Hunter Baker, formerly a colleague of mine at Baylor and now associate provost at Houston Baptist University, has just published a book with Crossway titled THE END OF SECULARISM (go here for the Amazon.com listing). It provides a far-sweeping historical analysis of secularism within western culture. His critique of secularism is solid:
Secularism is not neutral, nor is it something that simply happened thanks to the growing maturity and rationality of human beings. It is an understandable reaction to the various tragedies of church-state alliances in Western history. It is not, however, necessarily more rational nor more harmonious than any number of alternatives. It cannot claim the authority of science. It cannot escape the need to look beyond materialism in order to discover values. Secularism, like realism, is more of a boast or a way to score rhetorical points than it is a concept that performs any actual work. [p. 193]
His alternative to secularism is a non-partisan pluralism, one that privileges civil discourse and sets aside ideology. Baker thinks that pluralism is the best we can do. I suspect we can do better, but even if Baker’s answer to secularism is not entirely satisfactory, his analysis of it is valuable and I would recommend the book simply for that. Also, on issues of interest at UD, Baker writes:
Avid advocates of evolution, particularly popularizers such as Richard Dawkins who carry a brief for atheism, practice their own brand of partisanship. They value evolution as an instrument for blunting the influence of religionists who hope to employ their faith in regulating public life. Evolution creates enough doubt about religious authority to justify liberalization of social mores. And there is little question that the advent of Darwinism has significantly improved the standing and number of atheists in society. Thus, evolution has its champions because it is the dominant explanation of human origins and also because it carries a vast social and religious significance.
For some citizens, the face-off between Clarence Darrow as the prophet of the Enlightenment and William Jennings Bryan as the withered apostle of a spent Christian faith stands as a holy moment in history. Jews have Mount Sinai. Christians have Calvary. Convinced secularists have Darrow brilliantly cross-examining Bryan in a courthouse in Tennessee. In their version of the national myth, people of learning finally overcame the fearsome faithful through the triumph of cold, hard, liberating reason. Moments like that, properly interpreted or not, are hard to let go. That’s why evolution has always been much more than a scientific issue in America. Darwin’s legacy is fully bound up in the broader American culture war between the enthusiasts of Promethean enlightenment and those who insist there is something else waiting for us behind curtain number three. [pp. 164-65]