Friday, July 24, 2015

Quote of the Day

"I also think of the gift of the Ten Commandments: a path God points out to us towards a life which is truly free and fulfilling. The commandments are not a litany of prohibitions – you must not do this, you must not do that, you must not do the other; on the contrary, they are a great "Yes!": a yes to God, to Love, to life. Dear friends, our lives are fulfilled in God alone, because only he is the Living One!"

--Pope Francis

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Fr. Robert Barron Appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles

It was just announced yesterday that Pope Francis has appointed Father Robert Barron, the well-respected rector of Mundelein Seminary in Illinois, as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. For some reason, this announcement took me by surprise, although it really shouldn't have because Father Barron is an excellent and faithful priest with a good reputation who will make a fine bishop. A typically upbeat and outgoing native of Chicago, he is well trained theologically and an effective teacher of our faith to modern Catholics and non-Catholics alike, qualities evident to the millions who have enjoyed his TV series Catholicism and other products of his Word on Fire Ministries. As someone who grew up mainly in the L.A. Archdiocese, I am delighted to see Father Barron sent there to help shepherd that vast flock of the Church's faithful as a successor to the Apostles. Los Angeles is even bigger and more diverse than Chicago and the weather and climate are very different, so let's keep Bishop-elect Barron in our prayers as this will be a significant adjustment for him. Now I won't be surprised if he's appointed Coadjutor to Archbishop Jose Gomez a few years down the road and eventually ends up succeeding him as head of the L.A. Archdiocese. But all in good time and if God wills it.

Praise the Lord! This calls for a Te Deum.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Tyranny of Radical Secularism (Part 3 of 3)

by Justin Soutar

A Dangerous Cultural Shift

Unfortunately, the United States—a Christian country and the traditional leader of the free world—is now being gradually transformed into a radically secular nation, partly through the increasing moral relativism and religious indifference of its own people, and partly through the aggressive efforts of radically secularist activists in the fields of government and politics, education, and culture. President Barack Obama is the most obvious symbol of this dangerous cultural shift. Prior to becoming president and throughout his years in office, President Obama has consistently exhibited contempt for the Christian faith and its adherents unlike any other president in American history. During his 2008 presidential election campaign, then-Senator Barack Obama derisively referred to Middle Americans as those “who cling to their guns and their Bibles.” He couldn’t have summed up better his contemptuous disregard for our First and Second Amendment rights.

Obama is the first president in U.S. history to invite members of the radically secularist Freedom from Religion Foundation and American Atheists to dinner at the White House. When he went to speak at Georgetown University (a Catholic institution) in 2009, he had the “IHS” symbol behind the podium covered with a cloth. At Christmas of 2009, President Obama considered removing the traditional manger scenes from the White House and offered tree ornaments depicting mass murderer Mao Zedong. When he held a memorial service for the victims of the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona in January of 2011, the service was held in a basketball gym instead of in a church. His administration has effectively gutted faith from faith-based initiatives and turned a blind eye to increasing attacks on religious liberty around the world. Worst of all, President Obama’s healthcare reform law enacted in 2010, the Affordable Care Act, authorizes the Department of Health and Human Services to force most businesses and charitable organizations—including nearly all religious institutions—to provide health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs, even if this violates their moral consciences or religious beliefs, under penalty of heavy fines. In 2012, President Obama publicly declared his support for the legal recognition of homosexual “marriage” alongside traditional marriage. On at least five occasions, when quoting the Declaration of Independence, Obama has said that “we are endowed with certain unalienable rights,” deliberately omitting the phrase “by our Creator.” He has repeatedly failed to mention God in his official Thanksgiving messages. Once he even mocked Congress for reaffirming America’s trust in God through a Congressional resolution, arguing that it was a waste of time. And he has done nothing whatsoever to defend and assist the persecuted Christians of the Middle East, who are now well on the way to extinction.

President Obama’s fanatical secularism is also clearly manifest in his administration’s unprecedented promotion of abortion. Early in 2009, only a massive outcry from the American people prevented Congress from passing the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which Obama had promised Planned Parenthood that he would sign; had this bill become law, it would have demolished all state restrictions on abortion, created an unlimited “right to abortion” supported by government entitlement, and forced all physicians to perform abortions. Although FOCA was defeated, a substantial chunk of Obama’s abortion agenda has found its way into ObamaCare and the unconstitutional HHS mandate, both of which have yet to be completely overturned.

No president in history has ever exhibited such utter contempt for the Christian religion and its followers, much less while claiming to be a Christian himself. President Obama has clearly shown himself to be a genuine radical secularist—an enemy of God and religion, an enemy of the American people, and a traitor to our country.

The Battle for America’s Future

So where are we at in America today? The answer is that we, the people of the United States, are at war with our radically secularist enemies for the preservation of our traditional national culture and heritage. On the one hand, we have a small but powerful elite group of militant secularists determined to foist their evil agenda on our country through the news and entertainment media, educational institutions, the courts, and the federal government. This agenda includes removing all references to God from official government texts, from our currency, from our public schools, and from public property. It includes government mandated, taxpayer-funded “health insurance coverage” of abortifacients, contraception, and sterilization in violation of the moral law, our religious liberties, and our moral conscience rights. It includes the redefinition of marriage by the courts to place same-sex “marriage” on a legal par with traditional marriage. And it includes the legalization of euthanasia as a basic “human right” to lighten the growing burden of the elderly and the terminally ill on society. Along with this radically secularist agenda being forced on our country from the top down, there is a gradual weakening of Christian faith and culture among the general population; a proliferation of materialistic and hedonistic attitudes along with widespread moral relativism and religious indifference; and growing percentages of nonreligious people and minority faiths and sects such as Islam and the occult.

