Conservative Catholic thinker and Princeton University law professor Robert George claimed in Washington on October 24 that, as societies throughout the world become increasingly secularised, some militant secularists will be not content with simply allowing people of faith to worship in their own homes and temples.
According to this report, George, who had previously served as the chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, asserted that as societies throughout the world become increasingly secularised, some “militant, evangelising, missionising” secularists will not be content with simply allowing people of faith to worship in their own homes and temples, and he warned:
They want your kids.
George was speaking at a panel discussion on “faith and the challenges of secularism” at Baylor University. Co-panelists were British Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and the President of Zaytuna Muslim College Shaykh Hamza Yusuf.
One threat posed by secularists to people of faith, George said, related to way children are perceived, especially in regard to infant circumcision, which he wholeheartedly supports.
The [secular] intactivists looked at the baby and saw what political philosopher Michael Sandel calls an unencumbered self – a future chooser, a blank slate, tabula rasa, who needs certain care and preparation to become what he eventually will be, to make choices for himself.
From their point of view, let the child grow up and when the boy is 18, he can decide whether to be circumcised or not. I would imagine that there wouldn’t be a lot of circumcision at 18.
How do religious people look at the baby? A very different way. The Jewish family looks at that baby and doesn’t see a tabula rasa or an unencumbered self, it sees a Jewish baby, a Jewish infant. The baby is seen a member of this community as it was already encumbered by a family and tradition and community. As a member of that community, this child must be and needs to be circumcised in keeping with the ancient convent of the Jewish people who goes through Abraham.
These two fundamentally different worldviews “will have a lot of trouble living side by side,” he warned.
I think that the traditions of faith and [their] people have essentially three options. One is to capitulate. One is to separate ourselves in the hope that we will be left to our own families and to our own traditions. The third, engagement. That is, active engagement. I think it has to be the third.
It’s clear that militant, evangelising, missionising secularism has no intention of leaving Jews, Muslims and Christians alone to retreat to the monasteries, to get through the dark ages, raise our own families, pass our own traditions. They want your kids.
Surprisingly, Yusuf, above, who is also an adviser to the Center for Islamic Studies at Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union, had the courage to point out that religion is often the victim of the “stupidity” of adherents.
I think there are a lot of challenges that secularism brings but I think the greatest challenges that religion faces is the stupidity of some religious people.
Yusuf said that the bad behaviour of those who claim to be worshippers give secularists more fuel to their arguments, whether they be Islamic extremists who commit terrorist attacks or a conservative Christian who films himself burning Korans.
One of the problems with religion is that when people study religion they tend to study the history of religion and they don’t study the religion themselves. A lot of people know about the Crusades but they don’t know about St Thomas Aquinas …
When they think of Islam now, they think of ISIS. Religion is the victim of a lot of really poorly practiced religion. I think the secularists, this is what they latch onto when they attack religion.
Lord Sacks, above, playing the “persecution” card, warned that religious belief and church membership among people in the UK has hit such lows that it shows that the UK is now:
In the pre-Christian ages. It is not going forward bravely to the future. It is marching heedlessly to the past. This is troubling.
Sacks pointed out a recent example of how extreme secularist thinking can hinder the religious freedom rights of civilians.
Earlier this month, it was reported that a student union at Oxford University barred a Christian group from setting up a stall at a campus event on the grounds that the group’s religious beliefs were “an excuse for homophobia and neo-colonialism”. The decision to ban the Christian group was later reversed. Said Sacks:
This is so outrageous. It was only three years ago when I gave testimony to the House of Commons on religious liberty and I said the degree to which Christianity is being banned from public spaces ought to remind us that America began when people set sail in 1620 on the Mayflower so that they could find somewhere else the religious freedom they were being denied in England and elsewhere.
I said, ‘If you carry on the way you are going, we will need to book our passage on the next Mayflower.’