An article in yesterday’s Irish Times set out to disprove the existence of aggressive secularism but ended up going a long way towards doing the opposite. Entitled ‘Evil, militant anti-Christian secularism is simply a myth’, it was full of scorn and contempt towards religion. Its underlying message to religious believers was clear; know your place.
This, of course, is the very essence of aggressive secularism. By definition, aggressive secularism is characterised by an aggressive attitude towards religion and by a desire to drive religion from the public arena.
The following passage from the article is a neat encapsulation of both the scornful attitude of aggressive secularism towards religion and the wish to marginalise and privatise it.
It reads: “On matters of society and science, religious belief should not even be a consideration yet, all too often, rational discourse is abandoned in favour of ancient religious assertions without a modicum of evidence or logic behind them. Stem cell research, gay marriage and abortion rights are just some of the issues where frank discussion is clouded by often misinformed religious objections.”
The author does not explain why it is irrational, or even necessarily religious to believe that human life begins at conception and is deserving of protection from that point on.
Nor does he explain why it is inherently irrational, or even religious, to believe in an institution whose primary social purpose is to maximise the number of men and women who raise their children together.
In other words, the passage is simply an expression of prejudice. It makes no attempt whatever to actually reason, even though the author seems to believe he is being eminently reasonable.
He never explains why religious values, out of all values, should be excluded from public discourse. He simply asserts it, as though it is self-evident. Again, he fails to explain why religious values are inherently irrational and fails to allow for the possibility that religious values can be rationally grounded.
I wonder how the author would define aggressive secularism? Does it have to become violent before he would label it aggressive? Is anything short of that not aggressive? It would be good to know.