On the other hand, however, in our nation today there are also many pockets of devout Christian individuals and families who understand and appreciate America’s Christian heritage and who are working hard to restore, preserve, inculcate and hand on the traditional religious and moral values that made our country great. The Catholic Church in America and the more traditional Christian denominations are growing. The massive pro-life movement, which now includes a majority of the American people, is shutting down more abortion clinics and saving more innocent lives each year through prayer and fasting, public outreach, charitable assistance, and political activism. Public opposition to the Obama administration’s anti-life mandate has been vigorous and sustained. Many Americans, aghast at the radical secularists’ push to eliminate God and Christianity from public life, are joining various Catholic and Christian activist organizations such as Fidelis, Patriot Voices, and the Faith and Freedom Coalition to make their voices heard. A large minority of Americans still believe that marriage is exclusively the union of a man and a woman, and more than thirty states have enacted voter-approved laws preserving this traditional legal definition of marriage. And the spectacular Republican landslide victories in the 2014 Congressional and gubernatorial elections were a clear signal of widespread public disapproval with the direction in which President Obama and his secular fundamentalist allies are leading this country.

Secular fundamentalism is continuing to gain ground in America today at least in part due to bad Catholics. Take, for instance, “Catholic” politicians such as Vice President Joe Biden and Representative Nancy Pelosi who abuse their authority to sanction the mass murder of the innocent unborn and legal same-sex “marriage.” But then there are also the millions of “Catholic” voters who keep putting these radically secularist politicians in office—so-called “Catholics” who for decades have been having abortions, using artificial contraception and sterilization, and getting divorces at rates similar to those of the general public. If it wasn’t for his dissident Catholic allies such as Biden, Pelosi and Kathleen Sebelius, former head of the HHS, as well as the millions of Catholics who tolerate legalized abortion and have no problem with birth control, President Obama’s anti-life agenda would never have gotten as far as it has. If American Catholics faithfully practiced their Church’s teachings in both public and private life, we would have a very different country today—a place where militant secularism wouldn’t stand a chance. Benedict XVI put it this way: “There can be no doubt that a more consistent witness on the part of America’s Catholics to their deepest convictions would make a major contribution to the renewal of society as a whole.”[2]

The Challenge of Radical Secularism

On January 19, 2012, addressing a group of Catholic bishops from the United States during their ad limina visit to Rome, Pope Benedict XVI made the following remarks about the threat to American culture and society posed by radical secularism:

One of the most memorable aspects of my Pastoral Visit to the United States was the opportunity it afforded me to reflect on America’s historical experience of religious freedom, and specifically the relationship between religion and culture. At the heart of every culture, whether perceived or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing. In America, that consensus, as enshrined in your nation’s founding documents, was grounded in a worldview shaped not only by faith but a commitment to certain ethical principles deriving from nature and nature’s God. Today that consensus has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly opposed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but increasingly hostile to Christianity as such.

For her part, the Church in the United States is called, in season and out of season, to proclaim a Gospel which not only proposes unchanging moral truths but proposes them precisely as the key to human happiness and social prospering. To the extent that some current cultural trends contain elements that would curtail the proclamation of these truths, whether constricting it within the limits of a merely scientific rationality, or suppressing it in the name of political power or majority rule, they represent a threat not just to Christian faith, but also to humanity itself and to the deepest truth about our being and ultimate vocation, our relationship to God. When a culture attempts to suppress the dimension of ultimate mystery, and to close the doors to transcendent truth, it inevitably becomes impoverished and falls prey, as the late Pope John Paul II so clearly saw, to reductionist and totalitarian readings of the human person and the nature of society.

The pontiff then issued a prophetic warning:

In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

On the following day, January 20, 2012, the radical secularism of which the pope had spoken reared its ugly head in our land. Overturning more than two centuries of profound government respect for religious liberties and moral conscience rights in accord with the Constitution and natural law, against the expressed will of the people, and in a direct attack on the Judeo-Christian religious and moral values on which our country is built, the Obama administration announced that nearly all health insurance plans must include abortifacients, artificial contraceptives, and sterilization procedures, regardless of religious or moral objection to these anti-life items. This unprecedented edict, which is still on the books as of this writing despite a slew of court injunctions and exemptions, has nothing to do with the public health and everything to do with the sale of anti-life drugs and procedures for the benefit of large abortion, pharmaceutical, and insurance companies that back the Obama administration. In its disastrous attempt to nationalize our healthcare system, the private interests of a few have trumped concern for the common good, and as a result, the human rights and dignity of tens of millions of innocent Americans have been sacrificed to the false god of money. Corruption and radical secularism frequently go hand in hand.

The fact that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled both the Affordable Care Act and the HHS mandate constitutional in June of 2012 should serve as a painful warning that the Constitution itself, detached from the religious and moral framework in which it was written and meant to be interpreted, is utterly powerless to protect or guarantee our rights and freedoms. John Adams wrote: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”[3] In 1781, in his Notes on that State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson asked: “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God?” If our leaders don’t believe that human rights—especially the rights to life and religious liberty—come from our Creator, then those rights will be perceived as coming from the state and the state will claim the authority to give or take them away as it sees fit. And if they don’t believe that it is wrong to legally deprive an innocent person of those rights, then no American’s rights will be guaranteed under the law and the door is wide open to atheistic totalitarian rule.

