gained traction.

Will anyone come to the defense of the secular virtues? Introduction: Is Secularism Dead? For decades social scientists have been tracking the global resurgence of religion much in the way that scientists monitor a tornado from a chase van.

And it is the Revival that is perhaps irredeemably changing our world. As it has taken shape from the s forward, the Revival demonstrates two distinct modes: 1 lawful and somewhat alarming and 2 militant and terrifying.

If visual aides are necessary to help conceptualize the latter then radical Islamists have provided us with a singularly horrific highlight reel.

Yet these frightening groups are only a marginal component of the phenomenon in question. When it comes to the Revival, militancy is the exception, not the rule.

Wholly lawful actors have played the most important role in the dramatic political shifts that have disoriented the proponents of secularism over the past few decades.

Unlike their extremist counterparts, lawful Revivalists rarely resort to violence. All they require is the democratic structures, set in place by their secular enemies, to do their democratic thing and acknowledge the will of the majority.

A recent study demonstrates startling demographic shifts that should keep secularists awake at night. Meanwhile, birth rates among more secular populations are stagnating or declining.

As for the United States, consider a statistic reported by Michael Lind: per every thousand women in Mormon Utah there are ninety children born every year; in more secular and liberal Vermont, there are forty-nine.

Americans have experienced the lawful Revival through the fortyyear ascent of the Christian Right.

In this movement, white evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants strategically team up with traditionalist Catholics, conservative Mormons, and small groups of Orthodox Jews.

The evangelicals, however, are the stars of this show. As often happens among lawful Revivalists, they display the virtues of effective leadership, financial discipline, institutional creativity, and organizational dynamism.

Bush in When Obama, incidentally, sloughed off secularism he was simply making a pragmatic calculation, doing the electoral math.

But he and the Democrats may have arrived too late: white conservative evangelicals, as anyone who has followed the Iowa caucus or the South Carolina primaries knows, have become a mainstay of the GOP.

It would be wrong to conclude that all evangelicals are politically conservative. They must be made to see that moral Americans are a powerful group who will no longer permit them to destroy our country with their godless, liberal philosophies.

One wonders, though, whether evangelicals themselves actually believe this. The secularism they are excoriating now is precisely the same secularism that they have pummeled for decades at the state and federal levels.

According to the Revivalists, issues related to gender and sexuality have gone hopelessly awry as well. Reproductive freedoms have been extended to the point that birth control and abortion are not just legal but normative.

The entertainment industry celebrates non-monogamous and nonheterosexual lifestyles. Gays and lesbians are becoming increasingly visible and accepted in society.

The Revivalists have set their sights on undoing these social changes; they are making considerable headway. Secularists who have taken note of this evangelical activism feel a sense of dread.

They fear that this return of the sacred will transmogrify into the reign of the sacred. They fret that such lawful groups are only tactically and temporarily lawful.

That is to say, once they achieve power they will dissolve the secular structures and safeguards that stand as the crowning glory of the American political experiment.

Some secularists imagine that the Talibanization of the United States might go down like this: On Monday, the Revivalists will move their operations into the public square, where the secular virtue of toleration will ensure that they will be accorded full rights of participation.

On Tuesday, they will seize political power through their ability to amass huge blocs of voters thereby annulling the sacred precept of the citizen who votes based on individual conscience.

On Wednesday, they will collapse the distinction between public and private, unleashing squadrons of morals police to monitor speech, sex, art, thought, what have you.

And then every day will be Sunday. Yet it overlooks one formidable firewall against the Revivalist onslaught: religious moderates.

Many self-described secularists today ignore this group, erroneously assuming, just like Pastor Warren, that religious people cannot espouse secular values.

Many religious moderates, in turn, refuse to ally themselves with secularism, sometimes because its self-appointed spokespersons scare the bejesus out of them or just annoy them.

For one thing, journalists are not very interested in the subject. Such debates, and the cacophonous buzz they generate, draw focus away from a crucial truism: the decisive cultural conflict in this country is not between nonbelievers and believers; the real hot ideological action is occurring among members of the same faith.

Revivalists abhor not only secularism, but also what they perceive to be its handmaiden: liberal theology and its moderate religious views.

At present a pitched ideological battle rages between mainline Protestants and conservative evangelical Protestants, between Leftleaning and conservative Catholics, between progressive and traditionalist Muslims, and between liberal and ultra-orthodox Jews.

This is the conflict that will shape the future of this country, and it engages the entire slate of divisive national issues, ranging from abortion rights to gay rights to foreign policy.

For every group in the United States that resembles the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights widely viewed as a rightwing advocacy organization , an antagonist like the liberal Catholics United has arisen.

For every Muslim organization extolling the virtues of sharia law, there is a countermovement of Muslim dissidents trying to block its path.

For every archconservative evangelical church with a massive Community Worship Center, there is a mainline church with a social justice agenda.

Whereas Orthodox Jews condemn homosexuality as an abomination, Reform Judaism ordains gay clergy in impressive numbers. They are clearly on the defensive, but through churchby-church, mosque-by-mosque activism, they are impeding the advance of the lawful extremists.

Many of these moderates are opposed to excessive mingling of government and religion. But getting them to see themselves as such is difficult.

Their reluctance to embrace this identity may rest on two incorrect assumptions they make about secularism the problem of definitions again!

First, they assume it is the same thing as atheism, and not just any type of atheism. Secularism today is increasingly defended by the small confrontational group known as the New Atheists.

Brimming with bravado, these polemicists insist that their numbers are swelling and their political power is burgeoning. As the New Atheists see it, they are poised to put the fundies by which they mean all religious people in their place.

The result of having extreme anti-theists carry the secular flag has taken its toll. Secularism is now frequently associated not with atheism but with radical anti-theism, or hatred of religion.

The New Atheists, for their part, have decided to focus their critique on religious moderates. The single constituency that could best enlist with these nonbelievers to effect the political changes they seek is, somehow, the one that they attack with the most vitriol.

In contrast to the New Atheists, the majority of atheists and agnostics are thoughtful and moderate individuals, a storied constituency among the advocates of secularism.

One of the goals of this book is to disarticulate secularism from atheism so that secularists and atheists can pursue their legitimate and worthy agendas and work together when their interests overlap which is often.

The second factor dissuading religious moderates from embracing secularism rests on another incorrect assumption: that secularism is the equivalent of total separation of church and state.

For them secularism is a political concept, not a theological one. Separation of church and state, they claim, is a legal Introduction: Is Secularism Dead?

Supreme Court in the mid-twentieth century. For its own survival, advocates of secularism need to think through this critique quite carefully, as religious moderates a potential ally with an immense constituency tend to dislike radical programs of church-state separation.

Secularism will best be served by a coalition composed of two broad constituencies who, for various reasons, are hard to bring together.

Nonbelievers are the smaller of the two. This group is filled with intelligent and well-educated individuals of a complex variety often misrepresented by the single-minded extreme atheists.

The larger faction comprises believers who, whether they know it or not, live by secular or secularish ideals. This group is disorganized, rather listless politically, and by disposition allergic to the sort of sound and fury propagated by the New Atheists.

The polemics of the New Atheists have driven a wedge between these potential allies. The moderates, for their part, are in a most uncomfortable position.

On the one side their Revivalist brethren refer to them as backsliders and whoremongers. On the other, the New Atheists and their epigones ridicule them as clueless dupes in cahoots with the Revivalists.

If no one actually knows what secularism actually is, how can a secular politics gain any traction in this country? If secularism equals Nazism or Stalinism, well, who in their right mind would want to join that club?

I thought we had separation of church and state in this country? How indeed? Making sense of how secularism was picked apart by the Revival is a major component of the story this book will tell.

In order to do that, however, we first need to take a long step back and understand what precisely it was that the Revivalists picked apart.

Which brings us back to the question that haunts our subject matter: what are the core principles of the secular vision in this country?

It is difficult to answer because of the dearth of serious big-picture studies devoted to the complex historical development of American secularism.

The question of how it emerged, crested, and faded is virtually unexplored. Its roots and trajectory remain largely unexamined.

This book will trace a very broad outline of those origins in order to initiate a frank, cellulite-and-all discussion about the fundamentals of the secular vision.

We will start by tracing the early modern genealogy of the secular idea. Whose grizzled countenances would appear on it? These five men are the major builders and heroes of the American secular vision that has left its imprint on our politics and culture.

These architects are an odd lot to be sure. Much about them and their relation to secularism is peculiar and paradoxical.

To this I replied: Tell me something new, Devil! Despite being fanatically religious, Luther put into play the basic, raw justifications for keeping religion out of the state and vice versa.

Those who equate secularism with atheism are now cordially invited to reassess everything they know about the subject.

Its roots are sunk in both Reformation and Enlightenment soil. Jefferson and the Founders aspired to take the most radical edge of the European Enlightenment and establish it as the starting point for the new republic.

But each placed a premium in their theory but not always in their practice on the building blocks of that political philosophy about governance that we refer to as secularism.

These rudimentary ideas include a warning about the dangers of bringing religion and governmental power into proximity, the celebration of religious freedom, the emphasis on the need for social order to ensure proper communion with the divine, and the idea that all religious groups must be equal in the eyes of the state.

There are other luminaries, of course. We will meet them all in due course. Additional helpful hints will emerge from an investigation of the way this rapid and surprising collapse coincided with the rise of the Revival.

