Why a “secular sphere” and the “promotion of secular values” are different—and mutually opposed—things

In March 2006 a European reader (Mr. Particular Swede, later Conservative Swede) dissented from my strong critique of the European secular anti-Islamization manifesto and its promotion of “secular values.” He felt that I was delineating a war between Christianity and secular values, whereas, he said, many secular values are in keeping with Christianity and indeed strengthen Christianity. In response I argued that the general idea of the “secular” or of a secular sphere on one side and the activist promotion of “secular values” on the other have distinct meanings:

When Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” he was providing for the authority of a secular sphere as distinct from the authority of the religious sphere. And this was one of the most important things he ever said.

However, this secular sphere does not exclude God. It merely operates independently of direct religious authority.

But when modern people promote “secular values” per se, they are specifically promoting things in the light of their not being religious and of having nothing to do with God or any transcendent reality.

To illustrate the difference between doing secular things and promoting secular values as secular values, when the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 drafted the U.S. Constitution, they were creating an instrument of secular government. But they didn’t say, “We’re promoting secular values.” They said, “We’re creating an instrument of government.”

When Alfred Nobel invented dynamite, he didn’t say, “I’m promoting secular values,” he said, “I’m inventing dynamite.”

To do a secular thing, like creating an instrument of government or inventing dynamite, does not exclude God. But to promote the spread of secular values as secular values is to attempt to create a world order that excludes God and any transcendent truth. Which of course is what the entire modernist and post-modernist project is about.

Why would the manifesto signers promote “secular values for all,” unless they specifically were seeking to exclude God and religion as such? To advance their ostensible purpose, the protection of liberty from Islamic tyranny, all they had to say was that they were in favor of individual freedom, tolerance, rule of law, etc. By pushing the notion of “secular values” into the center of their statement they make it clear that they are asking for more than individual freedom, tolerance, rule of law etc. They are seeking the creation of a social order that excludes God.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 01, 2012 09:51 PM | Send

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