Benedict XVI identified what is needed to meet the challenge of radical secularism in America:  

Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.[4]

For too long now, we American Catholics have cowardly permitted our radically secularist foes to dictate the rules of engagement for the discussion of pressing religious and moral issues, and they are now exploiting our weakness in this regard to strengthen and expand their illegitimate occupation of the public square. We must take back what rightly belongs to us. Specifically, we must articulate a clear defense of the natural moral law written by God in all human hearts, revealed to Israel in the Ten Commandments of the Decalogue, and fully revealed in Jesus Christ and His Church. We must show how this divinely revealed moral compass guided the Founders in charting the course of our nation, and that it is adherence to the law of God that makes us a great nation. We must show how the Ten Commandments, together with the ancient Roman language and law, form the basis of our modern legal system. We must explain how former U.S. laws against abortion, obscenity and pornography were grounded in the objective moral law, and why our nation should enact such laws once again notwithstanding faulty judicial decisions to the contrary. We must demonstrate the universal and unchanging nature of this objective moral law by highlighting its ubiquitous presence in societies and cultures throughout human history. We must show how adherence to the moral law has enabled peoples and nations to flourish and become great (e.g. ancient Rome, medieval Europe, modern America)—and how conversely, abandonment of the moral law has led to the decline and destruction of once-great nations (e.g. ancient Carthage, modern Communist countries).

Freedom to act in accord with the natural moral law is the most basic, the most fundamental of all human rights—even more fundamental than freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, for religion and conscience can both be abused to justify grave violations of the moral law. The HHS mandate and legal recognition of same-sex “marriage” don’t just violate the religious and conscience rights of American believers; even more fundamentally, they violate the natural law and the right of all Americans as human beings to act in accordance with it. By moving beyond a somewhat shallow and subjective “religious liberties and moral conscience rights” approach to a deeper, more profound way of reasoning based on the objective truth of the natural law itself, our logic will resonate not only with fellow American Catholics but also with all people of goodwill in America and beyond, thus enabling us to recruit a broader coalition of allies and mount a more united and effective challenge to the militant secularists within our gates. While defending our specific religious liberties and moral conscience rights as Catholic Americans, we must also defend the timeless freedom of all Americans and all peoples to act in accord with “the laws of nature and nature’s God.”


Due to their a priori rejection of absolute religious and moral truth, radical secularists mistakenly view the Christian religion and the Judeo-Christian moral system as purely human inventions rather than as divinely revealed transcendent truths. They offer twenty-first-century America the same temptation to which Adam and Eve succumbed in the Garden of Eden at the dawn of human history—the temptation to reject God and decide for ourselves what is good and what is evil. Militant secularists may present themselves as champions of secularism, freedom, tolerance, and pluralism, but history warns us that the implementation of their ideology would crush American secularism, freedom, tolerance, and pluralism under the boots of a dangerous tyranny. Where absolute religious and moral truth is rejected, nothing is left but a “dictatorship of relativism” and a ruthless Darwinian struggle for power. When man cuts himself off from God, he loses his way and becomes a monster. None are more keenly aware of this fact than those who have survived the terror and brutality of radically secularist regimes. “When God is put aside, the world becomes an inhospitable place for man,” remarked Benedict XVI during his visit to Cuba in 2012. "The Russian Church, which has paid in millions of lives for the godless Soviet experiment, can and must testify before the adherents of militant secularism to the fact that a society torn from its spiritual roots and faith has no future," solemnly declared Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, a prominent leader of the Russian Orthodox Church who grew up in the Soviet Union, at a religious conference in London in 2014. "A world without God, without absolute moral values rooted in divine revelation, irrevocably turns into the realm of the rule of slavery and lawlessness."[5]

Ultimately, the religious identity of a nation is rooted in the religious character of its individual citizens. Government institutions alone, however well-intentioned and contrived, cannot protect and ensure that identity. As Pope Benedict XVI reminded us in his second encyclical Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope), “man's freedom is always new and he must always make his decisions anew…Freedom presupposes that in fundamental decisions, every person and every generation is a new beginning.” As an “eclipse of God” casts its shadow over our era and mankind finds itself lured once again by the temptation to assert its own self-sufficiency, the United States and the world need Christians—especially Catholics—who have the courage to let the light of Christ shine through them to every corner of society. Clearly, the outcome of the cultural war for America’s future will depend in large measure on the religious and moral character of its people, the vast majority of whom still profess the Christian faith. 

It is a cornerstone of modern evolutionary thought that human societies tend to develop gradually over time from dictatorships into democracies. But in his classic historical work The Everlasting Man, G. K. Chesterton pointed out that the opposite is true:

