Certain tell-tale signs reveal when someone is making a exclusively religious argument:

  • An irrational adherence to a particular viewpoint
  • Closed-minded rejection of those with any opposing perspective
  • A firm unwillingness to compromise or empathize with adversaries

By such measures, the phenomenon of “secular fundamentalism” qualifies as a religious belief system. As described by Richard Ekins in the Journal of Markets & Morality, secular fundamentalism is the fanatical view that “democracy requires religious arguments and religious believers to be excluded from political discourse”. Like any other form of fundamentalism, it embodies a self-righteous feeling that totally affirms one’s causes and objectives, while simultaneously convincing the “true believer” that others and their causes are wrong.

In their zeal and fervor to eradicate faith from the public square, secular fundamentalists conveniently overlook the obvious. They are themselves seeking to establish a theocracy of “anti-religion” that excludes the vast majority of Americans. That such an undemocratic movement can be harbored by the “Democratic” party is astounding.

Within political discourse and debate, secular fundamentalists decry any argument that they deem to be faith-based. At first this may even sound quite reasonable, when they object to bible-thumping and the “blind faith” of argument from explicitly religious doctrine. But it goes much further, with their denunciation of opposing arguments as “faith-based assumptions” extending by fiat to any and all who might try to stand against them. We see this clearly in the SSM debate. Rational arguments from natural law – that marriage as a social institution is linked purposefully with the procreative aspect of opposite-sex coupling, and that it is likewise interwoven with the “body & mind” gender complementarity of men and women – are condemningly dismissed as repugnant expressions of religious belief.

This absolutism brings true rational discourse to utter breakdown. One can no longer carry on a meaningful discussion with people who declare “a priori” that opposing viewpoints are to be excluded.

In a country that ostensibly upholds religious liberty as one of its founding principles, and which includes such a diversity of faith, this extremist position is absurd. Everyone believes something. Even atheism is a belief. But as we refer to one’s chosen “beliefs”, we are in fact talking about “faith” – a system of beliefs that are not based upon proof. Consequently, secular fundamentalism is – by its very nature – a fanaticism that is oriented against virtually everyone else outside of its own elite clique.

Moreover, the principles of secular fundamentalism are unsettlingly close to other examples of humanistic moral relativism in the 20th century – such as the followers of Hitler, Lenin and Stalin. What they share in common is a determination to define right and wrong based on malleable human standards, rather than a timeless tradition of absolute right and wrong that transcends human cultures around the world.

This is an issue that threatens the very fiber of our democratic society. We need to recognize secular fundamentalism for what it is – an unqualified usurpation of the public square to the detriment of liberty and the common good.

Some may [incorrectly] dismiss this as mere right-wing rhetoric. So let me close by quoting someone else who shares in this concern about secular fundamentalism:

We first need to understand that Americans are a religious people. 90 percent of us believe in God.


There are some liberals who dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word “Christian” describes one’s political opponents, not people of faith.


Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King – indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their “personal morality” into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Senator Barack Obama (June 28, 2006)

14 Responses to “The Absurdity of Secular Fundamentalism”

  1. on 04 May 2007 at 7:41 amopal

    I love that quote by Obama. I just wish that he was prolife. I will have to add him to my prayer list.


  2. on 04 May 2007 at 12:56 pmTricia

    Hmm, I notice a profound lack of arguments posted in reply to another of Dave’s excellent essays.

    Are the liberal trolls all on vacation? Or could it just be that there is absolutely NOTHING that could be reasonably, logically said to refute anything Dave has written here?

    I agree with Opal’s comment on the Obama quote. I admire Dave (as usual) for his talent to so cogently and calmly express his thoughts and these important principles, such as in the following excerpts:

    In their zeal and fervor to eradicate faith from the public square, secular fundamentalists conveniently overlook the obvious. They are themselves seeking to establish a theocracy of “anti-religion” that excludes the vast majority of Americans. That such an undemocratic movement can be harbored by the “Democratic” party is astounding.

    Secular fundamentalism is – by its very nature – a fanaticism that is oriented against virtually everyone else outside of its own elite clique.

    This is an issue that threatens the very fiber of our democratic society. We need to recognize secular fundamentalism for what it is – an unqualified usurpation of the public square to the detriment of liberty and the common good.

  3. on 04 May 2007 at 8:43 pmDave

    While we await the inevitable return of our friends on the Left, I’d like to share some additional items that are relevant to this discussion of secular fundamentalism.

    Appearing in the UK newspaper “The Guardian”, a February 2007 article – “Faith” by Stuart Jeffries – describes an interesting and truly encouraging phenomenon of people from diverse faiths joining together in opposition to secular extremism:

    Britain’s new cultural divide is not between Christian and Muslim, Hindu and Jew. It is between those who have faith and those who do not.


    Many Catholics, Anglicans, Muslims and Jews last month united against the government’s sexual orientation regulations that would mean all adoption agencies could not discriminate against gay couples in placing children with adoptive parents.

