Recently, I have had the pleasure in reading that of the late articles of Irving Kristol, written during his heyday in conservative academia. In one of these articles, entitled ‘The New Face of American Politics’, Kristol argues a marked difference between secular governance and secularist governance – the distinction being the role of the state.
Kristol characterizes a secular political party as one ‘neutral in between religions’ and a secularist party as ‘neutral as between religion and irreligion’. Although I have great respect for Kristol, I remain unconvinced that only a slight shift in rhetoric would create such a massive distinction. What becomes more apparent as Kristol continues his berating of the Democratic party falling victim to a secularist agenda, is that he is describing frighteningly similar attitudes to those found in the state atheist nations of Eastern Europe at the time.
The obsession by many modern Democrats over the “institutional cleansing” of religion from all public life, appear far more intellectually in-line with the cultural revolutions of China and the Soviet Union, than any hackneyed interpretation of the first amendment. Take for instance, the successful agendas that lead to removing prayer from schools, and in certain states, the ten commandments outside universities. Traditional prayer and Christian morality serve as a unitary force for cohesive community and identity – and the first steps taken by this new radical left were the aggressive debasing of them.
As is a common trope of the left – they didn’t stop their. The new wave of anti-Christian policy has been targeted at tax exemption status and whether Churches withhold a right to decline homosexual ceremonies; that which at the time of Kristol would have been unthinkable. Nonetheless, it proves that their is no limiting principle to this radical ideology, and the left will not stop until they see the fundamental atheization of government.
It is the far left’s relentless pursuit of state atheism through the framework of political subservience, that it not only disintegrates cohesion, but also attempts to disperse the objective nature of religion. A tradition such as Christianity which is fundamentally at odds with unbridled liberalism, in their eyes, is understandably a direct threat.
So comes the question, does leaving secularism to its own devices inherently lead to state atheism? The answer to this query is an unfortunate yes, but that does not mean our constitution endorses the full conclusion of state atheism, nor need lead to it. State atheism requires that the government first acknowledge the existence of religion, and then further take steps in deconstructing its influence. This violates our understanding of the separation of church and state – not in the sense it promotes a state religion, but by acting to control the church. it is because of this sacred violation, that state atheism, although the end product of secularism, is through our constitution limited from its full potential.
What state atheism can be truly characterized is, is that of the angsty cousin of state religion-a dogma America has had a history of nearly falling victim to. Consequently, America is as vulnerable falling victim to state atheism in our modern irreligious society. Carried out in reality, both state atheism and state religion yield similar results of carnage, bigotry, and even inquisition. It is because of this that one can only hope that a uniquely American idea of secularism, predicated on the constitution, is not only the bulwark that prevents state religion, but also blossoms into a bulwark that quashes state atheism.