The Dangers of Secularization
by Steven R. Hemler
In the past several decades, western society has become increasingly secularized. Naturalism, the philosophy that the material world is all that exists, has nearly taken over the entertainment, educational, and legal systems. Naturalistic evolution, with no place for God, is being taught in public schools and universities as the only credible explanation for life's origins. Elected officials no longer even attempt to enact laws in accordance with God's "Natural Law." Freedom is viewed as license to do whatever one pleases, and not as liberty from tyranny. Morality is relative. Tolerance is today's premier virtue.
Religious expression and influence in public life are diminishing. Christian faith is becoming more privatized, compartmentalized, and separated from the "real world." Christian songs and religious shows are rarely played on commercial ("secular") radio stations and TV networks. Newspapers and news magazines have separate religious sections (if they have any religious coverage at all). It's as if our Judeo-Christian heritage and beliefs are an embarrassing family member to be kept out of public view.
Even "Merry Christmas" is being replaced by "Happy Holidays." Christmas, when Christians celebrate the birth of our Savior, has become no more important than New Year's!
America's courts, reflecting this trend, have become increasingly hostile toward religious convictions and expression in public places. Public prayer is forbidden speech in public schools. Freedom of religion has become freedom from religion. Separation of church and state has become separation of God and society.
Even though our human pride may not want it to be so, most of us know down deep that God really does exist. For example, over 90% of Americans believe in the existence of God. So, why is a mere 10% of society allowed to impose on our culture their belief that God does not exist?
America and other Western nations cannot keep acting as if God does not exist, and ignoring His Will, without facing self-inflicted, adverse consequences. America's founders and leaders have long known this. They left us many words of wisdom and warning.
In his Farewell Address, George Washington stated, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports and great pillars of human happiness. Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion."
John Adams, America's second President, was even more forthright. In 1776, he wrote, "It is Religion and Morality alone which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand." In 1798, he declared, "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion... Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
Even Thomas Jefferson, the third American President, asked, "God who gave us life gave us liberty. And 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 the gift of God?"
In the 1830s, French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville observed (note how much has changed), "The religious atmosphere of the country was the first thing that struck me on arrival in the United States... In the United States, when the seventh day comes, all trade and industry seem suspended throughout the nation. All noise stops. A deep repose, or rather solemn contemplation, takes its place… The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law as well as the surest pledge of freedom… America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."
In the four decades since the U.S. Supreme Court began separating God and State, violent crime, school shootings, abortion, drug use, teen pregnancy, family breakdown, and other social problems have increased dramatically. Eventually, the only way to keep order over an increasingly violent and self-destructive society will be to surrender our liberties to a totalitarian regime.
For the sake of the freedoms we love, we must reverse the ominous trend toward privatization and compartmentalization of religious faith and influence in our society. Christians have, for too long, been silent spectators to the secularization of Western society. As the "salt" of our society, Christians must never tire of being bold advocates for and examples of seeking God's Will for our lives and our nations.
Only then will our nation's citizens have the morality and character known by America's founders to be necessary for the preservation of our freedoms. For as President Reagan warned in 1984, "Without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure. If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be one nation gone under."
E-mail this article to a friend
Copyright © Steve Hemler. Steve Hemler has been involved in youth ministry, pro-life political activism and religious education. His articles have been published in America, Liguorian, Church, Modern Liturgy, Religion Teacher's Journal, Liturgical Catechesis, and National Review.