Don’t Look to Secularism if You Want to Bathe in a Kinder, Gentler World

Don’t Look to Secularism if You Want to Bathe in a Kinder, Gentler World August 25, 2016

Her ticket, seen by French news agency AFP, read that she was not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism”.

Oh dear, good morals and secularism! If you’re not aware, these are transcendent and unquestioned values in France. The a little bit more historical context buried in the last sentence of the following paragraphs:

“I was sitting on a beach with my family,” said the 34-year-old who gave only her first name, Siam. “I was wearing a classic headscarf. I had no intention of swimming.”

A witness to the scene, Mathilde Cousin, confirmed the incident. “The saddest thing was that people were shouting ‘go home’, some were applauding the police,” she said. “Her daughter was crying.”

Last week, Nice became the latest French resort to ban the burkini. Using language similar to the bans imposed earlier at other locations, the city barred clothing that “overtly manifests adherence to a religion at a time when France and places of worship are the target of terrorist attacks”.

51VzvU6t46L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Why yes, these kinds of apparel bans also apply to outward public expressions of Catholicism as well. Two hundred years of secularist repression have done a number on French Catholic practice in France. Therefore those Catholics who are tempted to spite the Muslim nose of France in order to preserve its ostensibly Catholic face should remember that these tactics have been disastrous for the French Church.

However, it might be possible to understand the French case better by seeing its absolutist demands as reproducing the religious concern for limiting violence, especially after the terrorist attacks perpetrated by Islamist radicals–not to be confused with all Muslims, according to the pope. But if we do that, we also must do a better job of charitably reading ambivalent historical actions of religious people, such as the Inquisition.

Here we get further into the heart of darkness if we remember that France first introduced systematic terrorism into our dictionaries and histories with its utter decimation of its Catholic population in the Vendée. In the end I have nothing against secularists incorporating Original Sin into their worldview, so long as they also adopt the confession of sins.

My piece A French Genocide and Salvation Outside the State outlines just how much damage the “good morals of secularism” have done. I suppose this is why Mark Lilla’s piously innocent call to arms at the end of The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West has always sounded so insincere to me:

Our challenge is different. We have made a choice that is at once simpler and harder: we have chosen to limit our politics to protecting individuals from the worst harms they can inflict on one another, to securing fundamental liberties and providing for their basic welfare, while leaving their spiritual destinies in their own hands. We have wagered that it is wiser to beware the forces unleashed by the Bible’s messianic promise than to try exploiting them for the public good. We have chosen to keep our politics unilluminated by divine revelation. All we have is our own lucidity, which we must train on a world where faith still inflames the minds of men.

Lilla professes the Original Sin secularism is supposed to save us from, but without confessing secularism’s great sins. This is cheap grace.

I hope he avoids it in his latest book on the modern traditionalist imagination, The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction. I don’t hold out much hope for the (or France), but part of the fun of reading Lilla on secularization is that he can be always be counted on for some penetrating research and a willingness to present sympathetic portraits of his opponents, even if he always comes to the wrong conclusions. This is a blindness he all too frequently shares with his secularist allies who would, without realizing the irony, protect us from “religious” violence with state violence.

It’s taken less than burkinis to start cultural and other types of wars…

Don’t miss A French Genocide and Salvation Outside the State and you might also want to take a look at TOP10 Books for Explaining Original Sin to Interested Nonbelievers

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