Top Of The Ninth: Secularism 2, Religious Fanaticism 0

It’s getting late in the game. As same-sex marriage bans fall, jurisdiction by jurisdiction, the religious reactionaries are swinging for the fences and, as the governor of Indiana is now discovering, whiffing.

When it is all over, even the most zealous Religious Right Republicans will finally have to admit that this is not a Christian nation. America is becoming, day by day, ruling by ruling, boycott by boycott, a secular country, at least when it comes to our laws regarding discrimination.

Mike Pence Surrounded By Bigots When He Signed SB101 Into LawDemocratic strategist Richard Socarides said last night on MSNBC that Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s problem is that “he was lying through his teeth” when he denied that the now infamous Indiana law, disguised as an effort to protect religious liberty, was really about allowing what I call Bible-based bigotry to have its way. The law most certainly was designed to allow discrimination against gays or quasi-gays or anyone who doesn’t have sex the way, presumably, Governor Pence and his evangelical friends do.

Richard Socarides finally said out loud the truth about what the evangelical-influenced legislature and governor in Indiana were trying to pull off. That they weren’t able to pull it off, that they weren’t able to lie their way to a victory for discrimination based on an ancient set of manuscripts, is wonderful news.

Meanwhile, in Arkansas, where trees on the Ozark Mountains cover a multitude of reactionary sins, conservative lawmakers passed a similar “religious freedom” bill that even the CEO of Wal-Mart—who could only manage to express himself in a tweet—found so offensive that he urged the Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, to veto the attempt to put gays in their rightful, hell-bound, place.

No matter what one thinks of Wal-Mart, that is progress.

Last October I wrote about “The Slow Triumph Of Secularism.” That was just after the Supreme Court had then decided not to decide the issue of gay marriage and let stand a lower-court ruling that entitled gay citizens to the same matrimonial bliss, or non-bliss, as those who have sex in the Religious Right sense. Things look even better now, what with a groundswell of negative reaction to what happened in Indiana and what is happening in Arkansas.

So, the game is almost over and the forces of secularism, which demand that the rights of LGBT folks are respected as much as anyone else’s—as much as any pew-renting patron of literalistic religion—are, with success, ridiculing the forces of reactionary politics, with the help of Wal-Mart and, uh, believe it or not, NASCAR.

There may be a setback before it is over—the governor of Arkansas may ignore Wal-Mart and NASCAR and every other objector and sign the discriminatory law passed by his legislature—but I can confidently say that secularism will win this important game.

And, as I said back in October, that means the American experiment is working.


[photo credit @seamonkey237]

Secular Rally Doesn’t Exactly Welcome All Secularists

Even though I am not an atheist, I am a secularist, and I am pleased that a bunch of secularists are getting together on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on March 24.

But before I go on, let’s look at two meanings for the word “secularism“:


1. secular  spirit or tendency, especially a system of political or social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship.

2. the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element.

I am a secularist in the second sense, not the first, and that is why I was disappointed that the organizers of the celebration of secularism chose to focus on the first definition. They announced the event—called “The Reason Rally“—this way:

Across America, in every city, every town, and every school, secularism is on the rise. Whether people call themselves atheists, agnostics, secular Humanists, or any of the other terms used to describe their god-free lifestyle, secularism is coming out of the closet.

By this definition, one of the greatest religious skeptics in modern American history—Martin Gardner—would not be technically qualified to attend this gathering. Gardner was a philosophical theist, but highly critical of miracle-based religions.

In The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, in a chapter titled, “Why I Am Not an Atheist,” he wrote:

Let me speak personally. By the grace of God I managed the leap when I was in my teens. For me it was then bound up with an ugly Protestant fundamentalism. I outgrew this slowly, and eventually decided I could not even call myself a Christian without using language deceptively, but faith in God and immortality remained.

He added,

I am quite content to confess…that I have no basis whatever for my belief in God other than a passionate longing that God exist and that I and others will not cease to exist.

By this admission, Gardner, who died almost two years ago, would have to sit out The Reason Rally in March.  And that would be a damn shame.

Vatican Bows To Secular Humanism

Last Sunday, the Vatican released a document claiming that the world community is ignoring the problems of Christians in the Middle East, many of whom have fled the region for fear of persecution by “political Islam.”

That’s certainly true, of course.  But I was fascinated by this sentence in the paper:

The key to harmonious living between Christians and Muslims is to recognize religious freedom and human rights.

Think about that and what it implies.

The Vatican is acknowledging that secular, rationalist principles—religious freedom and other human rights—are not just independent of religion, but higher than religion. 

Secularism has taken a beating from conservatives of all stripes, so it’s nice to know that when it comes down to it, at least the Vatican is comfortable with admitting that the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment—for all their shortcomings—were superior advances in the evolution of human thought.




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