Having established what secularism is not, or is no longer, we need to think of a way forward. This means thinking about how to be secular, which is a good deal less complex than many people assume.

Secularism is not some esoteric system of radical dogmas beloved of only egghead academics and left-wing elites. Secularism does not require a massive program of Maoist-style reeducation in order to be understood.

Many groups, be they made up of Christians, Jews, Muslims, or nonbelievers, are already speaking the poetry of secularism.

The trick lies in getting the believers to see themselves, in some small but significant way, as secular or secularish. Only when that occurs will it be possible to unite them in action.

How to Be Secular aims to reinvigorate a movement in a state of exhaustion, denial, and utter confusion.

Shaken to its foundations by the Revival, secularism needs to take stock of its predicament, to conceptualize itself anew, to commit itself to a season of rebuilding.

This necessitates that we reimagine secularism, that we ask of it new, never-before-heard questions. And, if need be, that we blow it up in the hope that it will rise again.

The task, to quote Augustine, is long and arduous,39 but nonetheless a worthwhile endeavor. Freedom of and from religion are precious values.

Peace among the faithful and the faithless is the hallmark of the just society. The secularish virtues of moderation and toleration are civilized graces worthy of being rehabilitated and defended.

And the alternatives to secularism now bandied about by American Revivalists need to be strenuously resisted lest the nation fall away from those principles that have rendered it prosperous, tranquil, and strong.

The Basic Package Secularism is the dream of a minority that wishes to shape the majority in its own image, that wishes to impose its will upon history but lacks the power to do so under a democratically organized polity.

The people want their government to support communities of worship nationwide! The people want a more robust role for faith in public schools and other public spaces!

Indeed, its critics charge that secularism is antidemocratic, that it runs roughshod over the will of the people.

A Christian Revivalist in the United States could cite scads of damning statistics in support of this allegation.

They are cognizant of their numerical advantage. A simple referendum, they maintain, would make it abundantly clear that secularism lacks broad appeal, that secularism is apartheid with lipstick.

Overheated as these claims might be, secularists should take them seriously. Secularism is usually about as popular as taxes an intriguing analogy, which we shall probe anon.

With the exception of France, one would be hard pressed to find a country on earth where a large number of citizens get enthusiastic about secularism.

Secularism is a complex project, with complex relations not only to democracy and liberalism but to religion as well.

But first things first. To understand secularism today, we need to understand the fundamental premises, the basic package of secularism as it developed way back in the Reformation when the modern world was born, even as it came apart and the Enlightenment What Is Secularism?

The Yin of Order Secularism is a political philosophy concerned with the best way to govern complex, religiously pluralistic societies.

It aims to strike an extraordinarily delicate balance. On the one hand, it wishes to ensure the existence of a stable social order free of religiously themed strife.

On the other, it aspires to guarantee citizens as much religious freedom and freedom to be nonreligious as possible.

Order and freedom: those are the yin and yang of the secular vision. Every secular society has to calibrate a functional equilibrium between the two.

Other societies fail to achieve that homeostasis and frightful consequences ensue. In the chaotic, combustible world of sixteenth- through eighteenth-century western Europe, where secularism arose, the threat of complete social breakdown due to religious violence loomed large.

The attempt to manage this problem left a permanent scar on Western civilization. This emphasis on order appears evident in one of the most important texts in the syllabus of secularism.

Yet as far as zealous Luther was concerned, secularism was a Christian and God-ordained idea! The father of the Reformation viewed the world as chock full of sinners and the damned.

It would be optimal, Luther admits, if that scenario did come to pass. A less interesting or less dynamic thinker might have refused to compromise on that issue.

But Luther identified Christian justifications for accepting the legitimacy of a prince who was not a true Christian.

His sublime contribution was to outsource the problem of order to the secular prince. Yet he came up with an answer dia- What Is Secularism?

Here Luther had some ace New Testament proof texts at his disposal. Its spirit is too favorable to tyranny for tyranny not to take advantage of it.

Rulers, Luther reasons, are entrusted with performing unchristian, albeit necessary, tasks such as punishing criminals, collecting taxes, waging war.

As such, it is better to delegate the job to a secular prince. In the best of all worlds that secular prince would also be a true Christian.

A century and a half after Luther, John Locke would build off his basic ideas while exiled in Holland. Luther craved order, but Locke adds an intriguing new twist: nothing threatens order like religion.

The threat does not come from a particular religion though for Locke religions like Catholicism were more subversive than others.

Further, the state that cannot control animosities between religious groups will effectively sow chaos.

We have never seen our country ripped asunder from within by domestic religious strife. True, nineteenth-century America witnessed murderous urban riots that pitted Protestants against Catholics.

The post-Luther architects of secularism knew of the slaughter committed in the name of religion.

They were What Is Secularism? Though the body count is difficult to ascertain, the figure is plausibly set at eight million.

And all drew a similar lesson: societies tend to rip themselves apart when the power of a religious institution is aligned with that of the government.

From Locke forward, the architects of secularism feared that societies with established religions were structurally unstable.

Every variant of secularism, from the benign to the beastly, displays this obsession with order.

Article The Yang of Freedom of Conscience Revivalists know their history. Armed with research on the failed Soviet system, the Revivalists take up their theme.

They complain that secularism detests religion. It wishes to do great harm by tyrannically controlling people of faith in the name of social order.

Secularism, they argue, is a form of bigotry or even violence aimed at the devout. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Secularism is not in any way opposed to religion. By all means, let the believer believe that! But if this believer has the full coercive power of the government behind him, then trouble lies ahead.

After all, this self-righteous believer has a counterpart somewhere who also believes she alone worships the divine the right way.

In one of his typically learned yet accessible essays, Pope Benedict XVI reflects on the genesis of the secular state.

It does, though, overlook one major motive for the establishment of secular states: the desire to protect religious freedom.

Their response is striking in its uniformity: so that individuals can have the freedom to know God, to revere God as they see fit, and to conceive of God according to the scruples of their conscience.

The soul, all the architects insisted, needs to be protected from the trespasses of the state, or any other entity, for that matter.

Anti-secular religious readers, ask yourselves these questions: Is this urge so sinful? Does it indicate a thoroughgoing hatred of religion?

Secularism, contrary to popular belief, takes religious freedom very seriously. It was born of the idea that a particular type of state that is, one wherein the governing body espouses no particular religion and treats all religions equally provides benefits for believers in Christ.

Much is made of the secular virtue of toleration. Yet the role it plays in the basic package is often poorly understood.

What is the single most important Christian virtue? For someone like Saint Augustine, it may have been love of God.

For Luther it might be faith in God. But for Locke, casting a dread glance back at more than a century of religiously inspired slaughter, the ultimate What Is Secularism?

Locke altered the future of not only secularism, but Christian theology as well. If toleration is a Christ-like attribute and orthodoxy a subjective position , then a just polity must set itself the goal of respecting the conscience of every citizen.

Subjects cannot be forced to practice religion or worship God in ways that violate their convictions. One sterling way of accomplishing this is to make sure that the state never endorses nor favors a particular religion.

As Locke sees it, any state that establishes an orthodoxy will very soon have a plethora of heresies on its hands.

Toleration grants citizens sovereign psychic space. They can believe anything they want to believe. Faith is a private matter between mortal and creator.

The state is not permitted to trespass on this domain. For Locke, a state must live by and enforce the sacred Christian precept of toleration.

Call it the state of grace, if you will. The architects of secularism spoke with unanimity on this point.

Each must decide at his own peril what he is to believe. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

Clearly, the architects were adamant about freedom of conscience. But now we come to the darker side of the equation.

The secular state must tolerate all forms of belief, but it need not tolerate all forms of action based on those beliefs.

It is not entirely accurate, then, to say that secularism is tolerant. But it is not necessarily tolerant of all the acts that may result from religious beliefs.

An isolated Bible thumper has every right to believe that paying taxes is an offense against God but has no right to act on the impulse.

The ultra-orthodox Jew may believe that pelting a female jogger with a tomato on the Sabbath is a proper way of preserving the sanctity of the Day of Rest.

And he will be promptly charged with assault and battery for remaining true to his convictions. The United States would not tolerate the Mormon practice of polygamy at the end of the nineteenth century, even though the Constitution promises free exercise of religion.

The secular vision is statist to the core. A possible answer may be found in a fascinating and overlooked aside from Locke.

Nor can any such Power be vested in the Magistrate by the consent of the people. Governments cannot force religion on subjects even if the democratic will of the majority has authorized the powers that be to do precisely that.

On certain issues the will of the people is to be ignored. As for that Revivalist mentioned earlier, with all of his damning statistics about what the people want, the secularist cordially invites him to place himself either at the back of, or under, the bus.

There are two ways to look at this Lockean escape clause. One is to concede that antidemocratic urges abound in secularism.

Thus, the Revivalists are correct in tarring secularism as a form of rule akin to apartheid, in which a minority suppresses the will of the majority that is, those who want the government to espouse a religion.

A more charitable assessment sees secularism as something prior to, or something that undergirds, democracy. There is no force-quit button.

A parallel to taxation is apt. There must be taxes if a state is to function properly. Yet only remarkably civic-minded individuals feel cheerful when April 15 rolls around.

As the activism of the Tea Party demonstrates, a large body of citizens may oppose laws that are necessary for the preservation of the democratic benefits they enjoy.

Secularism too performs a vital, albeit highly unpopular, civic function. The job of secularism is to maintain order.

