Secularism bashed by foreign policy group

According to the Washington Post, a foreign policy task force has decided that “Western secularism” is impeding US foreign policy goals. The US needs to make religion “an integral part of our foreign policy.”

Some of this might be based on a degree of reality. If our imperial masters have been ignoring religion as a major cultural force in the world, then, they’ve been screwing up. I doubt that this is the case, but I don’t really know.

What worries me is the notion of explicitly disavowing secularism becoming tied to military and foreign policy. In the US, “national defense” (in the sense of the best defense being a good offense, I assume) is politically untouchable. We even build highways and fund science because these are supposed to be national security imperatives. So if “excessive secularism” becomes perceived as a problem in this corner of public life, that would be anti-secularism with some serious teeth. In a time when the US military is taking on an increasingly evangelical color, and casual Islamophobia is rampant, I worry that it is not just awareness of religion but flat-out religiosity that will become an integral part of US foreign policy.

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About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • CyberKitten

    Well, the US has been looking for an excuse to take on the rest of the world. Maybe this could be it?

    Not the worlds policeman but the worlds priest – now there's a horrible thought!

  • Bradley Bowen

    The task force recommendations mentioned in the article seem reasonable.


    To end the "episodic and uncoordinated nature of U.S. engagement of religion in the world," the task force recommended:

    – Adding religion to the training and continuing education of all foreign service officers, diplomats and other key diplomatic, military and economic officials. That includes using the skills and expertise of military veterans and civilians returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

    – Empowering government departments and agencies to engage local and regional religious communities where they are central players in the promotion of human rights and peace, as well as the delivery of health care and other forms of assistance.

    – Address and clarify the role of religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy. Cizik said some parts of the world — the Middle East, China, Russia and India, for example — are particularly sensitive to the U.S. government's emphasis on religious freedom and see it as a form of imperialism.


  • Taner Edis

    Bradley Bowen: "The task force recommendations mentioned in the article seem reasonable."

    Emphasis on "seem."

    For example, the role of "religious freedom" in US foreign policy lately has been partly shaped by evangelical Christian missionary imperatives. This task force calls for an intensification of this, which is bad news as far as I'm concerned.

  • Interested

    I couldn't agree more. This is an issue that needs further discussion at least and total abandonment at best. Anytime religion is mentioned in the same breath as government I start to shutter.

  • Interested

    Sorry s/b shudder.

  • notlost

    As the emphasis is more on religion, adding diplomacy as an additional subject for theology degree seems to be a better option for posting them abroad

  • Bradley Bowen

    One recommendation of the task force was:

    "Address and clarify the role of religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy."

    Religious freedom is something I support, so I would want my government's foreign policy to reflect this value.

    In any case, clarification of our foreign policy as it relates to this value is a good idea. That way we have some idea whether or not we agree with our government's foreign policy objectives (or at least the stated objectives).

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