If there is one fact we really can prove, from the history that we really do know, it is that despotism can be a development, often a late development and very often indeed the end of societies that have been highly democratic. A despotism may almost be defined as a tired democracy. As fatigue falls on a community, the citizens are less inclined for that eternal vigilance which has truly been called the price of liberty; and they prefer to arm only one single sentinel to watch the city while they sleep. It is also true that they sometimes needed him for some sudden and militant act of reform; it is equally true that he often took advantage of being the strong man armed to be a tyrant like some of the Sultans of the East...But the spirit that endures the mere cruelties and caprices of an established despot is the spirit of an ancient and settled and probably stiffened society, not the spirit of a new one.[6]
With the ideology of radical secularism being aggressively promoted by an elite few in government, academia, and the media and increasingly accepted in American culture, in the early twenty-first century the United States has begun the process of detaching itself from its Christian roots and sliding gradually into the shadow of totalitarianism. There is hope for the future survival of our country to the extent that we the people—individually and as a nation—place our trust in God and remain vigilant, united in our determination to fight this dangerous ideology until it is defeated. We must pray for the conversion of our radically secularist politicians, professors, media pundits, and cultural leaders. We must confront them in the public square, exposing the errors of their pernicious worldview and working to halt their evil agenda. We must rediscover the Founders’ vision of a secular, free, tolerant, and pluralistic Christian society in which church and state coexist harmoniously. We must unstintingly defend our inalienable human rights given to us by our Creator, especially the rights to life and liberty and the right to act in accord with the natural moral law. We must return to and explicitly reaffirm America’s profoundly Christian identity and her great tradition of religious freedom. And we must re-commit to living by the Judeo-Christian religious and moral principles that made America great. Only then will we once again rightly claim to be “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Copyright © 2014, 2015 Justin D. Soutar. All rights reserved.


[1] “Benedict XVI's Address to US Bishops on 'Ad Limina' Visit,” ZENIT, January 19, 2012.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Letter to the First Brigade of the Massachusetts Militia, 1798.
[4] “Benedict XVI's Address to US Bishops on 'Ad Limina' Visit,” ZENIT, January 19, 2012.
[5] Address at a conference in London, Feb. 21, 2014.
[6] G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, 1925 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008, pp. 58-59).


Friday, July 17, 2015

Quote of the Day

"The Church does not have technical solutions to offer and does not claim 'to interfere in any way in the politics of States.' She does, however, have a mission of truth to accomplish, in every time and circumstance, for a society that is attuned to man, to his dignity, to his vocation…Fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom (cf. Jn 8:32) and of the possibility of integral human development."

--Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), no. 9

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Quote of the Day

"A people which forgets its own past, its history and its roots, has no future. Memory, if it is firmly based on justice and rejects hatred and all desire for revenge, makes the past a source of inspiration for the building of a future of serene coexistence. It also makes us realize the tragedy and pointlessness of war. Let there be an end to wars between brothers! Let us always build peace! A peace which grows stronger day by day, a peace which makes itself felt in everyday life, a peace to which each person contributes by seeking to avoid signs of arrogance, hurtful words, contemptuousness, and instead by working to foster understanding, dialogue and cooperation."

--Pope Francis

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Tyranny of Radical Secularism (Part 2 of 3)

by Justin Soutar

A major propaganda weapon in the militant secularists’ assault on America’s Christian identity and on religious liberty is their re-interpretation of the concept of the “separation of church and state” implicitly enshrined in the First Amendment. Our nation’s founders intended the distinction between religious and civil authority to allow each governing entity to fulfill its proper public role. Radical secularists reinterpret this common-sense distinction as a radical divorce between the religious and civil spheres. In their view, every trace of religion must be scrubbed from American public life: no references to God should be made by government leaders; no symbols of the Christian religion should be displayed on public property. This malicious anti-God and anti-Christian animus would have struck the Founders as not only quite alien but extremely dangerous to the well-being of our nation. Here is what General George Washington wrote to the governors of the original thirteen states in a letter announcing the disbanding of the Continental Army on June 8, 1783 (note that this was an official U.S. military document):

I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you and the State over which you preside, in His holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the field; and, finally, that he would be most graciously pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation.

 And James Madison said the following in an address to the Virginia General Assembly in 1778: “We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

The Founders’ Vision for America

Many of us today take it for granted that the United States is a natural product of Christian European civilization. However, we shouldn’t forget that at a time when most European Catholic and Protestant nations were governed by absolute or constitutional monarchies in which Church and state authority were closely linked and intertwined, the concept of a secular republic built on Christian religious and moral values was quite novel. As men of the Renaissance period, our nation’s devout Christian Founders did not eschew experimentation, but their experimentation flowed from the religious and moral principles they held dear. What they gave the world was something altogether unique and unprecedented—a secular Christian republic. What they created has come to be known as the “American experiment.” The Christian religion and Judeo-Christian moral code formed the foundations of this experiment and have contributed enormously to its remarkable success. Without those religious and moral foundations, the experiment would have failed long ago and our nation would never have achieved greatness.

The Founders’ vision for America was simple, intuitive, holistic, and brilliant. Today it appears utterly sane and reasonable when contrasted with the dangerous alternative vision that radically secularist ideologues are working so hard to put into practice. The Founders believed that God created all human persons equal in dignity and endowed them with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They believed that the role of civil government is to protect these unalienable human rights. They believed that such government comes from God and derives its legitimate authority from the consent of the governed. They were also profoundly aware of the fact that human nature has been corrupted by original sin, so they designed a three-branch system of government with checks and balances to minimize corruption and abuse of power. They believed that freedom is sacred because it is a gift from God our Creator, and that the truth is what makes people free. They understood freedom as the right to act in accord with the natural moral law and to practice one’s religious beliefs without government interference. They knew that religion and morality are powerful safeguards of human liberty, and considered both essential to the survival and well-being of America. Most importantly, the Founders agreed that without God’s guidance, protection, and assistance, the American experiment would be a failure.

