Religious respect or religious warfare?

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America is in the midst of cultural convulsions both economically and socially. For many the economic turmoil would be endurable were it not for the larger social issues that are ripping the fabric of our society. For many it seems like progress, and for others it is a new social tyranny. Those who challenge the “progress” often so do because of their religion.

Yet, when a public official brings their faith to work, he or she is excoriated. They are told things like, “This is the law, and you have to follow the law,” even though these same progressives often endorse fellow progressives who refuse to follow laws with which they disagree.

“You can’t impose your religion on other people.” Or, “the government cannot promote religion” is another common complaint. After all, doesn’t the 1st Amendment say that no law should establish religion? While this attitude seems to be fair, inclusive, and fits with progressive sensibilities, it is naive at best.

It is a myth that some people promote religion and others don’t, or that the government does not endorse religion. The 1st Amendment says that Congress (i.e., the federal government) should not make a law to establish religion. This was to prevent the creation of a national church — a Church of America — like the Church of England, which our Founders fled. The Constitution left the question of which religion to establish to individual states and local communities.

Modern judicial progressives have twisted the 1st Amendment into the monster of religious neutrality and even religious hostility we see today. Still, under the guise of religious neutrality, the government actively advocates religion. Here’s how.

You see, religious beliefs involve something that is totally real and does not depend on anything else for its existence. Usually that means a deity, but not always. There are those who believe that the only real thing is the natural, material world. The universe for them is not dependent on someone or something else for its existence. It just is. Materialism fits the definition of a religious belief.

Others envision a better world where civilization rises above its flaws and faults. With enlightened guidance and collective effort we can realize an ideal humanity. But ideals, if they really exist, don’t depend on something else for their existence. They just are. Pursuing an improved and perfected humanity — secular humanism — is also just another religion.

Religious beliefs hinge on what we believe exists, and are revealed by our foundational assumptions. Our assumptions are plain when we answer questions like, “What is really real?” “Where did everything come from?” or “What is a human being?” Most of us never think very deeply about these questions, yet these are religious questions and we all answer them; we just answer them differently. And our answers are fundamentally religious.

Our foundational assumptions never have sufficient proof, so we make them on faith. None of us can divorce ourselves from our basic assumptions, which are all inherently religious. All of us are people of faith, only people of different faiths.

Atheists and secular progressives are just as religious as evangelical Christians, and are passionate evangelists for their religious beliefs. I understand you may not believe in a deity or identify with a particular religion. That does not change that you still are religious.

Because all humans are religious, all human institutions are also religious. Public schools may not teach as they once did that “there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5). However, that does not mean that no religion is taught in schools today. Progressives use education to promote their religion in every classroom every day. It is not if religion is taught, but which religion is taught. It will be done and you cannot stop it.

Let’s not prattle about the government not promoting religion. Of course it does. It does it every day. It may no longer endorse the Christian religion, but through its assumptions it inevitably advances another religion.

You may not like it, but the government imposes religion every day, so let’s admit which one it does advocate. High-minded progressives say the government should not promote religion while using government themselves to freely advocate their secular religion with no competition. Not exactly fair or honest, is it?

Since every person and every institution through their basic assumptions promotes a religion every day, we can either have religious warfare or religious respect, but we cannot have religious neutrality. It does not exist.

I prefer the respect route, but beware secular evangelists. While thinking they are non-religious, they are blind to being the worst of religious tyrants.

[David Richardson of Peachtree City is the president of the Assumptions Institute (www.assumptionsinstitute.org). He has a master’s degree from Oxford University, and is a leading expert on the basic assumptions we all make which influence everything in our daily lives. His first popular book on assumptions is due in 2016. He, his wife and children have lived in Fayette County for over 25 years.]