For the citizen to reap the religious benefits of that order, she must make certain concessions. Call it, if you will, the Secular Compact.

The state guarantees order and full freedom of conscience. In return the citizen agrees to curtail her religious practices in accord with the laws of the state.

But secularism responds tersely, arrogantly, and on the basis of centuries of empirical evidence that it is simply better this way.

Why Be Secular? We have pointed to some of the antidemocratic, illiberal, intolerant, and statist characteristics of the secular enterprise.

And since we are airing grievances, why not rehearse another oftheard complaint? The secular vision, it is frequently charged, is a profoundly Protestant vision.

Martin Luther was the founder of What Is Secularism? Ergo, it is often alleged that secularism foists all of its Protestant particularities on pluralistic societies.

It wants religion to be private, not public. It disarticulates belief from actions. Neither Catholicism, nor Judaism, nor Islam, nor Hinduism is at peace with all of these convictions.

For some critics secularism is akin to an establishment of Lutheran religion! Perhaps that charge is an exaggeration. But it is undeniable that American secularism forces Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and especially evangelicals whose theological affinities now lie more with Calvin to make significant concessions.

In light of all the preceding drawbacks, one might plausibly ask, Why be secular at all? Despite its imperfections, there are still many very good reasons to support a secular state.

The complete right to freedom of conscience was a position unambiguously endorsed by each of the architects. Few political ideologies go to the wall, as it were, to secure the freedom of conscience the way secularism does.

Now, it is perfectly true that religious majorities tend to dislike secularism. This implicitly calls attention to one of its great virtues, namely, its great commitment to protecting religious minorities.

Secular states offer minorities much-needed security from the majority and even the state itself. Jews in the United States have been impassioned proponents of secularism and shhhh!

Catholics have often defended it too, but no one is allowed to say it. In other parts of the world the same logic applies. When religious impulses pervade the public sphere, disorder ensues.

Few experience the consequences of that disorder more than religious minorities. Its mission was to ensure domestic tranquility.

First, it prevented religious groups from fighting one another to seize control of the state. Next, it made certain that the state would never be a source of coercion or violence in the name of any religion.

Finally, it guarded against inter-sectarian violence by granting the state a monopoly on the use of force and making it the sole guarantor of order.

The United States has a fairly deplorable record on race relations, but on religious matters few nations in the world can match its accomplishments.

American Revivalists, somewhat ungraciously, tend to forget the progress they made in the twentieth century when secularism was in the ascendant.

It was the period of an almost unprecedented proliferation of theological seminaries, journals, and advances in doctrine. Secularism, paradoxically, worked so well at creating a space for religion that it may have sparked the Revivalist fire that would like to reduce it to ashes.

But as long as secularism clings to life, let us never deny its other heroisms. Granting a citizen the right to think anything she wants is the preamble to other privacies.

Our homes are considered off limits to the authorities as long as we act lawfully. Our sexual activities are not subject to scrutiny.

We retain What Is Secularism? Secularism may be statist, but it often circumscribes the rights of the state.

Last of all, secularism provides ordinary citizens with essential civil rights. It ensures that, as bearers of a faith or no faith, they are all equal before the law.

It guarantees that the state will never interfere in their lawful religious worship. All well and good, but, as we are about to see, Revivalists in the United States are not buying in.

Not at all. Their resistance is based on a boundless resentment for the prevailing secular policy of balancing freedom and order in America.

That policy is known as the separation of church and state. The secular humanists may argue that we are a secular nation.

After all, why would they bear a grudge against a first-generation Tea Partier? Some of her colleagues seized the opportunity to voice the mantras of the Christian Right in the presence of the assembled press corps.

The men who wrote the Constitution were Christians who knew the Bible. Historians are wondering if Mr. Still others contend that the American government became wedded to the Jeffersonian idea of the separation of church and state much more recently than is often thought.

We now turn to this recent research, though not in order to lend credence to the position of those conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education.

Their ideas are generally absurd, abounding in a sort of negative intellectual equity. Rather, these issues must be clarified to ensure the future of secularism.

Secularists must gain an accurate understanding of their past and present. They need to engage the legitimate criticisms that are being launched in their direction.

Is Separation of Church and State in the Constitution? Our national charter is not entirely godless.

For the Founders to have refrained pace Dr. In any case, Revivalists over the past few years have been develop- Were the Founders Secular?

We learned this lesson not only in the Texas showdown, but also in the midterm elections. Those five words are not, in fact, present in the foundational document.

The Bill of Rights, as Coons stated, speaks of dis establishment, not separation. Secularists demur, noting that although separation may not be articulated in the letter of the First Amendment, it is present in the spirit of the text.

There, Jefferson reintroduced and rejiggered an old metaphor concerning a wall. Scholars debate its origin. Some believe that Jefferson based it on a figure of speech pronounced almost a century and a half earlier by Roger Williams.

Rather, it is an aside made by a president in a private letter. Why base domestic policy on an aside, especially one that Jefferson never, ever repeated again?

In , some note with truculence, Jefferson was futzing around in Paris where he served as minister to France. But another critique of the wall metaphor is much more difficult to dismiss.

From to about the time of the Reverend Jerry Falwell, so goes the narrative, we had total separation of church and state in this country.

During that time of peace, the wall was sturdy and high and even adorned with a lovely patch of climbing violet wisteria to awe appreciative onlookers on both sides of that majestic divide.

Critics question many aspects of this narrative, especially its emphasis on the unanimity of the Founders. They charge that Jefferson and Madison advocated a conception of church-state relations that was too extreme for their adversaries to accept.

But then these researchers go even further. They argue that the vision of the enlightened gentlemen from Virginia was too extreme even for their allies.

This last possibility is raised in the scholarship of Philip Hamburger, a law professor at Columbia University who has written an original and influential history of American separationism.

The distinction between separation and disestablishment is significant, though it is glossed over in contemporary usage.

Separation, as its name suggests, denotes a firm division between the government and religion.

Disestablishment, by contrast, can connote a variety of different things. Yet a disestablishmentarian could theoretically tolerate a state that endorsed, celebrated, and supported religion in general without establishing any one religion.

Modest governmental support for religion that is, Protestantism in general presumably did not upset them. This may explain why they lauded Jefferson for battling establishments in Virginia and elsewhere but stayed silent about his stirring paean to separation in the Danbury letter.

John Adams, our second president, is one of them. But we shall also see that a modified civic republicanism has made something of a comeback in recent years.

It has even developed a variant that could fall under the rubric of secularism. Then there were those who went even further than civic republicanism.

The Texas State Board of Education, incidentally, has identified many of these civic republican and neo-Puritan figures as compulsory elements of the state curriculum.

These are the Founders whom Christian conservatives most admire. Congress, actually had nothing to do with the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution but offers proof that a conservative Christian was present in the early workings of our government.

Rather, a variety of perspectives on the proper relation between religion and government certainly existed.

These shade into the less dogmatic civic republican viewpoint, which acknowledges religion in public life as having a valuable social role without affirming a particular doctrinal or denominational stance.

Far from driving faith out of public life, these approaches insist that the former enriches the latter. Finally, at the other end of the spectrum lie the Enlightenment views of Jefferson and Madison.

They balance freedom and order while positing that it is best for both government and religion to stay clear of each other and for faith to remain a private matter.

Rather, it shows that it was a minority position in early America. At the same time, they were outliers who had charged far ahead of the pack.

The Birth of Separation of Church and State in the Courts This brings us to a third challenge to the secular narrative: when did the American government actually start enforcing a policy of separation of church and state?

Supreme Court from to It is likely an accurate reflection of early-nineteenth-century sentiments about the relation between church and state.

The remark also draws attention to a lessthan-subtle insistence that non-Christians, as well as Catholics, were second-class citizens in this Protestant country.

This sort of approach was popular throughout the nineteenth century. In Church of the Holy Trinity v. Supreme Court in the nineteenth century had little involvement with the religion clauses of the First Amendment.

Thus, it had few opportunities to expound on the theme of separation. Disputes involving religious rights and liberties Were the Founders Secular?

One scholar estimates that over the course of this year period, only twenty-three cases concerned these issues. United States in , which examined the constitutionality of Mormon polygamy in what was then the territory of Utah.

The upshot was that the federal Bill of Rights would now apply to the states. The incorporation doctrine is the bane of judicial conservatives, Revivalists, and Tea Party activists.

In their view the two are connected. Secular separationism, as far as Revivalists are concerned, was judicial sleight of hand, an act of federal aggression foisted on the American people by liberal Supreme Court justices manipulating incorporation as a tactic to promote their position.

The separationist catastrophe set in, according to Revivalists, in the Everson v. Board of Education case of We could not approve the slightest breach.

And what a ride it was! That period witnessed some truly monumental secular judicial victories. Board of Education, , nondenominational prayer Engel v.

Vitale, , and Bible reading to start the day Abington School District v. Schempp, Let us never forget the Lemon v. Kurtzman case , so inscrutable in certain quarters.

These are but a few landmark decisions whose cumulative effect was to make separation a respectable and acceptable principle to guide federal and state governments as they considered the relation between their institutions and religion.

Seventy years after Everson, conservatives are still enraged by it. Secularists should know how to respond to these arguments.

Constitution would prevent a state from conducting an Inquisition, outlawing an unpopular religious sect, [or] establishing a particular church.

While a few Bap- Were the Founders Secular? The jurists who staffed the Warren and Burger courts drew up this equation.