The great majority of the Founders were Protestants who hailed from eighteenth-century England, where theocratic monarchs forced the state religion of Anglicanism on their subjects and outlawed the public practice of Catholicism and Protestantism. As a result of this experience, the Founders decided that the United States would not have an official religion. They understood that religious freedom is a two-sided coin consisting of these basic elements, one negative and the other positive: 1) freedom from religious compulsion (negative), and 2) freedom to practice one’s own religion (positive). To guarantee religious freedom in the new nation, our founders wisely integrated these two essential elements into the First Amendment to the Constitution: 1) they forbade Congress from passing any law that would institute an official American religion, and 2) they forbade Congress from passing any law that would prohibit the free exercise of religion. Thus the First Amendment authors intended to safeguard our republic from the opposite extremes of totalitarian theocracy and religious repression.

The careful distinction between religious and civil authority in the First Amendment (commonly known today as the separation of church and state) was intended to allow each governing entity to fulfill its proper public role unimpeded by the other. The First Amendment may be considered a blueprint for the secular Christian nation that the United States was founded and intended to be.

Secularism v. Radical Secularism

What are some characteristics of a secular nation, properly understood as such? First and most importantly, a secular nation is a religious nation, a nation “under God.” It recognizes that human rights and state authority both come from God and that the state is the guardian of these rights. This proper understanding of the source of human rights and the role of the state makes a secular nation a place of freedom and justice. It is a nation that values religion and morality as “indispensable supports” of its political prosperity (George Washington). It is a nation where church and state coexist harmoniously, each respecting the legitimate authority of the other. It is a place where each citizen is free to practice the religion of his or her choice, or to not practice any religion if that is his or her choice. It is a place where the contributions of religious believers to public life are recognized, welcomed and encouraged, even by those who are not religious themselves. It is a nation where traditional family values are highly esteemed and diligently safeguarded by those in authority. It is a place where government leaders are public servants, chosen by the people and responsible to them, subject to the same laws, who strive to promote the common good of all citizens. All these characteristics of a secular nation have allowed the United States of America to flourish and become the world’s greatest nation.

On the other hand, a “radically secularist” nation is a nightmarish place where atheism has become the official state “religion” and where all genuine religions are suppressed by law. This kind of nation is a nation without God. It recognizes no authority above that of the government. It is a place where human rights are believed to come from the government and may thus be given or taken away as the state sees fit. This false subjectivist understanding of human rights and government power renders it a place of bondage and injustice. It is a nation that rejects religious faith and absolute moral standards as obstacles to its freedom and progress. It is a nation where the church is completely subordinated to the state, and where public practice of religion is either severely curtailed or absolutely forbidden. It is a place where religious believers must leave their faith behind if they are to make any substantive contributions to public life. It is a nation where traditional family values are openly scorned and deliberately attacked by those in authority. It is a place where government leaders are self-appointed elitist dictators, not responsible to the people and not subject to any laws, who use their power to advance their own private interests. Such a godless, radically secularist nation is a nation in despair—a living hell. Within a relatively short time, it self-destructs and usually leaves behind an infamous legacy of violence, war, and mass murder. Historic examples include France under the Jacobins, late 1920s Mexico, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and Maoist China. Contemporary examples would include Communist China and North Korea.

Many countries of the world, including the United States, Canada, Australia, the nations of Western Europe, and Communist China and North Korea, are currently at various intermediate stages on the road to the radically secularist inferno. Abortion on demand is legal in all these countries; in China, parents are forced by law to abort every child after their first. Euthanasia is gradually becoming acceptable and legal everywhere. More than a dozen nations on four continents have already passed laws making same-sex “marriage” the legal equivalent of traditional marriage. In Western Europe, radical secularism has gained significant ground. While freedom of religion still largely exists and the people still elect their government leaders, hostility to religion now permeates Western European culture. A few years ago, a law was passed in Ireland attempting to force priests to violate the seal of confession by reporting sins of sexual abuse heard in confession to the government; a similar attempt was made with a priest in Louisiana last year. The Catholic Church in China is officially suppressed by the government, which recognizes only its own National Catholic Patriotic Association. And North Korea resembles one large prison camp ruled by a military dictatorship.

Lessons from History

As hinted above, the takeover of a country by the forces of militant secularism is usually not a “bolt from the blue,” a sudden and swift affair imposed on unwilling and unsuspecting masses by an elite coup with whom they have nothing in common. On the contrary, it is typically a gradual process occurring over several decades or generations that involves a progressive and widespread decline of religious faith among the general population, eventually leaving a yawning vacuum to be filled by the pseudo-religion of radical secularism. This is exactly what took place in Orthodox Russia in the late 1800s and early 1900s: a steady loss of religious faith among the bourgeois paved the way for the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. In early twentieth-century Mexico, unscrupulous Catholic landlords had amassed great wealth through unjust exploitation of their tenant farmers and neglected to share their resources with the less fortunate. Plutarco Elias Calles, the radically secularist dictator who took control of Mexico in the 1920s, had grown up in abject poverty that left him extremely bitter and convinced that organized religion was the enemy of the Mexican people. The French Revolution offers another example of this general rule: in late eighteenth-century France, corruption within the Catholic monarchy generated popular resentment, which the Jacobins unhesitatingly exploited to push their fanatically secularist agenda. (Poland is a somewhat different case, as it did not experience a homegrown revolution but was occupied by militantly secularist foreign invaders, while its own people remained devoutly religious under Communist rule.)