    As we know, the UK government nevertheless pressed onward with its gay adoption legislation. And despite the reprieve from full enforcement of the new law until 2008, it seems likely that the Roman Catholic Church will be forced – like Catholic Charities in Boston, Massachusetts – to shut down their adoption agencies, rather than compromise on their religious principles.

    The remarkable aspect of this situation is the amount of support that the Roman Catholic Church is receiving from other organizations which, under other circumstances in the past, might have been – shall we say – less than cooperative with each other. This outpouring of support comes from an unlikely coalition of allies, including Muhammad Abdul Bari (secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain), Ian Wilson (Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, within Free Masonry), and Anglican archbishops Rowan Williams and John Sentamu.

    UK commentator Mary Dejevsky of the newspaper “Independent”, despite her past (and sometimes quite vigorous) disagreements with the Catholic Church on a wide variety of issues, nevertheless admits in her January 25th report that the government oversteps its bounds in failing to honor religious liberty:

    It is quite wrong for the state to seek to impose its values on religious belief.

    What is the mysterious element that unites people from such varied backgrounds and faiths, and galvanizes their response? Secular fundamentalism.

    And in this may be a “silver lining”. Perhaps some good will come of this movement after all, by motivating people of faith to take a stand for their beliefs in response to the threat of being muzzled and “boxed in” by secularism.

  4. on 06 May 2007 at 8:10 pmDavid

    Interesting, people who disagree with the opinions on this site are trolls and those of us who wish to live our lives free of the man-made rules of one self-proclaimed spiritual leader or another are attempting to muzzle religious expression. The fact that major “faith” groups who in reality despise each other (and don’t bother denying that) would join together to fight against the lives of LGBT people is just one more horrifying example of the hypocrisy and decandence that passes for “religion” today. If any of you truly had any “faith” in your gods you would not be spending the incredible amounts of money and time trying control the rest of us. “Faith” based bigotry is just as uncivilized and barbaric as any other kind – and just as unacceptable. Try reading your Bible, you might learn something.

  5. on 07 May 2007 at 9:28 amDave

    Have you stopped to consider that it is anti-religious bigotry and the impariment of our liberty that so strongly motivate our action, rather than any desire to exercise “control” over people who may hold divergent views? The activism of secular fundamentalists, whether in support of the LGBT agenda or other threats to religious freedom, is actually creating a backlash that spans across both major political parties in the United States. Or is it perhaps your view that Senator Obama is just another “intolerant bigot” like other Christians?

    The problem with present-day LGBT activism is that it crosses the line into coercing our unwilling participation. Such activism goes much further than just saying “live and let live”. For example, take a more serious look at Mary Dejevsky’s article. She’s not saying that gay adoption should be banned altogether. She’s just saying that the church should not be coerced into taking actions that would contradict its moral views.

    There will always be disagreements between people, especially in the spheres of politics and religion. How we choose to handle those inevitable disagreements is quite telling. Secularists who seek to squelch religion and liberty should be recognized as embracing the antithesis of the American spirit of freedom. A truly tolerant model of political interchange will allow for ideas to be freely expressed, and for the peaceful co-existence of diverse viewpoints.

    BTW, as it relates to “trolls” – notwithstanding their endearing qualities – I’m sure the reference was meant in the sense of certain posters who have a habit of taunting with deorgatory and inflammatory language, rather than a blanket statement about those who may disagree. Constructive debate which is truly based upon an honest exchange of ideas, and learning from our mutual differences to expand our understanding, is always welcomed. I’ve personally avoided using that specific word, because our friends on the Left already know who they are and why the post here; and because that particular word has yet another derogatory meaning within the LGBT community.

  6. on 08 May 2007 at 6:32 pmDavid

    And pray tell where is your liberty impaired? Are you not allowed to gather in your churches? Do you have people trying to outlaw the practice of your religion in your own life? Are there multimillion dollar organizations that exist for the sole reason of keeping from living your lives, forming relationships, raising your children? How many are denied housing, employment or medical care because of their religion? Or is it that you consider your liberty impaired because the laws of this country don’t exactly mirror the doctrines of your church, because you can’t make us accept every word from your leaders as having come directly from God. Is it impaired because some of us have reached the point where we refuse to allow you to smear us with lies, exagerrations and ludicrous “studies”. Because we refuse to accept your arrogant proclamations that our relationships are not “worthy” of support from society. How exactly can there be a “live and let live” attitude when it is an admitted goal of the “christian” right, to do everything it can to slam us down? When foreign leaders (yeah I mean the Pope and his cronies) feel free to spew the most heinous of bile (which has NOTHING religious or spiritual about it) against LGBT people. You want honest discussion – the stop the condescension, stop supporting attack organizations, stop linking to sites who specialize in anti-gay hysteria – little of it based on reality. Case in point – organizations like TVC and FRC had to completely recreate the discussions about the hate crimes laws so they could back up their claim of the anti-religious nature of the bill. What they reported was completly false and was repeated by multitudes of “christian” and
    “conservative” sites and news organizations.