They leaned liberally, so to speak, on the writings of Jefferson and Madison. The truth of the matter is that judicial developments occurring years later resulted in the erection of this formidable barrier.

It was not the s, but the period between the s and the s that brought us legal separation as we know it.

Exile to Canada? In retrospect, it is safe to say that the Republican-dominated Texas State Board of Education overplayed its hand.

The subsequent outcry, during a thirty-day period of public comment, led to a major reversal. After initially exiling Mr.

Jefferson from the Enlightenment unit of the curriculum in March , the board reinstated him.

Once again, aggressive and well-organized Revivalists advanced their agenda while leaving secularists on the defensive, even contemplating self-exile to Canada.

The conservatives have not merely equated secularism with evil or the Antichrist; such an accusation would be easy to neutralize.

Rather, they have made the case that secularism as equated with separationism is a legal and historical aberration bereft of constitutional warrant.

This tactic needs to be countered by a vigorous and sophisticated secular response. It should incorporate pragmatic concessions, intelligent partnering, cunning legal activism, and clear articulation of secular values and how they harmonize with the very best of American values.

We will get to that vigorous secular response later, but first let us see why doubling down is detrimental to the long-term prospects of secularism.

It is well to remind ourselves that the completely secular state does not exist. The opponents perceive secularists as taking the principle of separation of church and state to absurd and maniacal lengths.

They caricature secularists as First Amendment ambulance chasers, extremists who are hell-bent on suing department store salespersons who wish them a merry Christmas.

Some champions of secularism lend credence to that perception. A physician by vocation who later trained as a lawyer at the University of Michigan , the estimable Dr.

Newdow has advocated on behalf of a variety of ultra-separationist causes. President Bush lambasted the assault on under God.

Republican and Democratic representatives followed his lead, as did federal judges, the media, and so forth. It was ruled that Newdow did not have standing to bring the suit because he had divorced his wife and no longer had legal custody over his daughter.

Which is, and always will be, the wrong conclusion to draw. This is because total separation, in spite of its seductive simplicity and theoretical charms, is unattained and unattainable in a liberal democracy.

None of this means that secularists ought to submit passively to the current Revivalist onslaught witnessed everywhere from the local school board to the statehouse.

But it must be checked by pragmatic thought and action. This entails clearly understanding what is possible in America and what is not.

The clever secular activist starts from that premise, rather than building castles, or walls of separation, in the sky. The first is our own.

It is a nation where separation has a dubious legal rationale, shaky historical grounding, and little in the way of popular support.

The French like their secularism. If any people on earth could completely partition government from religion, it must be the cantankerous, contentious, and anticlerical French.

If secularisms could be compared to cheeses, then the American version emerges as awfully mild in comparison to its pungent, rank, and aggressive Gallic cousin.

The first set comprises Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The second would be the Protestant anti-Catholic xenophobes of the late nineteenth century, whom we will meet later.

The third is the Warren and Burger courts of s through the s. Yet we should recall that although the gentlemen from Virginia and the midcentury jurists favored separation, they neither practiced nor believed in total separation.

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were not beyond the occasional jaw-dropping church-state trespass. In their early days of public service and even during their mature years as presidents they breached the wall, sometimes ostentatiously and self-consciously.

The most powerful and highly placed separationists of the era, for example, favored penalties for those who worked on Sunday or otherwise disturbed the spiritual tranquility of that day.

Two centuries of American history attest to the acuity of Mr. Supreme Court rediscovered the separationist ethos of our two outliers, it was again understood that total separation was an impossibility.

Let us at length cite the words of the colorful and long-serving William Douglas, in an opinion he delivered on a crucial case involving the religion clauses.

The Zorach v. Clauson decision permitted students to leave school during regular hours and receive instruction on the grounds of religious facilities.

Writing for the majority, Douglas opines that the First Amendment, however, does not say that in every and all respects there shall be a separation of Church and State.

Rather, it studiously defines the manner, the specific ways, in which there shall be no concert or union or dependency one on the other.

That is the common sense of the matter. Churches could not be required to pay even property taxes. Policemen who helped parishioners into their places of worship would violate the Constitution.

In future cases Justice Douglas would show himself to be among the staunchest defenders of the wall. It would be incorrect to brand him as anti-secular.

Rather, he was expressing a truth about the limits of separation. In a country with a population, history, and cultural heritage as religious as this one, complete walling off will never be achieved.

Again and again, the Court has drawn attention to the limits of separation of church and state. A similar opinion came forth in the Lemon v.

Kurtzman case of , which is considered the high-water mark of American secularism. Some relationship between government and religious organizations is inevitable.

As we shall see, the wall was cast higher than the heavens in the Soviet Union. But that was not the kind of government usually considered to enrich the lives of its citizens.

The most promising candidate for livable total separation is France. We need not exert ourselves to prove the point that few countries on earth could match its quality of life.

As for the total separation part, the French appear to have that covered as well. In , after fierce nationwide conflict, the Third Republic explicitly outlined the centrality of the wall to its vision of government.

French separationism was established in the groundbreaking legislation known as the Law of December 9, , Concerning Separation of Church and State.

Its passage marked the turning point in a ferocious battle that had lasted longer than a century. The law makes separation an explicit policy of the French government.

In the United States, by contrast, separation is an inference drawn by secularists. We have never pronounced our republic to be either secular, as per the constitution, or separationist, as per the law.

The French model has a bit of a reputation and is often singled out as the bad boy of world secularisms. The controversies surrounding veiling erupted in when two schoolgirls were not permitted to wear the foulard islamique to class.

Since then Americans have looked askance at their old allies, asking how they could so wantonly ignore the principle of religious liberty.

Their secularism is bound up with their unique past and culture and predicated on completely different political assumptions.

Moreover, we ought recognize that the French are equally puzzled by American secularism. They believe there is too much religious liberty in America.

Total separationists in the United States must agree. Our secularism was greatly influenced by Protestant thinkers such as Luther, Williams, and Locke.

The second is that their friendliness to their own Protestant religion was not so great that they wished to align it with the state.

They positively loathed Catholicism, which was, in most cases, their religion of birth. Most disliked religion in general as well as religious officials an attitude known as anticlericalism.

And though most of these figures were deists believers in a Creator who does not intervene in human affairs , a few dabbled seriously in the dark arts of nonbelief.

If it has a serrated edge when it comes to religion, the critical ferment of the late eighteenth century was its sharpening stone.

On our shores, this struggle has never involved a physical confrontation, but rather a judicial one. Instead of spilling blood and tears, secular jurists have submitted amicus curiae briefs and very sharply worded op-eds.

There are many other points of contrast. The American Founders made much of religious liberty. Needless to say, in the crazed decade of the s religious liberty was not a central theme in France.

Its holdover institution, the Anglican Church in Virginia, had been disestablished by the legislative acumen of Jefferson and Madison.

Besides, it would be an exaggeration to call them enemies of religion. The criticisms by Jefferson and Madison were relatively muted, studied, and gentlemanly in comparison to those being shouted on the other side of the Atlantic.

While the Americans debated, deliberated, and for all we know danced out numbers from the musical , the revolutionaries across the ocean were up to something entirely different.

They were writing and discarding numerous constitutions, guillotining priests, massacring opponents, immersing themselves in foreign and civil wars, and eventually cannibalizing their own leaders.

Once again, that sort of childhood leaves its scar on a people. One we know well by now: an obsession with order. French liberty of conscience is often lumped together with American concepts of religious liberty, but the two are not identical.

French liberty of conscience, because of the circumstances in which it arose, is tinctured with the idea that a citizen has a liberty against religious indoctrination.

The early Americans, by contrast, were conducting a grand, civil discussion about religious freedom.

The Framers gave us marching orders, so to speak. They encouraged Americans to find their God. The government, by prohibiting itself from interfering with free exercise, recognizes itself as a danger to that noble quest.

Not everyone has a God to find. Part of the difficulty, incidentally, of being an American atheist is that there is no phrase in the Constitution that sanctifies this identity.

The United States is suspicious of the non-believer. The Americans guarantee that their Congress will make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

This is all well and good, but where is the essential proviso about curtailing free exercise that threatens public safety? Where does the Constitution call attention to that most secular of concerns, order?

Where does it do that? Surely a religious believer in our country does not have total free exercise. The authors of the state constitutions, with their consistent emphasis on order, understood that well.

The Awesome Power of the French State All of these considerations lead us to speculate that an American total separationist would be right at home in Paris.

This must be the right country for Michael Newdow. If there is any candidate for total livable separation, one would assume it would be France.

And one would be wrong. The truth is, the French government, probably more so than our own, is deeply entangled in religion.

The paroxysms of the s were just an appetizer, an amusegueule, to the more substantive historical course served up a decade later.

In many ways Napoleon reversed the policies of the Revolution.

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EvaPen Posted December 16, pm 0 Likes. WimPen Posted December 16, pm 0 Likes. If any people on earth could completely partition government from religion, it must be the cantankerous, contentious, and anticlerical French.

If secularisms could be compared to cheeses, then the American version emerges as awfully mild in comparison to its pungent, rank, and aggressive Gallic cousin.

The first set comprises Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The second would be the Protestant anti-Catholic xenophobes of the late nineteenth century, whom we will meet later.

The third is the Warren and Burger courts of s through the s. Yet we should recall that although the gentlemen from Virginia and the midcentury jurists favored separation, they neither practiced nor believed in total separation.