Given the critical situation in which America finds itself today, with the benefit of hindsight we may wonder whether the Founders made the right decision in not establishing Christianity as the official religion of the United States. It is certainly legitimate to raise this question and discuss and debate the answer as they pertain to both national religious identity and religious freedom. On one hand, making Christianity the official religion of the United States would have removed any ambiguity about our identity as a Christian nation, making it much more difficult for today’s radical secularists to successfully mount a vicious attack on that identity. On the other hand, however, we need to keep in mind that even countries with official religions are not immune to the forces of militant secularism. France, Mexico, Russia, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Poland—all either officially Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant nations—were shaken by convulsive revolutions in 1789, 1917, 1917, 1922, 1933, 1936, and 1939, respectively, that enthroned more or less short-lived totalitarian atheistic and socialist regimes (the Jacobins, the Federales, Communists, Fascists, Nazis).  

How did this happen? How did nations that had been Christian and free for centuries succumb to the tyranny of radical secularism? The answer is that, for a significant period of time prior to each revolution, the Christian people within those nations had been growing weak in their faith; as a result, injustices had crept into society and become entrenched, providing a fertile breeding ground for destructive revolutionary ideologies. When a country loses its faith, it then loses its freedom as well, with terrible social consequences. The rise of a godless dictator such as Hitler or Stalin is rarely an accident or anomaly, but rather an ordinary consequence of a religious vacuum and its attendant social turmoil, a predictable response to the need to fill that vacuum and impose order.

A lack of charity and justice properly grounded in the truth, especially from those who call themselves followers of Christ, lies at the root of all social problems. A serious and prolonged crisis of faith inevitably leads to crisis in society. Conversely, the solution to social problems is personal conversion to Christ. This is part of the reason why Pope Benedict XVI, during his papacy, declared a Year of Faith—to address the “profound crisis of faith” afflicting the contemporary global society by summoning all Christians “to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the World.” If bad Christians give religion a bad name, good Christians make religion look attractive and contribute to the building up of human society. As a Muslim sultan once famously remarked to Saint Francis of Assisi, “If all Christians were like you, I would become a Christian.”

Radically secularist despots such as Lenin, Calles, Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin who carried out their evil ideology to the letter inflicted untold human suffering and misery and are universally condemned as traitors to mankind (except by those freethinkers in their soap bubbles who think they were just doing what was “right for them”). By contrast, great Christian figures such as Saint Francis, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Father Benedict Groeschel, Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis who live the Gospel authentically accomplish outstanding achievements for human society and are universally admired, loved, honored, and respected (except by radical secularists). The latter offer marvelous examples of how to authentically live one’s Christian faith in the modern world, while the former serve as ominous reminders of where the radically secularist path ultimately leads.

History also assures us that the stronger the religious and moral character of a people, the more likely their nation is to survive through and triumph over a radically secularist interlude. Poland is perhaps the best example of this: following fifty years of Communist rule there, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 left behind a nation still 90 percent devout Catholic.
(To be continued)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Quote of the Day

"Praying always lifts us out of our worries and concerns. It makes us rise above everything that hurts, upsets or disappoints us, and it puts us in the place of others, in their shoes. The family is a school where prayer also reminds us that we are not isolated individuals; we are one and we have a neighbor close at hand: he or she is living under the same roof, is a part of our life, and is in need."

--Pope Francis

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Tyranny of Radical Secularism (Part 1 of 3)

by Justin Soutar

(NOTE: This lengthy article originally appeared as a three-part series on the website Intellectual Conservative
Here is the first installment of that same three-part series.)

More than two hundred years ago, the United States of America was founded as a Christian nation and as a haven of religious liberty by men whose ancestors had fled religious persecution in Europe. Today, both our identity as a Christian nation and our freedom of religion are under unprecedented attack by an elite and vicious group of militant secularists in government, academia and the media who are determined to expunge God and Christianity from every corner of American public life. Their goal is to replace the Christian religion and the Judeo-Christian moral code based on the Ten Commandments with religious syncretism and moral relativism as the new foundations of American society. The radical secularists’ wicked campaign to de-Christianize America is carried out in the name of “secularism,” “freedom,” “tolerance,” and “pluralism,” with their battle cry being “separation of Church and state,” but they have misappropriated these terms and hijacked them, twisting and distorting their true meaning in order to advance their sinister anti-religious agenda.

The War of the Words

Let’s take the first misused term, “secularism,” first. Radical secularists have so thoroughly distorted the terms “secularism” and “secular” that they have become the equivalent of the term “non-religious.” But that is not the original meaning of the words or what our nation’s devout Christian Founders understood them to mean. They used the term “secular” simply to distinguish civil society or the state from religious bodies or the Church. Something that is distinct from something else is not necessarily the enemy of that other thing. Yet that is what we have been trained to think in the modern age. Religion and society, faith and reason, faith and science, love and truth, public and private life, the spiritual and material worlds, are now commonly regarded as polar opposites, as inherently contradictory and opposing realms that must be hermetically sealed off from each other. For its own good, each must supposedly occupy its own tightly defined sphere of influence and not be allowed to interfere in any way with the operation of the other.

This great divorce between distinct realms that are in fact mutually compatible, complementary, and interdependent is a bitter fruit of the relativistic and materialistic philosophies that increasingly dominate our post-modern society and that provide a basis for the destructive totalitarian ideology of radical secularism. Relativism, of course, is the irrational idea that there is no such thing as absolute religious, moral or spiritual truth, whether accessible to human reason alone or divinely revealed. Rather than being gifts of God and paths to absolute truth that tend to unite mankind, faith, morality, spirituality, and reason are viewed as purely human attempts to impose order on a chaotic and meaningless cosmos. In this great sea of relativistic truth, it’s up to each individual to decide for himself or herself, in a hermetically sealed vacuum, what to believe (if anything) and what is morally right and wrong. The only absolute truth that can be known for certain by all humanity is what can be discovered about the material world through scientific research. And there we have just defined materialism—the even more irrational idea that nothing exists beyond what we can see and hear and measure and quantify. Relativism pushes God out of the picture, while materialism denies his existence a priori.

