BY FATHER ALFONSO AGUILAR, LC
National Catholic Register, December
7-13, 2008 Issue | Originally posted 12/2/08 at 10:43 AM
how come in a democratic and Christian United States, Nativity
scenes and public prayers are banned? How come seventh grader
Amber Mangum was forbidden to read a Bible in the
school cafeteria during her lunch period at the Dwight D.
Eisenhower Middle School in Prince George’s County, Md.? How come
British Airways worker Nadia Eweida was fired for wearing a
What led people into such “Christianophobia” and “religion-phobia”?
history (explore it with me by clicking on this story
at NCRegister.com, where a longer version appears), I came to
the conclusion that secularism is fed by at least eight
ideas and five motives. Ideas are philosophical thoughts of the
mind. By motives, I mean selfish or unselfish desires and
interests that appeal to the will.
Ideas explain the “whys”
and motives the “what fors” of secularism.
Naturally, not all secularists
are led by all these ideas and motives. Each one
may be motivated by three, four or five of them.
I think the following list will help us understand secularists’
mindset and objectives.
1. Radical immanentism. The question about God’s existence is
trivial. The only important or existing reality is mankind and
the universe. People should live “etsi Deus non daretur” (as
if God didn’t exist).
2. Man is divine. If God is
nonexistent or irrelevant, “man is for man the supreme being,”
as Karl Marx put it.
3. Rationalism. Supernatural faith is false or
useless. Human reason is the only source of knowledge and
criterion for the truth.
4. The absolutization of liberty. Freedom is understood,
in the first place, as liberation from God, religious tradition,
the dictates of faith and ecclesiastical authority. Man has the
right to independently establish his own criteria about how to
live and how to run society.
5. Religion is negative or insignificant,
either because it has been and continues to be the
source of the greatest evils for mankind or because it
is a mere sentimental and irrelevant social factor. Religion, therefore,
should die out or occupy a marginal and private role
6. The absolutization of the state. Since transcendence does
not provide for the foundations of our civilization, the state
becomes the source of all values and human rights. Consequently,
the separation between the church and state must be absolute,
meaning that the former must submit to the dictates of
7. Scientism. As the only source of knowledge and
progress, science and technology have the priority over all ethical
and religious considerations.
8. Consumerism. Personal and collective well-being exclusively lies on
material goods and social success.
Based on these philosophical reasons,
a number of desires and interests can be identified.
World peace. In a pluralistic and multireligious society, peace among
peoples can only be achieved by the annihilation of dogmatic
and divisive religion.
Second motive: Social and political autonomy. By
getting rid of ecclesiastical authority and religious ethics, our civilization
can run its own business in the most efficient and
Third motive: Freedom of thought. Independence from obsolete
traditions and ideas is the necessary path toward human maturity
— the capacity to think for oneself.
Fourth motive: Building
a political utopia. Without religion, mankind can establish a better
or a perfect civilization — a novus ordo seclorum (a
new world order), as it says on the U.S. dollar
Fifth motive: Enjoying earthly life. It seems that religion, especially
Christianity, with its insistence on the afterlife and right ethical
human behavior, hinders us from enjoying worldly goods.
summary of these ideas and motives can be found in
the lyrics of John Lennon’s famous song “Imagine.” As you
read these words, try to identify secularist reasons and goals.
there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try. … Imagine
there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do. Nothing to
kill or die for; and no religion, too. Imagine all
the people; living for today. … Imagine no possessions. I
wonder if you can. No need for greed or hunger;
a brotherhood of man. … [J]oin us, and the world
will be as one.”
Is it true that a religion-free society
with people exclusively living for today will create a brotherhood
of man and the world will be as one?
will take a look into what the Holy Father thinks
about secularism. We will also spot its flaws and find
arguments and strategies to overcome it.
The secularist project is rooted
in some interesting ideas and motives that we must direct
in order to build an authentic civilization of justice and
Legionary Father Alfonso Aguilar teaches philosophy at Rome’s Regina