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were not beyond the occasional jaw-dropping church-state trespass. In their early days of public service and even during their mature years as presidents they breached the wall, sometimes ostentatiously and self-consciously.

The most powerful and highly placed separationists of the era, for example, favored penalties for those who worked on Sunday or otherwise disturbed the spiritual tranquility of that day.

Two centuries of American history attest to the acuity of Mr. Supreme Court rediscovered the separationist ethos of our two outliers, it was again understood that total separation was an impossibility.

Let us at length cite the words of the colorful and long-serving William Douglas, in an opinion he delivered on a crucial case involving the religion clauses.

The Zorach v. Clauson decision permitted students to leave school during regular hours and receive instruction on the grounds of religious facilities.

Writing for the majority, Douglas opines that the First Amendment, however, does not say that in every and all respects there shall be a separation of Church and State.

Rather, it studiously defines the manner, the specific ways, in which there shall be no concert or union or dependency one on the other.

That is the common sense of the matter. Churches could not be required to pay even property taxes. Policemen who helped parishioners into their places of worship would violate the Constitution.

In future cases Justice Douglas would show himself to be among the staunchest defenders of the wall.

It would be incorrect to brand him as anti-secular. Rather, he was expressing a truth about the limits of separation.

In a country with a population, history, and cultural heritage as religious as this one, complete walling off will never be achieved.

Again and again, the Court has drawn attention to the limits of separation of church and state. A similar opinion came forth in the Lemon v.

Kurtzman case of , which is considered the high-water mark of American secularism. Some relationship between government and religious organizations is inevitable.

As we shall see, the wall was cast higher than the heavens in the Soviet Union. But that was not the kind of government usually considered to enrich the lives of its citizens.

The most promising candidate for livable total separation is France. We need not exert ourselves to prove the point that few countries on earth could match its quality of life.

As for the total separation part, the French appear to have that covered as well. In , after fierce nationwide conflict, the Third Republic explicitly outlined the centrality of the wall to its vision of government.

French separationism was established in the groundbreaking legislation known as the Law of December 9, , Concerning Separation of Church and State.

Its passage marked the turning point in a ferocious battle that had lasted longer than a century. The law makes separation an explicit policy of the French government.

In the United States, by contrast, separation is an inference drawn by secularists. We have never pronounced our republic to be either secular, as per the constitution, or separationist, as per the law.

The French model has a bit of a reputation and is often singled out as the bad boy of world secularisms. The controversies surrounding veiling erupted in when two schoolgirls were not permitted to wear the foulard islamique to class.

Since then Americans have looked askance at their old allies, asking how they could so wantonly ignore the principle of religious liberty.

Their secularism is bound up with their unique past and culture and predicated on completely different political assumptions. Moreover, we ought recognize that the French are equally puzzled by American secularism.

They believe there is too much religious liberty in America. Total separationists in the United States must agree.

Our secularism was greatly influenced by Protestant thinkers such as Luther, Williams, and Locke. The second is that their friendliness to their own Protestant religion was not so great that they wished to align it with the state.

They positively loathed Catholicism, which was, in most cases, their religion of birth. Most disliked religion in general as well as religious officials an attitude known as anticlericalism.

And though most of these figures were deists believers in a Creator who does not intervene in human affairs , a few dabbled seriously in the dark arts of nonbelief.

If it has a serrated edge when it comes to religion, the critical ferment of the late eighteenth century was its sharpening stone. On our shores, this struggle has never involved a physical confrontation, but rather a judicial one.

Instead of spilling blood and tears, secular jurists have submitted amicus curiae briefs and very sharply worded op-eds.

There are many other points of contrast. The American Founders made much of religious liberty. Needless to say, in the crazed decade of the s religious liberty was not a central theme in France.

Its holdover institution, the Anglican Church in Virginia, had been disestablished by the legislative acumen of Jefferson and Madison.

Besides, it would be an exaggeration to call them enemies of religion. The criticisms by Jefferson and Madison were relatively muted, studied, and gentlemanly in comparison to those being shouted on the other side of the Atlantic.

While the Americans debated, deliberated, and for all we know danced out numbers from the musical , the revolutionaries across the ocean were up to something entirely different.

They were writing and discarding numerous constitutions, guillotining priests, massacring opponents, immersing themselves in foreign and civil wars, and eventually cannibalizing their own leaders.

Once again, that sort of childhood leaves its scar on a people. One we know well by now: an obsession with order. French liberty of conscience is often lumped together with American concepts of religious liberty, but the two are not identical.

French liberty of conscience, because of the circumstances in which it arose, is tinctured with the idea that a citizen has a liberty against religious indoctrination.

The early Americans, by contrast, were conducting a grand, civil discussion about religious freedom. The Framers gave us marching orders, so to speak.

They encouraged Americans to find their God. The government, by prohibiting itself from interfering with free exercise, recognizes itself as a danger to that noble quest.

Not everyone has a God to find. Part of the difficulty, incidentally, of being an American atheist is that there is no phrase in the Constitution that sanctifies this identity.

The United States is suspicious of the non-believer. The Americans guarantee that their Congress will make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

This is all well and good, but where is the essential proviso about curtailing free exercise that threatens public safety?

Where does the Constitution call attention to that most secular of concerns, order? Where does it do that?

Surely a religious believer in our country does not have total free exercise. The authors of the state constitutions, with their consistent emphasis on order, understood that well.

The Awesome Power of the French State All of these considerations lead us to speculate that an American total separationist would be right at home in Paris.

This must be the right country for Michael Newdow. If there is any candidate for total livable separation, one would assume it would be France.

And one would be wrong. The truth is, the French government, probably more so than our own, is deeply entangled in religion.

The paroxysms of the s were just an appetizer, an amusegueule, to the more substantive historical course served up a decade later.

In many ways Napoleon reversed the policies of the Revolution. Napoleon, however, was not encumbered by that restriction. In this state seal of approval was extended to Lutherans and Calvinists.

Judaism was recognized in The state doled out privileges to these groups and in return monitored them in ways that would be unthinkable in America.

Churches are prohibited from having any relations with a foreign power. They may not change doctrine or dogma without state approval. Now we can understand why this form of secularism is so bound up with religion.

A state that wishes to control and monitor religion cannot build a wall of separation. Remember the groundbreaking law concerning the separation of church and state?

She guarantees the free exercise of religions under the sole restrictions stipulated below as regards the interest of public order.

Even in the most explicit document of its time separating church and state, we find the state entangled with the church! This is followed by a torrent of legislative provisions regarding the salaries of ministers, ecclesiastical property, regulation of worship, and so forth.

There is a bureau of religions and the government even assigns the minister of the interior to serve as ministre des cultes, or minister of religions.

Would a similar cabinet position in the United States pass muster? A recent news item reported that the government was footing the bill for a pilgrimage to Mecca for French Muslim soldiers.

Rather, the government regulates some religious groups and refuses to even recognize others. The French model results in entanglements that would be unimaginable in the United States.

This is because it has no past in America. And besides, it is impossible to achieve, anyway. Why is that? The cultures of the nascent republics were immersed in religious worldviews that stretched back over centuries.

In ways that are both visible and invisible, religion saturated the societies of early France and America. The Sabbath had been observed on Sunday for a good long time.

Christmas had fallen on or around December 25 for centuries. The routines of life were informed by religious ideas and habits that had remained in place for millennia.

Secularism never appears in a void. It emerges in societies that are already steeped in religious tradition.

As such, nothing short of a complete, violent overthrow of the existing social order will bring about total separation and even that, we shall see, is bound to fail.

The time has come for a paradigm shift in American secularism. For example, its practitioners might threaten to impose strict separation when Revivalists get out of hand.

But they are just one part of the show, and certainly not the main event. Over the past few decades, though, American secularism has allowed that stunt double to become its central protagonist.

Too much of what Americans see of secularism is related to a type of knee-jerk assault on inoffensive forms of religion in the public square.

He may be, technically speaking, correct. No one doubts the sincerity or intelligence of his intervention. But his quest is futile and counterproductive.

Total separation is the first of two nonstarters for American secularism. We now turn to the second. Secularism leaves the mystery of deity to the chartered imagination of man, and does not attempt to close the door of the future, but holds that the desert of another existence belongs only to those who engage in the service of man in this life.

It is increasingly employed in popular usage, political analysis, and even scholarly discourse. This formula is muscling out an infinitely more accurate understanding of secularism as a political philosophy about how the state should relate to organized religion.

Which is fine by the Revivalists and which may account for why they perpetuate this confusion. In these circles secularism has become another word for godlessness.

The term could refer to a Baptist, a Jew, a progressive Catholic, a Unitarian, and so on. A secularist might just as likely have been a public school teacher, a journalist, a civil rights activist, a professor, a Hollywood mogul, a civil libertarian, a pornographer, and so forth.

From the s to the s all of the aforementioned groups mobilized on behalf of secular causes, the most prominent being separation of church and state.

The atheist movement is not just small, but it is also among the least popular groups in the United States. This included Muslims, whom the atheists somehow edged out by eighteen percentage points.

This is certainly not the fault of atheists, the vast majority of whom are tolerant, self-critical, and moderate in their outlook that is, secularish.

And were a true secular movement to be forged, it should make the eradication of anti-atheist prejudice integral to its platform.

The fact remains, however, that the more secularism becomes narrowly equated with atheism, the less it will be able to forge coalitions and pursue its agenda effectively.