These two unreasonable atheistic philosophies, which contradict human experience and common sense, form the backbone of the radically secularist ideology that is now infecting our nation. This totalitarian ideology carries within itself the potential to destroy American society in the following three stages: First, by making the world seem unintelligible and meaningless and preventing us from living the fully integrated, harmoniously complete lives that our Creator intends us to live; second, by isolating individual human beings within themselves, cutting them off from each other and from their Creator; and third, by destroying the religious and moral foundations on which our nation is built.

Next comes the much-misunderstood and much-abused term “freedom.” In their self-constructed parallel universe closed off from God and devoid of absolute moral truth, militant secularists understand freedom as the unlimited right of each individual person to do whatever he or she wants to do. In their view, no external religious precepts, moral laws, spiritual guidelines, legal restrictions, cultural traditions, or any other kind of constraints may be imposed on human behavior because these would automatically infringe on human freedom. Having kicked God out of the picture, each individual person becomes a fully autonomous, all-sufficient god, freely deciding on his or her own absolute and final authority what is good and what is evil. Radical secularists denounce Christianity, with its absolute religious doctrines and moral teachings, as the great enemy of human freedom, claiming that the Christian religion and Judeo-Christian moral code must be jettisoned if America is to enjoy real “freedom.”

This warped, erroneous, and dangerous view of human freedom is radically different from the traditional Christian and Western concept of ordered liberty that shaped the worldview of our nation’s Founders. They saw human freedom as a gift from God and understood it as the ability to act in accord with the natural moral law. They understood that each of us bears a moral responsibility to God and to each other for how we use our freedom. And they knew that religion and morality are what make a nation truly free. Grounded in the false philosophies of relativism and materialism, the radically secularist concept of freedom is irrational because, instead of liberating human beings, it enslaves them within themselves. Moreover, their theory cannot be put wholly into practice: even extreme secularists are forced to abide by certain laws and requirements imposed by our government for their own good and the good of the whole society. Any attempt to fully implement their distorted anarchic notion of freedom in the real world would result in total chaos, from which a totalitarian dictatorship would swiftly rise up to restore order. Thus, instead of leading to the Promised Land of genuine freedom as its adherents claim, the radically secularist ideology leads inescapably to the utter destruction of human freedom.

The third term being misused by secularist fanatics—this one with almost laughable irony—is “tolerance.” Tolerance by definition is a positive thing: according to the World English Dictionary, it is “the acceptance of the differing views of other people, for example, in religious or political matters, and fairness toward the people who hold these different views.” Acceptance and fairness are the two key elements of tolerance; both of them flow from basic Christian principles of justice and charity, and both are grounded in the innate dignity and inalienable rights of the human person which Christianity upholds. Therefore, without Christianity, there would be no such thing as tolerance, properly understood.

Unfortunately, as with “secularism” and “freedom,” radical secularists have twisted the concept of tolerance completely out of shape, transforming it into a negative thing that actually justifies their bullying tactics. Their warped view of tolerance is based on the dangerous idea that Christianity must not be allowed to play its traditional role as the dominant force shaping modern American politics, culture, and society. Secularist zealots see the Christian religion as the great enemy of tolerance (and thus of human society in general), and therefore they exhibit a profoundly nasty and increasingly blatant intolerance toward it and its followers. Here again, the radically secularist bigots have things precisely backwards. It is thanks to the Christian religion that they have the right to speak their minds in public—a right they constantly abuse to heap vitriol on Christianity and poison the thinking of the general public. Radical secularism is the most intolerant and tyrannical ideology the world has ever seen. Its cruel and doctrinaire adherents are bound and determined to impose their false and distorted worldview on the rest of us. They unrelentingly demand lock-step conformity to their destructive ways of thinking and acting. And yet, despite all this, we’re supposed to believe that their pernicious quest to eliminate all religious—and especially Christian—symbols and references from American public life is driven by “tolerance” for other viewpoints. What these devious fundamentalists really mean by that word is tolerance of every religion except Christianity.

This brings us to the fourth term stolen and hijacked by the militant secularists, “pluralism.” They use this term (which is synonymous with their own favored term, “multiculturalism”) to mean that the fundamental Christian and European elements of American culture must surrender their privileged status and take their place as equals alongside Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Animist, New Age, Asian, African, Latin American, Oceanic, and any and all other minority cultural elements. In their view, a truly “pluralistic” society is a homogenized blend of all religions and cultures within it. Radical secularists insist that all religions and cultures should equally contribute to influencing our national life. The twin errors of moral relativism and religious syncretism lie at the bottom of this multicultural directive. Moral relativism is the idea that moral absolutes do not exist and that no single moral system should guide American conduct. Religious syncretism is the idea that all religions are of equal value and that no single religion should be the dominant influence on American culture and public life. As a pluralistic society and as a nation of immigrants, we should indeed welcome the opportunity for cultural enrichment presented by the variety of peoples, religions, and cultures that make up the kaleidoscope of modern American life. However, this does not mean that we must submerge or abandon our fundamental identity as a Christian and Western nation. In fact, it is that very identity that allows our nation to be pluralistic in the first place: The values of freedom, tolerance and respect for human rights that we so highly prize in American culture flow from the Christian religion and the Judeo-Christian moral system. Thus Americans who hail from different religious and cultural backgrounds should (as most do) respect our traditional cultural identity as a Christian and Western nation.

