Secular = Not religious or spiritual (Oxford English Dictionary)
Secularism = the belief that the state, morals, education, etc should be independent of religion. (Chambers)
The various secular societies are tiny – with most having less real members than a large church. But they are noisy and seem to be having an increasing voice and influence in the secular media. One of the dangers is that here is a great deal of confusion about what secularism actually is. For a number of years I have been involved with secular societies and debated many people who would describe themselves as secularists and have come to understand why there is so much confusion. The trouble is that most Christians are secularists in the sense that most secular societies describe secularism, when they state that they are simply about the separation of church and state. Most of us are happy to live in a secular society – one that is not run by the Church, but allows and even recognises its input and the influence of Christianity. However this is not what the secular societies want. There is a new secularism which is much more militant and dangerous.
1) The New Secularism is being used as a disguise for a militant anti-religious philosophy – The vast majority of the posts on secular message boards are anti-religious. The main purpose is to attack religion in general, Christianity in particular and in very particular the Catholic Church and evangelicals. This attitude towards Christianity in general quickly degenerates into personal abuse if anyone dares challenge the herd mentality. I recall one week where there were four threads on one secular website solely set up for the purpose of abusing me. And this abuse can be deeply personal. "David Robertson is a middle aged man from Dundee who suffers from various mental afflictions. If there was a god, it's likely she invented DAR to unite Christians and atheists in loathing and amusement." "I don't hate Christians. I just hate DAR". What bothers me is not that such posts are posted, nor even that the moderators leave them there. But rather that no-one ever challenges those who use such hate speech, and even worse, several of the main players will always 'like' such comments.
2) The New Secularism is irrational and illogical. There are so many examples of this but let this one from Secular Scotland (19 December 2013) suffice. "Religious leaders are rushing to reject extremism as Lee Rigby's murderers are convicted tonight. When will the Government deal with religion – in our schools; on our streets – as it becomes more extreme at all levels in our society? Lee Rigby's murderers started out as Christians. They learnt all they knew from Christian proselytizers. Let us not just blame Islam."
Christians are responsible for Islamic extremists? It is difficult to accept that such views are anything other than a parody – and yet this is the kind of material that is regularly posted. This irrationality and illogicality both stems from and leads to an angry rant against Christianity. The this video shows the more extreme end of that – but sadly the arguments used are ones I come across on a regular basis:
3) The New Secularism is obsessed with sex and sexuality. You will look in vain for many examples of concern with poverty, injustice and economic inequality on secular websites. They seem almost solely concerned with being anti-religious and discussing sexual 'equality'. I have met some people in the Church who seem obsessed by issues of sexuality – but its nothing compared with the secular societies. There may be good reasons for that – not least that some have experienced abuse and denigration because of their sexuality. Nonetheless it is sad that they then go on to abuse and denigrate those who don't agree with their point of view.
Apparently there are some 'secular values'. I had thought secularism was a simple separation of Church and State. But the New Secularism carries a whole other baggage. You have to be 'progressive', pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia, and above all pro-homosexuality – which is the cause celebre of the new secular elites. Homosexuality has become the shibboleth issue. One has to wonder why? Dare any one in public life suggest for example that marriage should be between a man and a woman and they are automatically decried as a homophobic bigot – even (or perhaps especially) if they are homosexual and atheist!
4) The New Secularism is increasingly militant, intolerant and aggressive. Secularism sometimes sounds so reasonable. One leader gave the secular vision for education: "It's a vision where children are not segregated according to the beliefs of their parents, and where faith is incidental, not all defining. We see a future where all kids get a good education, not twisted by religious views of sexuality or of science. We see a future where religion is a choice, not imposed, but where if it is chosen it can be followed freely and openly as long as it doesn't impact others. I'd say that is a very positive vision for education." It all sounds so sweet, logical and reasonable until you actually think about what is being said. They will tolerate 'faith' providing it is not 'all defining' and 'does not impact others'. That is absolutely impossible for Christians. My faith is all defining and it will impact others. The New Secularists want the complete neuterisation and privatisation of religion. They want only their views and values to be taught and allowed in public life. They of course cannot give any reasonable justification for these views. Like all fundamentalists they just assume they are right, and anyone who disagrees with them must be dealt with.
Christians need to be aware of this. We need to recognise the new secularism for what it is – an attempt to undermine and destroy Christianity. We need to stand against its fundamentalism and we need to stand up for the poor, the young, the disabled and the marginalised (who most need the Good News), by proclaiming the gospel of Christ against the elitism and intolerance of our new fundamentalist atheists. The Gates of Hell shall not prevail!