‘Secularist’ Faith vs. Christianity: The Culture Wars are a Battle of Religions

By Tom Gilson Published on January 27, 2018

Our culture is locked in conflict, and it’s a religious battle, through and through. For years, the powers-that-be said the culture wars were about pushy Christians imposing their faith on a neutral, secular world. It was also always a fiction — one that’s becoming harder to maintain as time goes on.

Today’s secularism has all the features of a new religion. This secularist faith demands full obedience — no rivals allowed, especially Christianity. It’s time we see the culture war for what it is: Two belief systems vying for the soul of our nation, and for the whole Western world.

The Religious Reality of “Secularism”

Not long ago I wrote about the new religion of polytheism, with its millions of small gods creating their own little worlds to live in. Many others are saying the same sort of thing. More and more people are seeing the culture wars for the religious conflict it really is.

One of them is Bishop Robert Barron, who raises concerns over today’s “culture of self-invention.” (He says it at about 12:30 in this video.) He explains this as the popular belief that “it’s my right … to invent myself, so my will determines the truth for me at all levels of life.”

Today’s secularism is a faith that demands full faith and obedience — no rivals allowed, especially Christianity.

He could have gone even further than that. (I suspect he would agree if we asked him.) No longer is it just “the truth for me.” These “self-invented persons” love to impose their “truths” on others, who must also take their “truths” as “true.” What else can we call it when one person’s view of his gender must dictate how others view him as well? This very god-like move is one feature of the “secular” religion in action. (In this context, I really must put “secular” in quotes. This new faith is no more secular than your local Christian college.)

Sex at the Center of “Secularism”

It’s a very pagan move, actually, for it puts sex right at the center. Greg Forster, visiting professor of faith and culture at Trinity International University, wrote on this in Christianity Today the month. “Sex is at the center of the culture wars,” he explained. “The growing political divide over sexuality is inseparable from a growing religious divide, one that began in the 19th century as a division between those who followed historic Christian teaching and those who followed ‘modernist’ theologies.”

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Mary Eberstadt, author of several books and senior research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute, echoes and expands on that theme. Even the title of her recent piece in First Things tells the whole story: “The Zealous Faith of Secularism: How the Sexual Revolution Became a Dogma.” Eberstadt notes how the Western world has “entered a time of paganization.” A “rival, secularist faith,” has arisen, she says, “which sees Christianity as a competitor to be vanquished.”

Did someone say “religious conflict”?

This new “secularist” religion — and the conflict it brings to our culture — is built on sex and its free expression. As Eberstadt says, “The fury directed at Christianity can be pressed into a single word, sex. … All of the … animosity now aimed against Christianity by this new secularist faith shares a common denominator. [It is] rooted in secularist dogma about the sexual revolution.”

Mythological and Not Really Rational

Which means, by the way, that we ought not expect it to be fully rational. Baylor University professor Alan Jacobs explores its not-so-rational nature in a searching article at New Atlantis,Wokeness and Myth on Campus.” Campus culture, he says, is driven by a “mythological” impulse that precedes and overrules rationality. Therefore even the attempt to speak rationally of, say, the university’s mission to promote careful thinking on diverse viewpoints, is “perceived as a kind of violation.” It is a kind of “defilement from which [campuses] must be cleansed.” Therefore, he says, “cheap talk of ‘critical thinking’ and ‘the free exchange of ideas’ is clearly no longer adequate to the challenges we face.”

Eberstadt’s article includes a great example proving Jacobs’s point. “Within this new church of secularism,” she says, “pro—life women are heretics: despised transgressors of a religious community’s teaching and norms. … Abortion is sacrosanct. It is a communal right.”

It isn’t about critical thinking any longer. And there’s no “free exchange of ideas” there, either.

It isn’t about critical thinking any longer.

Explaining the Anger

Therefore, Eberstadt says, “When people say that they hope the Church changes its position on marriage or birth control, they are not talking about one religious faith – i.e. the Christian one. What they really mean is that they hope the Church will suborn or replace its own theology with the theology of the new Church of secularism.”

Which brings us back to the culture wars. Eberstadt’s conclusion may be disturbing, but it help explain the anger directed at the Christian faith these days:

At long last and after great troubles, Americans have grown accustomed to the peaceful coexistence of multiple faiths and denominations. The rival Church of secularism seeks no such comity, as today’s unprecedented attacks on Christian schools, charities, colleges and other works go to show. The new Church of secularism serves a very jealous god.

Of course, t serves secularists’ purpose to play the role of the “rational, non-religious” ones. It even serves their purpose to view themselves that way. Most of them would deny they’re living out a new faith. But they are.