Radical secularists, however, deny and dismiss the obvious fact that European Christianity is the basis of our cultural diversity. They believe (in their hermetically sealed soap bubbles) that freedom, tolerance and respect for human rights can just as easily exist and flourish in a multicultural soup devoid of Christian and European underpinnings. Thus they are hard at work transforming our Christian and Western country into a “multicultural” country. The radically secularist multiculturalists profess firm faith (on what basis?) in the absolute equality of all human cultures, and the gospel of multiculturalism has been faithfully proclaimed to all Americans by President Obama in these words: “We are no longer just a Christian nation. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation and a nation of nonbelievers.” The absurdity of such a statement is readily apparent. Regardless of the religious and cultural variety that may exist within it, each nation has and evinces a predominant religious and cultural identity. Take away that predominant identity, and the nation as we know it would cease to exist. If Israel was not a Jewish country, what kind of country would it be? If India was not a Hindu country, what kind of country would it be? Along with their substantial Jewish and Hindu majorities, both countries feature an amazing variety of different cultures, religious traditions and ethnic groups. Yet we call Israel a Jewish nation despite the fact that only about 75 percent of Israelis are Jewish, and we call India a Hindu nation despite the fact that only about 80 percent of Indians are Hindu.

No one dares to suggest that Israel should submerge its Jewish identity into a Jewish-Muslim-Christian soup or that India should abandon its Hindu identity and become a Hindu-Muslim-Sikh-Buddhist-Christian-Jain nation. Yet when it comes to the United States, we are told by our radically secularist brethren that our country must now assume a “multicultural” identity, despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans—upwards of 70 percent—still identify themselves as Christian. By the numbers alone, America is nearly as much a Christian nation as Israel is Jewish and India is Hindu. To eliminate that Christian identity would inevitably result in the loss of our national culture.  

Finally, we come to that well-known phrase “separation of Church and state,” which has become the chief weapon of the radically secularist crusaders in their all-out war on America’s Christian roots. By establishing a secular republic, the founders never intended that religious and civil institutions should be completely walled off from each other, occupying separate and non-overlapping spheres of influence. They simply intended that our national government—which would deal primarily with political, economic, and military matters—would not be run or controlled by any particular religious institution. They never intended that our government be indifferent to religion, much less nonreligious or even hostile toward religion. One searches the writings of the founders in vain for any reference to the idea of an absolute “separation of Church and state.” In fact, only a single isolated mention of this phrase was made in a letter of Thomas Jefferson.

On the contrary, as educated men and as Christians, the founders knew well that religious and civil authority both come from God and fulfill complementary roles in human society. People are by nature religious, and civil government is needed to maintain an orderly society. Since both religion and civil society are human needs, some mutual overlap between the two spheres is natural, normal, inevitable, and indeed essential to the proper functioning of both. The state must fully respect the rights of the church, and the church must be subject to the laws of the state in civil matters. By wisely establishing an unofficially Christian nation with a constitutional republican form of government, the Founders intended to preserve America’s Christian identity while avoiding the abuses that a state religion could bring. According to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: “The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation…. Respect for the just autonomy of the secular sphere must also take into consideration the truth that there is no realm of worldly affairs which can be withdrawn from the Creator and his dominion.” [1]

A Christian Nation

Our identity as a Christian nation is rooted in the devout Christian faith of the people who settled and founded this country. From the first English Puritan Pilgrims who disembarked at Jamestown and Plymouth Rock in the early 1600s to the later English, German, and Irish Protestant, Anglican, and Catholic settlers of the 1700s, nearly all of the American colonists were dedicated Christians who attended church regularly and practiced their faith publicly. The main reason why most of them came to these shores was to live in a land where they could worship God freely and practice their Christian faith openly without fear of government interference. They freely, explicitly and unapologetically expressed their Christian faith in the official governing documents that they wrote and collectively adopted.

Our nation’s recorded Christian heritage begins with the first words of the first document signed by an early band of American colonists: The Mayflower Compact of 1620 began with the words, “In the Name of God, Amen,” and stated that the purpose of the voyage was to found a colony “for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith.” Our nation’s official founding document, the Declaration of Independence, states that men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”; that “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” entitle them to establish their own free and independent nation; that the representatives of the thirteen states appeal “to the Supreme Judge of the world” for the rectitude of their actions; and that they pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred Honor “in support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence”. In the Pledge of Allegiance, we call ourselves “one nation under God.” Our official national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” as well as our other great patriotic hymns “America the Beautiful,” “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” are eloquent and fervent prayers to God rooted in biblical Christianity that acknowledge His sovereignty over our nation. Our official national motto, engraved on our currency since the mid-1800s, is “In God We Trust.” The oath of office, which is taken on a Bible, includes the prayer, “So help me God.” Each session of the Supreme Court is opened with the prayer, “God save the United States and this Honorable Court.” A public prayer is offered at each presidential inauguration. Every single U.S. president has professed the Christian faith and invoked God’s blessing on our nation in his public addresses. Prayer, Bible reading, and displays of the Ten Commandments were common in public schools until the 1960s (and still would be today were it not for some misguided court rulings driven by the radically secularist ideology). And thousands of town hall meetings across the country each year still regularly begin with a prayer. Never mind the unfounded claims of extreme secularist naysayers: the Christian religion is truly woven deeply into the fabric of our nation.  

(To be continued)