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The End of Secularism
224 pp., $21.99
What the current spate of anti-Christian screeds really reflects, it now seems clear, is bitter disappointment at Americans' continuing refusal to come to their senses and stop believing in God. The intensified attack comes primarily from people who characterize themselves as forces for rationality, tolerance, and fairness. Faced with mounting evidence of religion's widespread appeal, such fine people could well be expected to question whether there might be something wrong with secularism itself. Yet they haven't.
Enter Hunter Baker. In The End of Secularism, Baker addresses the notion that a secular outlook results in "rational thinking processes, empirical verification, and social harmony" whereas religious belief is "tied to mysticism, violence, ignorance, and coercion." As Baker observes, this set of definitions is absurdly skewed in the secularists' favor. In reality, secularism is on the very same logical footing as religious thinking. Secularism, Baker writes, "cannot claim scientific authority for its proposals …. [T]here is the knowledge that we can gain via scientific experimentation and verification and then there is everything else. The 'everything else' happens to be where secularism and religion do their work along with a host of other attempts to make sense of the parts of life we really care about and that happen not to yield scientific answers."
But why—according to secularists—do the masses persist in their folly? What is faith's survival value? The short answer has always been that religion is a crutch. In the 20th century, Western élites operated on the assumption that religion was a coping mechanism that explained things for which people did not have a scientific explanation. It also helped hold society together by creating a persona, a god, that could support already agreed-upon values. Given that religion was simply a once-useful illusion, secularists argued, it would naturally die out as science increased our understanding ...