Which brings us, then, to the aforementioned impending bank- Does Secularism Equal Atheism?

Incensed by the political and cultural might of the Revivalists, this movement crashed into the public square in They gleefully and catastrophically set about pitting nonbelievers against all believers.

They thus included in their onslaught the one constituency in whose hands the future of secularism lies: religious moderates.

The New Atheist creed maintains that moderates are just as dangerous and misguided as their extremist coreligionists.

The precise relation of atheism to secularism needs to be teased out and explained to the general public. This is actually an old dilemma, one that was debated a century and a half ago.

There, the possibility was raised that the passions of extreme atheism tend to muck up the agenda of secularism. Secularism Born Again?

Opinions differ as to when secularism was born. The second, which is preferable, points to the high-speed thought corridor that stretched from the Reformation to the Enlightenment.

It was there, in early modernity, that the Luther-Locke-Jefferson line carried the secular vision into the sunlight of Reason.

He shared that recollection in a book written forty-five years later, so, unless his memory was flawless, perhaps we should not canonize the precise date.

For some it is Holyoake, not Jefferson, nor Locke, nor Luther, who is the true father of secularism. And if secularism suffers from a definitional crisis today, let us note in passing that to him must be ascribed some responsibility for that as well.

In his works, such as The Principles of Secularism of , he somehow managed to define secularism in about a dozen different ways.

The viselike grip of ecclesiastical control was clearly loosening in Victorian England. In his youth, Holyoake was a relentless critic of Christianity.

Like nearly all Victorian dissenters, he spent time in jail for blaspheming. In his early life he threw his lot in with atheism, but one scholar sees him drifting to agnosticism in his old age.

Should this be surprising? People change. Theists change. Atheists change. The latter are not godless every minute of their lives.

Nor are the former lacking in doubts. Extreme theists and extreme atheists insist on locking people into one fixed identity. But atheist identity is always in flux.

Where is the reference to order? In truth, political conceptions of secularism were always an afterthought for Holyoake.

That is Secular which pertains to this world. The political was born of the Reformation and the Enlightenment.

It stresses the relation between religious institutions and government. Its bearers were our five visionary architects.

The ethical definition was engendered by Holyoake and later on we will note its affinities with the thought of Saint Augustine.

True, Holyoake would earn their respect by championing the cause of freedom of expression a huge issue for an outspoken population that had a knack for getting thrown in the clink.

Holyoake intentionally omitted any reference to atheism in his definition of secularism. To understand why is to glimpse a credible alternative to the extreme forms of atheism that are coming to dominate secularism today.

A David to his Saul. Founded in , it was the flagship organization of Victorian infidelry. He too spent time in prison for articulating infidel thoughts.

Worse yet, Bradlaugh was literally thrown out of the very parliament to which he had been democratically elected. The controversy, which transfixed England, centered on how a professed atheist could take a religious oath of office.

The older man encourages graciousness in debates with religious individuals. Secularism for him had nothing to do with theological teaching or anti-theological teaching.

Holyoake, consistent with his position, insisted that secular criticism shared little common ground with atheism.

Holyoake opened his Principles of Secularism with an epigraph from Harriet Martineau, a noted freethinker. Was he a non-theist?

Is that the same thing as an atheist? Most important, why did Holyoake so assiduously wish to disassociate secularism from atheism?

Secularism should be disinterested in arguments for and against the existence of God, which not only distract, but lead to an intellectual dead end.

Victorian England was a place where atheists were intensely disliked. That hope remains unrealized.

Then again, secular movements in Britain never amounted to much. But it does suggest to contemporary nonbelieving secularists that the strategy of working with religious people remains untested.

One of his major fears was that the obsessions of nonbelievers tend to distract them Does Secularism Equal Atheism?

In particular, they tend to fixate on the existence of God and other complex theological matters.

It also highlights the need for advocates of secularism to conceptualize their issues outside the framework of extreme atheism.

Opponents of the plan saw insensitivity and Islamic triumphalism run amok. Proponents saw discrimination and Islamophobia.

The center for me is a way to amplify our condemnation of that atrocity and to amplify the moderate voices that reject terrorism and seek mutual understanding and respect with all faiths.

Not all Americans, however, seemed to take the imam at his word. Some protested the project. Others expressed their dismay to puzzled liberal pollsters at the New York Times.

Kurtz was relieved of his duties in what appeared to be some sort of New Atheist palace coup.

As spring turned into summer, the regrouped Center for Inquiry, with its New Atheist leanings, saw fit to chime in on the escalating mosque controversy.

The group showed respect for religious liberty and a healthy appreciation for the value of free exercise in the finest traditions of secularism.

All religions share a fundamental flaw: they reflect a mistaken understanding of reality. On balance, CFI does not consider houses of worship to be beneficial to humanity, whether they are built at Ground Zero or elsewhere.

So go ahead and build your stupid mosque. We will seethe in silence and quietly hope but not pray for the end of your faith-based way of life.

All religions are flawed, according to this statement. Interestingly, the CFI was so preoccupied with stressing the pointlessness of religion, and playing arpeggios on New Atheist themes, that it failed to raise a legitimate secular objection to the Cordoba Initiative.

Following the aforementioned commitment to freedom of religion, a secularist would have unambiguously supported the right of the imam and his group to construct the center.

A secular state as well as a secular activist would have no concerns with a religiously themed cultural center built by law-abiding citizens.

Yet the Cordoba Initiative did merit concern because it posed a plausible risk to order. Not all who opposed the cultural center did so out of blind prejudice and Islamophobia.

In retrospect, Imam Rauf could definitely have used a crisis PR team in the summer of Each week his critics seemed to raise redder flags higher and higher.

In a lecture in Australia, Rauf spoke at length about moderate Islam and sounded quite convincing and sincere.

Yes, it is true that it does not justify the acts of bombing innocent civilians, that does not solve the problem, but after 50 years of, in many cases, oppression, of US support of authoritarian regimes that have violated human rights in the most heinous of ways, how else do people get attention?

It is also clear that he sees American foreign policy as a complete disaster, something that creates jihadists.

But again, Imam Rauf is entitled to his opinion even if it obliquely justifies the rage of extremists. Things got murkier when the topic of Hamas came up.

In so doing, the same maddening ambiguities and equivocations arose. Not a word of the response, however, discusses the politics of Hamas.

Doing so would be problematic because the express political goal of Hamas is annihilating the state of Israel. The imam did not do much to dispel those rumors either.

Should secularists tolerate the Cordoba Initiative? The refusal to disassociate from Iran and Saudi Arabia is a potential deal breaker. It does imply a future course of action detrimental to the interests of the nation.

With such assurances rendered, a secularist could, in good conscience, support the cultural center. Secularism and Extreme Atheism Holyoake was certainly correct in insisting that secularism does not equal atheism.

He was also justified in understanding that moderate atheism and secularism share many common interests.

Nonbelievers have an obvious stake in keeping religion off their backs. Secularism provides tremendous resources for helping them achieve that goal since one of its central tenets is freedom from religion.

In turn, secularism is enriched by the cultural sophistication that often correlates with being a nonbeliever. Highly educated and well read, atheists can be assets to the cause, valued allies on a par with religious minorities and members of the liberal wing of the larger faith groups.

Far from synonymous with the secular, extreme atheism is dangerously anti-secular. It cannot tolerate the lack of toleration witnessed among militant atheists any more than it can tolerate the similar characteristics among Revivalists.

It is very clear that extreme atheists would rather that the church not exist, and this makes their inclusion in the secular camp problematic.

New Atheists tend to make grand rhetorical gestures toward that goal, though little indicates they seriously plan on bringing their ideas to fruition.

We now turn to some extreme atheists who did precisely that. Starting with the French Revolution, moving on to the fascists, and the Nazis and the communists and the Baathists, all of those purely secularists hated religion, tried to crush religion.

This reaction is unhelpful for two reasons. True, many of these associations are preposterous. It would come as a surprise to Jews to learn that the Nazis murdered their ancestors in the name of nonbelief or the separation of church and state.

Yet secularists, especially those of the atheist variety, ought to consider one case very carefully. We refer to that miserable specter, Soviet secularism.

Unlike Nazism or Baathism, the Soviet model explicitly invoked many of the grand basic-package ideas of secularism. On paper, anyhow, the Communist Party of the USSR talked the talk, like a tribute band belting out secular anthems with little feeling for, or understanding of, the original.

The Bolsheviks who came to power in drew great inspiration from the French Revolution of They were cognizant of the groundbreaking French bill of , discussed previously, that greatly secularized the Third Republic.

The Party made much of order and paid the requisite homage to freedom of religion. As for freedom from religion, well, they did that in spades.

And it was an infectious catastrophe at that! The trouble is that they are not yet completely liquidated. Anti-religious propaganda is the means that ought to bring to a head the liquidation of the reactionary clergy.

Needless to say, this is not a legitimate aspiration of secularism. Nor is the confiscation of church property.

Nor is the attempt to establish atheism as the religion of the state. None of the architects of secularism signed up for that. For those looking to rethink and renew secularism, the Soviet catastrophe is a cautionary tale of what happens when total separation and atheism and utter madness lock arms.

Some contend that Marx should not be held accountable for the Soviet debacle that ensued decades after his death in They argue that the father of historical materialism was really a softy, a romantic, and a poet.