To See the New Reality With Clear Eyes

In sum, we must see clearly the new reality of the culture wars. It isn’t a matter of one religion (Christianity) crusading against some mild and innocuous secularism. Neither is it one religion imposing its morality on non-believers. Or maybe it is, after all — but it’s the new “secular” faith that’s doing the imposing. It certainly has more power to do that these days than Christianity has. And it’s not afraid to wield that power.

“We are not waging war according to the flesh,” wrote the apostle Paul. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (2 Cor. 10:3–4). We’d better find out what that means in this new day of religious conflict.

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  • JP

    One of the things we can do is to argue against them using their same arguments in reverse which will show the absurdity of their views. That will just make them angrier.

  • Dennis

    I believe you are right. I wonder what you would say about where all this secularism/humanism comes from. I’m not a scholar nor do I even have an associate degree so I am not comfortable claiming I know or I believe believe I’m correct , but I suspect I am on to something when I consider the the ramifications of the little I know about John Dewey. He is called the “father of modern progressive education” and he also has the distinction of being one of the most influential authors of the humanist manifesto. He had great influence on the course our educational system took. Along with his own influence he had powerful friends like Nelson Rockefeller.
    I think it is worth considering where these men took our educational system. One man can cause a lot of change , and change is not always good but may seem to be good at first if you have the right people in your corner. Consider Karl Marx.
    I think Dewey may be the Karl Marx of American education in the scope of his influence and the negative effects of his ideas. He seems to me to be responsible for pulling that big leaver that switched our American system from a Judeo Christian track to a humanist track. When the leaver was pulled the whole system did not change all at once. Little by little over time one car at a time crosses over to the other
    track. Now we have humanist values being taught by humanists who were themselves taught by humanists , who were also taught by humanists,and on and on until it seems ( to humanists) that there is no rational argument against secular humanism only bigoted religious extremists. I’m sure I don’t have to dig up all the proof of the liberal progressive mindsets holding sway in our schools and universities.
    At this point it may very well seem that it no longer matters where it came from because there is no way to mount a defense against this flood of humanist ideology. I can’t seem to come up with any answers either but I also can’t shake the feeling that unless there is a fundamental change at the top as well as in the classroom we are wasting time as they say rearranging deck chairs on the titanic. We can’t go down like the titanic did. We have to somehow save the ship. Maybe we need a miracle. Maybe we need to depend on God ourselves as He tells us to in 2nd Chronicles 7:14.

  • John Doane

    “Today’s secularism has all the features of a new religion”

    True, except that it is not a new religion. It can be identified as pantheism. In the context of Western intellectual thought, it can be traced back to Spinoza in the early Enlightenment. Its creed is: 1) there is no supernatural God outside of nature, and 2) meaning (even “salvation”) can be found in aligning with the principle behind nature, which is perceived to be evolutionary progress.

    “In sum, we must see clearly the new reality of the culture wars. It isn’t a matter of one religion (Christianity) crusading against some mild and innocuous secularism.”

    Very true. One manifestation of the culture wars is in the conflict labeled “science vs religion” by our opponents. That conflict is actually pantheism vs Biblical Christianity. We need to reframe the argument in those terms.

    • GPS Daddy

      It’s interesting that those who hold pantheism like to hide behind a “lack of belief” in God. They think that because they “lack” belief then they have no burden of proof for denying God’s existence.

      • swordfish

        “They think that because they “lack” belief then they have no burden of proof for denying God’s existence.”

        They’re right. If you disagree, prove that fairies, pixies and goblins don’t exist, otherwise they do exist.

        • GPS Daddy

          No, they are not. “Lack of belief” is just a word game to try and escape the responsibility you have to being a living, breathing being. By the fact that you are living you will give a testimony as to why you are hear, who you are, and what your purpose is. You may never verbally admit this BUT your life will. The way you live, the words you choose to say or not say, the choices you make, the thoughts you have, the way you spend money… all paint a mosaic of what you say about this life.

          The biggest testimony YOU have to God’s existence is the fact that you are a living, breathing being. If you step over that then all other evidence is second-hand. So who are you, swordfish?

          • swordfish

            “”Lack of belief” is just a word game […]”

            No, it makes perfect sense. Think of those fairies, pixies or goblins – I don’t have to prove they don’t exist, it’s up to those that claim they exist to provide evidence to support their claim otherwise I won’t believe it. The existence of God is the same.

            “The biggest testimony YOU have to God’s existence is the fact that you are a living, breathing being.”

            The fact that I’m a living being doesn’t provide any evidence for the existence of God.

          • GPS Daddy

            >>The fact that I’m a living being doesn’t provide any evidence for the existence of God.

            Who are you, swordfish? I’m not asking you for your name or address but what manner of being are you?

        • I wouldn’t take up that challenge without you first showing that the question of fairies, etc. is relevantly analogous to the question of God. If it isn’t then it’s a wild goose chase. You own that burden of proof too. What relevance does your challenge have?

