We can’t let the aggressive secularists drive out religion

We can’t let the aggressive secularists drive out religion, by John Anderson, former deputy prime minister of Australia.

We are atomising and fracturing in the context of the rise of powerful ferment over beliefs and ideologies across the globe. Far from this being “the end of history” or an age of secularism, we are witnessing a global resurgence of religion and ideology.

We are also living through a clash of Western traditions within our own civilisation, between liberal traditionalism and cultural Marxism, both of which emerged out of the Enlightenment. …

The great myth is that all of our most cherished values came out of some secular Enlightenment. On the contrary, notions of human dignity and equality arose in the Judeo-Christian tradition hundreds of years before the Enlightenment; and, in any case, for the most part the Enlightenment was not secular. The great Enlightenment document affirming human rights, equality, and liberty — Thomas Jefferson’s 1776 Declaration of Independence — based these ideals on the notion that “all men are created equal” and are “endowed by their Creator” with these rights. …

The anti-slavery movement, perhaps the greatest human rights achievement of all time, drank deeply at the well of Christianity, with the strong religiosity of African-Americans to this day testifying to a collective awareness of Christianity’s emancipatory ­potential.

Jesus Christ was a revolutionary political figure. He transformed the West by bringing, among other things, the notions that we are all equal before the Lord, and that we had better behave in this life or will be harshly judged in the next. Eventually the logic and appeal of his teachings resulted in liberal democracy, the Enlightenment, the end of slavery and polygamy, celebration of humility, and so on — though it took centuries to spread from a few dusty middle-eastern villages to the entire world. The last few decades have seen erosion on all these fronts by cultural Marxists.

The rhetoric of an often aggressive secularism which seeks to drive religion out of the public square fails to grasp that secularism is merely one voice in the pluralist crowd. Contemporary secularists need to accept that while Australia is not as religious as it was a generation ago, it is not the secularist nation they would like. If secularists rejoice that the 2016 census reported that 30 per cent of Australians register “no religion” they must also acknowledge that around 50 per cent of Australians identified as Christian, with continued immigration coming from countries that are less secular than Australia.

Thus, calls for the withdrawal of public funding for religious schools that discriminate are seriously flawed. Such calls covertly define the Australian “public” as secular, as though the religious parents who send their children to religious schools aren’t themselves members of the same public that contributes the funds from which Australian schools are supported. Once we acknowledge that the Australian public remains to a significant degree a religious public — as the 2016 census indicated — then religious schools have as much right to public funding as non-religious schools. …

When you replace humility with a culture of narcissism and self-righteousness, those with whom we disagree become wicked in our minds. But as Russian dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said: “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts.” …

Dare to disagree on cultural grounds with the reigning orthodoxy on gender politics and you’ll immediately find yourself branded a lesser Australian. …

I don’t hear anyone arguing for an extension of religious liberty; rather, it has become patently obvious that effective measures are now needed to simply preserve the freedoms we’ve taken for granted and exercised for so long in laissez-faire Australia. That is because our society is now plainly infused with activists who are determined to use every tool available to enforce their views on others, no matter the cost. And as a result, our cherished social harmony really is now at risk.

hat-tip Stephen Neil