He lived and worked, it is noted, under extremely trying and humanly reduced circumstances. Besides, he rarely wrote about religion, or communism for that matter; most of his writings were about capitalism.

Fair enough. But words, especially words about abolishing things for example, religion, private property, the reactionary bourgeoisie , often have unforeseen consequences.

Three interconnected aspects of Soviet secularism rendered it unprecedented and appallingly at peace with liquidating people of faith: 1 it loathed religion in general, 2 it loathed one religion in particular, and 3 it had a full-blown scientific alternative or so it thought that would vanquish and replace religion.

The Bolshevik dislike of religion was, as far as these things go, a pretty heady and organizationally stable brew.

Previous atheists, such as the Victorian infidels of the nineteenth century, were trailblazers who had relatively limited resources to use in thinking through their nonbelief and its relation to politics.

Besides that, they were almost constantly on the defensive, if not on the run. The victorious Russian revolutionaries of the early twentieth century, by contrast, had it all.

They had at their disposal the entirety of previous French and English religious criticism. The steeples ought fall on their own after their material supports within the economy are toppled.

This raises one of those tragic queries in Russian and world history: if religion was just a reflex, a symptom of a deeper economic problem, why did the Soviets so relentlessly attack the effect along with the cause?

Unriddle the mysteries of dialectical materialism! One explanation is simply that the theory changed. Therefore religion, as a tool of the bourgeoisie, had to be combated.

If only the violence had been confined to steeples; by one estimate , religious leaders were executed between and Many Russian intellectuals of the early twentieth century felt an intense antipathy toward the Orthodox Church.

For generations prior to the Revolution of , members of the opposition had been persecuted by the tsarist regime and its ally, the Orthodox Church.

The situation is quite similar to that of revolutionary France. The church was forcibly disarticulated from state power.

Its houses of worship were nationalized, its icons and images desecrated, its clergy manipulated and martyred. Bishop Germogen of Tobolsk, who had voluntarily accompanied the czar into exile, was strapped alive to a paddlewheel of a steamboat and mangled by the rotating blades.

Archbishop Vasily was crucified and burned. The result was a grim game of faith-based whack-a-mole with the sickle replacing the mallet played across most of the twentieth century.

Scientific Atheism The Communists, ever perspicacious and humane, had a plan for bringing about the end of religion. The most widely studied is the League of Militant Atheists.

Established in , it drew its membership mostly from members of the Communist Party. The league published a magazine called Bezbozhnik Godless to disseminate its ideas.

It devised strategies for bringing the population over to nonbelief. They cracked open the burial vaults of saints in order to demonstrate that their remains did indeed decompose in contradiction to widely held religious beliefs.

According to all witnesses, these staged public showdowns only hardened the faith of those in the audience. The head of the League of Militant Atheists himself devoted numerous volumes to disproving biblical legends.

Few believers read scripture in the flat and literal way that atheists think they do. Every sentence of the Bible can be interpreted in one way or in a hundred other ways.

Or simply ignored. The antireligious cadres they sent out to the people knew little or nothing about the religions they were trying to debunk.

Nor were their own doctrines particularly coherent. Recent studies of scientific atheism have described it as a disorganized, underperforming mess.

Fascinatingly, the Party was perennially bickering within its ranks as to how best to convert believers or whether it was even worth bothering with them.

The history of Soviet atheism was riddled by intense, some might even say crippling, disagreements among Communist antireligious functionaries.

On the one hand, there were those who wanted to eliminate religion quickly and by force. On the other were those who preferred more gradual, less drastic measures.

Soviet religious policy was disjointed, inconsistent, and completely illogical. It undulated among street hooliganism, legal persecution, and tactical tolerance and sometimes all three at once.

A survey taken in revealed that a walloping 56 percent of the population still believed in God! The results of this study surfaced only in the s.

The Secular Motions The Soviets always attempted to present themselves as adhering to the precepts of the noble secular vision.

Reading through their legislation on religion, one can often detect shout-outs to longstanding staples of the secular worldview.

The Communist regime there actually declared itself an atheist state in by annulling previous statutes that had granted some small, symbolic modicum of religious liberty in Yet the USSR never officially pivoted away from defining itself as a secular state to take on the mantle of an atheist state.

Indeed, throughout its history it maintained the veneer of secularism. Like most secularisms, the Soviet model began by moving religion out of the public sphere.

The first major legislation on this matter, The Decree on the Separation of Church and State, was delivered on January 23, Of its thirteen provisions these are the ones of greatest interest to us: 1.

The Church is separate from the State. Each citizen may confess any religion or no religion at all. The free performance of religious rites shall be granted so long as it does not disturb the public order and infringe upon the rights of the citizens of the Soviet Republic.

The school shall be separate from the Church. The teaching of religion is prohibited in all state, municipal, or private educational institutions where a general education is given.

All property belonging to churches and religious associations existing in Russia shall become public property. But even the sort-of-tolerant-sounding tenets mask a troubling reality.

For the truth is that the claim of devotion to separation of church and state and to religious freedom was completely disingenuous.

States relegate religion to the private sphere for a variety of reasons. In some cases, this is done to check the power of a majority religion.

India, for example, adopted secularism in part to protect Muslims and other minorities from the numerically immense Hindu majority.

In multireligious societies where the size of the differing groups is more or less equal, a different justification prevails.

In the USSR the rationale for disestablishment was somewhat different. The Communists moved religion out of the public sphere in order to better uproot it for good, to make sure it would disappear.

Rather, it was a transitional stage. Marxists love transitional stages! Of course, when it came to religion, the authorities did all in their power to induce the withering process.

So what we have in the Soviet model is a state committed not to the privatization of religion, but to its obliteration. When the decree was enacted, the Bolsheviks were locked in a battle with tsarist Russia and the Orthodox Church.

Later the same decree would help uproot other faiths. In the United States such activities might fall under the rubric of freedom of speech.

In the USSR, by contrast, criticizing religion was an explicitly articulated civil right. The problem is that both the Communist Party and the Soviet government which were more or less the same thing were committed to antireligious propaganda.

Herein lies the irony, or absurdity, of Soviet-style disestablishment. But for most of its history it did everything within its power to annihilate it.

It pursued its objective with vigor. One analyst sums up the situation in the s under Stalin: More than 95 percent of the thousand places of worship that had operated in were forcibly closed; the ranks of clergymen, numbering approximately thousand before , were decimated by murder, exile, and prison; all religious administrative centers were closed; and all religious publications ceased.

By the Soviet landscape was virtually free of any signs of its great religious past, except for sturdy edifices that were mostly converted to secular uses such as museums and movie houses.

It left behind millions of dead, ruined countless cultures, and brought about the almost irreversible decline of societies situated behind the Iron Curtain and beyond.

As for the doctrine of scientific atheism, it now retains less intellectual heft than the teeny-tiniest babushka doll.

Teachable moments of the bleakest variety abound in this story. Secularists, particularly the nonbelieving ones, must extract from it some valuable lessons.

The single most important one: do not fetishize separation of church and state. Separation might be a necessary condition for a healthy society, but it is absolutely not a sufficient condition.

A commitment to separation must be soldered to an equally robust commitment to religious liberty. If not, secularism is a pointless and potentially frightening endeavor.

The case of the Soviet Union confirms this observation: it was totally committed to separation, but from a human rights perspective and many other perspectives it was a total disaster.

Nonsecular Anglican Britain, after all, was an infinitely better place to live than secular Russia precisely because of its ability to respect religious freedom.

Finland has not only one established church, but two Lutheran and Orthodox. Which brings us to lesson number two: a secular state cannot espouse a religion.

It seems safe to say that the Communist Party advocated and promulgated the quasi religion of scientific atheism.

And it seems safe to say that this was a horrendous project. Lesson three: hatred of religion, like hatred of atheism, is an impulse that should be tempered.

If atheists cannot make peace with the idea of the existence of religion, they will never to be able to function in democratic polities or a true secular movement.

The same holds true for Revivalists who loathe atheism. Which brings us to recommend another moral of this story: nonbelief cannot be spread by force.

The human soul is such a complex mechanism; its carapace resists coercion and tyranny. Soviet atheists tried everything to separate worshipers from their gods.

Nothing worked. Actually, the Soviet case raises a more complex possibility: nonbelief can rarely be spread by persuasion.

According to her biographer, the infamous atheist was disheartened by what transpired in front of her eyes. One hopes they will achieve insight.

Secularists, for their part, must never forget the dangers that result when they align themselves antitheist zealots.

Keep the Church and State forever separate. Secular and atheist organizations are constantly referring to their swelling numbers, dynamic growth, unbounded energy, imminent expansion, and so forth.

Bush with a second term. Dennett was not alone in making overly optimistic interpretations of demographic data.

She is a daughter of an age-old organization with stable beliefs and dogma and mechanisms for promulgating them.

She has places to pray, to consult, to dialogue, to query. Catholic places. Places where people recognize one another as Catholics.

They do so because the Catholic Church has spent the better part of the past two millennia fashioning people just like them into Catholics with a sense of Catholic identity.

She does not belong to an age-old organization with a well-formed creed. She has no central institution where she can consult, or dialogue, or query about her lack of religion.

It is a leap of faith to presume that a person who says she has no religion is a secularist in the self-conscious and intense way that Dennett or Jacoby construe their secularist identity.

Movement secularists and atheists wildly overstate their numbers. Yet they must surely recognize that their political clout is limited, if not nonexistent.