          • swordfish

            The relevance of fairies to God is that both lack sufficient evidence. It wouldn’t be valid for me to claim that fairies exist unless you can prove otherwise, just as it wouldn’t be valid for you to claim that God exists unless I can prove otherwise.

            If you think this is wrong, perhaps you can suggest how I can disprove the existence of God (or fairies) without the existence of God (or fairies) being claimed in the first place?

          • False analogy. If God exists and is the reality underlying *all* reality, then it’s fundamentally illogical to suppose that His existence could be falsifiable. To falsify God in that case would require conditions that literally do not and could not obtain, even in human imagination, which is fully conditioned by the reality we experience.

            The same just isn’t true of fairies, which by definition are not and cannot be the reality underlying *all* reality.

            This is a fine but important point. Unfortunately it’s also not an easy one to understand. But the disanalogy between the two is complete and absolute, because falsifiability is an impossible criterion to use in the case of God, for *if* God exists as Christians understand God to be, *then* God is the sort of being who created all reality, and who sets the bounds even for human imagination, and who therefore is the sort of being for whom falsifiability is literally impossible.

            Your second paragraph probably meant something in your mind when you wrote it. Unfortunately I don’t know what that is.

          • swordfish

            “If God exists and is the reality underlying *all* reality […]”

            Now you’re simply defining God as unfalsifiable. I can define fairies as unfalsifiable. What are you going to do now?

            “Your second paragraph probably meant something in your mind when you wrote it. Unfortunately I don’t know what that is.”

            Simply that it’s not possible to disprove the existence of God unless God has previously been claimed to exist. The people making the original claim that God exists need to provide evidence of said existence (which they haven’t done) – it’s not up to atheists to disprove the existence of God.

            In other words, you can’t simply reverse the burden of proof to avoid having to provide evidence.

          • No, actually, you can’t define fairies as unfalsifiable. Read my comment again.

            Your second point now means something. We have given evidence. Thanks.

          • swordfish

            “No, actually, you can’t define fairies as unfalsifiable.”

            Fairies are unfalsifiable. There, I just did it. And it’s true: You can’t prove fairies don’t exist.

          • No, you didn’t do it. You didn’t pay the slightest attention to the reasoning behind God’s being definable that way.

            You show no indication that you care about the answers I give to your questions and challenges, so I won’t continuing trying. Good day to you.

          • GPS Daddy

            swordfish, do you have a memory as a child of your father being for you? Sometime when you doubted yourself and your father stood behind you and was for you?

  • Ryan

    As time winds down, we see Jesus words come to pass; “They will hate you as they hated Me.”
    Secularism isn’t a new religion, it has always been, but under different names. Denial is the major concept of secularism, it can’t exist without it. Denying there is anything greater than themselves then exalting themselves above others of whom they use as pawns to push their political agendas.
    What we see in todays world is the signs of the war going on in the heavenlys beginning its approach to ground zero, earth.
    As the seals are opened we will see more proof of this war on the planets surface. The time is very near when all we will have between us and the evil of the world, is our spiritual armor. We all need to get it on and get used to living in it.

  • swordfish

    “unprecedented attacks on Christian schools [etc]”,

    You’re talking only about Christianity being questioned, criticised or ridiculed, but ignoring the fact that historically, Christianity has tortured and/or killed people who dared to question its claims in public.

    Also, secularism isn’t a religion.

    • Nobody Specific

      Secularism might not be a religion in the traditional sense, but its taken the character of one. This is the whole point of the article. There are now secular “articles of faith” like women are entitled to abortions anytime anywhere for any reason for example; if you question them you face the inquisition.

      Yes people (not Christ) have made mistakes in the past; in his name. That does not make it a good thing for secularists to do the same things. If you knew your neighbor was stealing cable, that would not make it right for you to go climb the pole and do it to would it?

      By the way you could argue that Pol Pot was secularist, Mao, or Joseph Stalin. They tortured and/or killed people on scales never before imagined. If you consider the some total bodies those regimes piled up they make Hitler look like a piker. Secularism has done far more evil than ANY religious faith ever did.

      • swordfish

        “Secularism has done far more evil than ANY religious faith ever did.”

        Secularism hasn’t done any evil. Individual people, like Stalin, have done so. Disbelief in God doesn’t mandate or necessitate any particular behaviour.

        “Yes people (not Christ) have made mistakes in the past; in his name. That does not make it a good thing for secularists to do the same things.”

        They aren’t doing the same things.

        “Secularism might not be a religion in the traditional sense, but its taken the character of one.”

        An odd claim. Presumably you think religion is a good thing, but intend this comparison of secularismto it as a criticism?

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