Friday, August 2, 2013

Ian Polluck on the Impossibility of Religious Neutrality in Politics

A great new article came out today on the Rationally Speaking blog.  It is by Ian Polluck, and it is entitled "Is Secularism Unprincipled?"

When I first started reading the article, I thought it was going to be one more naive and clueless article arguing that secularism is neutral, especially since I've seen articles like that on this blog before.  But I was pleasantly surprised to find instead that the article is an excellent take-down of the naive idea that secularism is neutral.  Mr. Polluck argues that secularism is philosophically unprincipled basically because it claims a neutrality it does not really have.  (See a couple of my articles arguing this same thing here and here, and also see Steven D. Smith's excellent article here.)  Despite secularism being philosophically unprincipled, Polluck advocates sticking with it anyway for practical purposes even while acknowledging it as philosophically untenable and hypocritical:

Seen in this light, it is obvious why secularism cannot really be principled. It is an attempt to consign certain groups of sincere but deluded religious believers to a rhetorical sandbox.

Sometimes a matter of great practical import must override a matter of principle, however. The philosophically correct picture, as far as I can see, is a public policy debate in which any argument (religious or not) is permitted, and there is no false distinction between religious and secular questions. The sanity of the majority prevails, epistemically bad views lose to epistemically good ones in the marketplace of public opinion, and we all ride our unicorns into the sunset.

We should probably just stick with the old, unprincipled hack. But let us at least be honest with ourselves about what it is.

Maybe people like Steven D. Smith are finally getting through and we will begin to see a bit of waking up from the secular philosophical and political community on this point.  This is a good time for those of us who believe in biblical civil government to help push the culture closer to acknowledging reality!

As to the idea that secularism makes more practical sense than, say, a biblical theocracy, I'll be commenting on that soon enough in a new blog post, so stay tuned.

UPDATE 8/9/13:  And here's the article I just promised.  It examines whether or not secularism really tends to promote more peace and stability in a society and for that reason should be considered of practical value, humanly speaking (and without taking into account particularly Christian ideas like the judgment of God upon disobedient societies, etc.).

UPDATE 4/9/14:  I republished Mr. Polluck's entire article here.

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