A statistic such as the recent finding that not one of the members of Congress claimed to be an atheist is astonishing.

Similarly, the drift of the U. Supreme Court away from separationist positions in recent decades points to something that few reality-based secularists can ignore: while American secularism has many enemies, it has few elected defenders and little access to the corridors of power.

Perhaps this accounts for the hyperbolic claims made by self-identified secular leaders and intellectuals. But the truth is less reassuring: secularism as currently advocated lacks both political power and a massive base of sympathizers.

Has secularism always been the delusional sad sap of American isms? Or has it on occasion flexed its brawny, bare arms in arenas of influence?

It will also take us to the s, the decade when a different possibility for secular identity came into play.

Some think of it in starkly political terms as a strategy that assiduously walls off the government from religion.

Others think of it in theological terms as an affirmation of the nonexistence of God. Not all separationists are nonbelievers.

But nearly all nonbelievers are separationists. This too compounds the confusion. As we try to puzzle out the complicated and virtually unexplored question of the rise of American secularism, we must always bear in mind the difference between its separationist and atheist variants.

Each draws upon a distinct intellectual tradition and has its own history. Separationism was a coarse slab of theological intuition that was quarried during the Reformation.

Centuries later it was hewn into a coherent policy position by Jefferson and Madison. From there it was set into the metaphorical wall by twentieth-century jurists.

Atheism arrives on the scene a little later. Its first true signs of group life can be detected in the radical Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, especially in France.

By the nineteenth century fullblown infidel movements mushroomed in England and, as we are about to see, in the United States.

Separationism and atheism, although distinct, have something of an elective affinity. They clearly coalesced in the activism of figures like the Victorian Charles Bradlaugh.

In the United States separationism and atheism have also melded in a distinct way. What must be stressed, however, is that in American history substantial political gains and popular appeal have accrued only to separationist secularism, not to atheist secularism.

Separationists have scaled stunning political heights and sunk to regrettable moral lows. Nonbelievers today, as we have seen, view things differently.

To hear them tell it, their numbers are booming and their agenda is advancing. The truth is strikingly different. American atheist movements, though fancying themselves a lion, are more like the gimpy little zebra crossing the river full of crocs.

In terms of both political gains and popular appeal, nonbelievers in the United States have little to show.

They are encircled by cunning, swarming Revivalist adversaries who know how to play the atheist card.

True, Barack Obama did give a shout-out to nonbelievers in his inaugural address, but that was highly unusual. And besides, as we shall see, what President Obama gives with one hand, he takes away with the other.

Moving from the executive to the legislative branch, no atheist movement in the United States has ever achieved the type of popular critical mass that would force lawmakers in the House to take notice of its agenda.

It is not a coincidence that there is a Congressional Black Caucus, but not an atheist one, nor a secular one, for that matter. There are no self-professed atheists in the House and Senate and this has been the norm for most of American history.

If politicians play the atheist card, it is because atheist groups are small and anti-atheist sentiment large. We observed this in the Senate race in North Carolina.

There, the campaign of the incumbent Republican senator Elizabeth Dole released a thirty-second attack ad. It accused her challenger, the Democratic state senator Kay Hagan, of accepting campaign funding from the Godless Americans Political Action Committee.

They are small and underfunded. If atheists had organizations with clout like that, politicians would think twice before engaging in infidel baiting.

The American political scene is a savannah dominated by apex predators. Atheist advocacy groups can chest-thump all they want, but the gloomy reality is that they are small, slow, vulnerable, and overwhelmed by Revivalist activism.

The numbers, contrary to the claims we have already encountered, bear this out. What they have attained, on occasion, is nationwide infamy.

Periodically throughout American history, individual atheists have scored significant media attention. By frankly expressing their views on God, the Bible, what have you, they have repeatedly outraged their fellow Americans who are religious and who are, we hasten to add, too easily outraged on matters religious.

It draws attention to your movement, helps you focus your message, dog-whistles to the base, and musters a few recruits along the way.

This platform has not, however, translated into any substantive political gains the argument could be made that things have actually gotten worse for movement secularists since the New Atheists blasted off in On the other hand, it has done wonders to raise the profile of anti-theism in the United States.

She was the plaintiff in the Murray v. Curlett case of , which was folded into the landmark Abington School District v. Schempp decision, whereby the Supreme Court ruled that at the start of the day in public schools, Bible reading, even when unaccompanied by comment, was unconstitutional.

They are everywhere. These include but are not limited to religious skepticism, scientific rationalism, agnosticism, socialism, and fullblown atheism.

Also, the freethought movement attracted religious liberals. They might include members of Unitarian and Universalist churches, those who dissented from their own Protestant traditions, Reform Jews, and idiosyncratic Catholics.

As president of the National Liberal League, which was founded in , he tried to rein in the crippling factionalism that so often afflicts organizations of freethinkers and nonbelievers.

Here he oversaw the continuing build-out of what may be the single most important platform in the history of American freethought.

It is another name for common sense. Indeed, the term has floated out of our national lexicon. As for the three crucial elements of the Nine Demands cited here, they remain unheeded.

It has yet to register political accomplishments or widespread popularity. Separationist Secularism in the Nineteenth Century Although atheism has never achieved a foothold in American society, separationist secularism has wielded impressive power and influence at least three times in American politics.

American separationist secularism took legislative shape for the first time in the late eighteenth century.

Its champions were anything but atheists. The early separationist vanguard combined evangelical religious dissenters with Baptists leading the charge , deist intellectuals, and people who were difficult to categorize as to religion.

That two of the architects of the secular vision, Jefferson and Madison, lived in the White House for sixteen consecutive years speaks volumes about the political prominence of separationism in this country.

We have already seen how Thomas Jefferson made the essential case for keeping the church completely out of governmental affairs. Running for president as a Republican in , the great Enlightenment thinker and doer was viciously attacked as a nonbeliever by the rival Federalist Party.

His defenders argued in favor of separation. What is important for our purposes is that they did so along theological lines.

For them separationism had absolutely nothing to do with atheism it is highly doubtful, by the way, that there were more than a handful of real live atheists in America at this time.

This points to an association, long forgotten, between Christian dissenters and the push for a religion-free government. There exists a rich, but now obscured, tradition in America of Christian secularism understood as separationism.

To properly understand that phenomenon, we must first look back to the s. With each passing decade of the nineteenth century, more and more Catholics immigrated to the United States.

Between and , the Catholic population of America swelled from seventy-five thousand to three million, representing nearly 10 percent of the population.

The new arrivals encountered considerable discrimination. In response to this combination of liberal and more traditional fears, Protestants would eventually elevate separation of church and state as an American ideal.

The Bible Wars first broke out in the s. Some of the most notable clashes about school policies occurred in New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati.

The majority Protestant culture naturally favored their King James Version. The minority Catholics naturally preferred Catholic translations, such as the Douay.

They proposed letting Catholic students use the Douay. After much conflict leading to more than a few bloody urban riots a particularly frightful and deadly one occurred in Philadelphia in Catholics opted for a different strategy.

Even if the students were not Protestant, it was reasoned, the text would be suitable and salutary for them. Through it all, many Protestants cast themselves as defenders of the idea of separation.

To a modern observer the double standard and hypocrisy are truly staggering. These schools were promulgating Protestant scriptures and Protestant prayer, all the while insisting that they were acting in the name of church-state separation.

Perhaps posterity will find similar blind spots in our generation. Then again, there is ample reason to suppose that this was no blind spot, but instead naked, self-conscious anti-Catholic bigotry.

These midcentury debates were the prelude to the infamous Blaine amendments of a few decades later. One consequence of the Bible Wars, as we have seen, was that frustrated Catholic Americans began to establish their own schools.

In a few cases the increasing political power of Catholics garnered indirect public funding for these schools in places like New York and Wisconsin.

Blaine, a congressman from Maine and a former Speaker of the House, with an eye on a presidential run. Yet it was the afterlife of Blaine that made the greatest impact.

By , twenty-nine states in the Union had banned any sort of state funding for sectarian schools. For purposes of understanding the rise of secularism, a few facts are noteworthy.

The first is that evangelical Protestants were staunch supporters of the Blaine amendments. What makes this all very confusing is that these evangelicals were speaking in the name of pseudo-separationism: they permitted Protestant Bibles and prayers in public schools while excluding all others!

Even more striking is the presidential legitimacy granted to the separationist worldview.

This came at a moral cost. The Blaine episode points to a dark interlude in the history of secularism. The champions of separationism are not cast in one positive mold: they can be as morally serious as Jefferson or as unsavory as the anti-Catholic hate-mongers of yore.

The first is the glory days of revolutionary and post-revolutionary America. The next is the second half of the nineteenth-century, when separationism merged successfully, albeit disturbingly, with anti-Catholic social movements.

The third historical peak of secularism is one we have already encountered and will continue to scrutinize. This is the period from the s through s, when separationism became the preferred secular policy of the U.

Supreme Court. We have reviewed some of the landmark decisions of that era, during which the wall of separation stood higher and sturdier than at any point before or after.

But did judicial separationism have widespread popular appeal in this period as well? This is a crucial question and we will investigate it in the next chapter.

Before doing that we need to look a bit more carefully at the anything-goes s, perhaps the signature decade in the history of American secularism.

There, we can find popular support for something that can be called neither separationism per se nor atheism. Rather, tens of millions of Americans in that decade looked at the world through more softly tinted secular lenses and adopted views that we shall refer to as secularish.

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