Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Limited Religious Pluralism is Not Secularism

Stories like this one seem to be appearing more and more often. Keep in mind that many of the people involved in these cases, whether lawyers, judges, law professors, or other individuals, are highly educated and experienced. You have to ask, then, why it is that they repeatedly put forward such poor arguments and are so inconsistent.

Religious pluralism is not secularism. To equate the two is fallacious. If mentioning "God" in a prayer is consistent with Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and other monotheistic religions, and it can in some prayers be considered consistent with polytheism, for example, the fact remains that it can be or is (depending on the form it takes from one prayer to another) inconsistent with other religions and the belief systems of atheists and agnostics. What a lot of these people are arguing for is a limited religious pluralism, a religious pluralism that includes a large variety of religions, but not all religions or belief systems. To acknowledge any god or God is to promote a religious concept and denounce any opposing belief system. Again, religious pluralism is not equivalent to secularism. Surely these judges, lawyers, and other individuals involved in these cases understand these things. They ought to acknowledge that what they want is a limited religious pluralism, not secularism, neutrality, or any other such thing.

But maybe what some of these people actually want is something more secular. I think it was Barry Lynn who I heard, on CNN's "Crossfire" several years ago, say that he would like to see "In God We Trust" removed from all currency. People who have that sort of objective ought to say so rather than acting as if a limited religious pluralism is their objective. If it's just a stepping stone along the way, leading to an objective more like Barry Lynn's, then they ought to say so and act accordingly. They're opposed to any acknowledgment of God, and they think that the American founders were wrong in their intentions in framing the First Amendment.