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The problem with secularism - Opinion - International Herald Tribune

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Published: Thursday, December 21, 2006
LONDON — Geopolitically, the resurgence of religion is dangerous and spreading. From Islamic fundamentalism, American evangelism to Hindu nationalism, each creed demands total conformity and absolute submission to their own particular variant of God's revelation.

Common to virtually all versions of contemporary religious fanaticism is a claim to know divine intention directly, absolutely and unquestionably. As a result, many people demand a fresh liberal resistance to religious totalitarianism.

But it is important to realize that this reduction of a transcendent religion to confirmation of one's own personal beliefs represents an ersatz copy of liberal humanism. Long before religious fundamentalism, secular humanists reduced all objective codes to subjective assertion by making man the measure of all things and erasing God from nature.

This was a profoundly secular move: It simply denied natural knowledge of God and thereby eliminated theology from the sciences. Religion, stripped of rationality, became associated with a blind unmediated faith — precisely the mark of fanaticism. Thus religious fundamentalism constitutes an absence of religion that only true religion can correct.

Although the cultured despisers of religion are once again making strident appeal to secular values and unmediated reason, they do not realize that the religious absolutism they denounce is but a variant of their own fundamentalism returned in a different guise.

Richard Dawkins's barely literate polemic "The God Delusion" declares that religion is irrational without ever explaining the foundations of reason itself. Sam Harris's diatribe "The End of Faith" has to falsify history by claiming that Hitler and Stalin were religious in order to make its case for the malign influence of faith. The attacks on religion are becoming ever more shrill and desperate — a clear sign of atheist anxiety about the status of their own first principles and explanatory frameworks.
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TAGGED: COMMENTARY, RELIGION


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