Secularism and the Religious Right

In their Sunday Discussion Group at The Carpetbagger Report looks at the religious right’s complaints about  secularism, finding considerable influence for religion in our society:

I’m hard pressed to imagine what country Gingrich and the 12,000 people who applauded his worldview are living in. Out of the 535 members of Congress, 50 governors, the president, vice president, their cabinet, and nine Supreme Court justices, there is exactly one person — not one percent, just one guy — who does not profess a faith in God. If polls are to be believed, less than 5% of the population describes themselves as non-believers.

In the last presidential election, one candidate announced during a presidential debate, “My faith affects everything that I do, in truth…. I think that everything you do in public life has to be guided by your faith, affected by your faith.” This was John Kerry, the more secular candidate of the two.

The faithful added religion to the Pledge of Allegiance. They added religion to American currency. Both chambers of Congress not only have taxpayer-financed chaplains, but begin each day with a prayer. So much public money is available for religious ministries from the government, they’re hiring lobbyists to get more. The White House now has an Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Every year for the last six decades, presidents have declared a National Day of Prayer, and honor Christmas as a national holiday.

In our culture, religion is common in the media — I can’t remember any recent month in which Time and/or Newsweek didn’t feature religion as a cover story — almost exclusively in a positive light. In sporting events, celebrating athletes routinely express their religiosity. At awards ceremonies, entertainers routinely “give thanks to God” from the outset, usually to considerable applause.

Gingrich sees all of this and believes an “anti-religious bias” dominates U.S. society. Exactly how much more religiosity will it take before he’s satisfied? Or is it more likely that Gingrich and his receptive audience yesterday revel in some kind of delusional self-pity because a victim complex sells better than reality?

The dissatisfaction by the religious right highlights the difference between a desire for religious freedom and a desire to impose their religious beliefs upon others. If the goal is simply the ability to observe their religion, there are minor hinderences such as restrictions on prayer in schools, but in general Steve shows that there is a strong pro-religion atmosphere in this country.

The religious right wants far more. They not only want to be free to practice their religion (a right both Steve and I would defend) but to use the power of government to impose their views upon others. From that perspective, there are many areas in which they still do not have their way:

The most obvious political issue is that a woman’s right to an abortion remains the law of the land, even if conservatives have had modest success in restricting this. So far the religious right has had limited success in limiting access to Plan B and to contraception, but they want far more.

Embryonic stem cell research is progressing even if Bush bans the use of federal funds, and it is doubtful this ban will last beyond 2008.

Schools continue to teach evolution and keep creationism out of the classroom, and even Kansas has let down the religious right on this in voting to return to the 21st century.

While gay marriage is banned in more states, public opinion is increasingly supporting civil unions. Civil unions will become the norm, to be followed by legalization of gay marriage as the public finds that civilization has not crumbled.

Then there’s always Hollywood. Even though Hollywood is turning out to be fertile breeding ground for past, current, and potentially future GOP heroes, it remains a place of great sin.

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