    I happen to agree with Obama, the people of the USA are a religious people, and that is not a bad thing. And certainly every person should vote their conscience, including politicians. But the current “conservative christian” movement goes far beyond that seeking to impose their beliefs on everyone, including fellow Christians who do not think the same way. Tell me, are the briefs (I don’t know the correct word) that this organization and the others have filed in the gay marriage case before the courts based only on religious doctrines, or is there a whole bunch of pseudoscience mixed in attempting to “prove” how we are a threat to civilization. The fact that you think that it is ok to force your opinion in on an issue that has NOTHING to do with your lives or your church is a perfect example of the need to control. The pressure that the Roman church has been putting on politicians in this country and others, complete with slanderous accusations and comparisons about LGBT people is totally out of their realm of supposedly spiritual leadership. And certainly they are joined by their Protestant “Bible-believing” cohorts.

    Anti-religious bias certainly exists but much of it is totally a reaction to what fanatics have been doing. The “backlash” you describe is primarily among those who are fed a daily dose of fear mongering nonsense from the “conservative christian” media. I read from a number of sources every day and am consitently apalled at what passes for “fact”. I’m not talking about difference of opinion, I mean absolute fantasy that has little connection with reality. I say it often, probably too much, but you reap what you sow and the church is just beginning to feel the heat for it’s attitude toward the rest of us.

  7. on 09 May 2007 at 4:12 amDeana

    I don’t see Dave’s post as “calm” – it’s full of hyperbole and emotionally-charged language.

  8. on 09 May 2007 at 4:33 amDeana

    I also don’t see how this applies to (for lack of a better term) “secular pluralism” that simply strives for laws that protect citizens from having the religious beliefs and practices (or prohibitions in this case, of marriage) of others imposed on them by the government – which is what the marriage-equality bill is all about. No one wants to force Catholics or anyone else to enter into same-sex marriages.

  9. on 09 May 2007 at 12:20 pmCaroline

    This is just the “secular humanism as religion” argument dressed up in different clothes. That argument never flew. Just as thousands of Republicans finally said “enough” in the last election to Bush’s doublespeak , I think fair-minded Christians should be able to see through the tactic of lumping all beliefs that differ from yours into an “anti-religion” religion, and then arguing that you are constitutionally entitled to be free of it.

  10. on 09 May 2007 at 12:27 pmDave

    Deana –

    I’m in favor of pluralism, as described by the American Heritage Dictionary:

    A condition in which numerous distinct ethnic, religious, or cultural groups are present and tolerated within a society.

    Unfortunately, we do not have that today in the United States. We have an environment that is openly hostile and intolerant to Christianity as somehow being more deserving of censure than other faiths. The notion of “secular pluralism” implies that religion should be marginalized, and confined to the private sphere. In other words, religious viewpoints can be tolerated as long as they are kept within the walls of one’s home and church, but they ought not to be allowed to inform or influence in more public aspects of life.

    To this I say – rubbish. God is God, 24×7, not just when I’m at home or in church. If I choose to live in accordance with His moral laws, then I should be free to do so without government coercing me to act in a contradictory manner, and without government restraining my liberty. I should be free to speak about my faith in public, pursue gainful employment in my chosen career if I am otherwise qualified, and partake of all rights enjoyed by other citizens without regard to my religion. I should be free to retain some degree of control over my children’s education within the public school system, without having them subjected to unwanted indoctrination in matters of morality.

    The problem with secular pluralism is succinctly described by Gabriel Garnica in his May 9, 2005 column:

    Pluralism can be sacred and divine just as tolerance and diversity can be.


    We are, after all, called to love all people, to respect their right to good things, and to compassionately tolerate their differences even as we seek to save souls. We are also clearly expected to co-exist in peace and avoid conflict as much as possible.

    However, secular pluralism denies the existence of a single universal truth and therefore by its very nature undermines the very creeds it purports to be attempting to have co-exist. Ultimately, such pluralism includes so much that it excludes nothing, no matter how immoral or destructive.

  11. on 09 May 2007 at 12:42 pmmatt

    We have an environment that is openly hostile and intolerant to Christianity as somehow being more deserving of censure than other faiths.

    Weak tea, Dave. I think you’re mixing up the fact that more American christians earn censure for dumb stuff done in the name of their belief system (a statistical near-certainty, given the vast numbers of christians kicking around this country) with a disproportionate bias against christians.

    Of course, I happen to think you do this intentionally, to mislead good natured and tolerant people to lash out against the already-repressed.

    Though maybe I’m wrong — I, for one, am eagerly awaiting America’s next atheist president.

  12. on 24 May 2007 at 2:06 pmTricia


    Your posts are always so ‘spot on’ and pertinent to what is happening in the world today.

    You have probably seen the latest examples of our children in public schools being “subjected to unwanted indoctrination in matters of morality.” But since several of those who post here seem blind to these appalling affects of the gay agenda, I will post a part of something that happened recently at a Boulder High School assembly. (from

    “In an assembly at Boulder High School in Colorado, a guest speaker encouraged students as young as 14   to have sex and use drugs.

    Joel Becker, an associate clinical professor of psychology at the University of California at Los Angeles said, “I am going to encourage you to have sex and encourage you to use drugs appropriately.  Why I am going to take that position is because you are going to do it anyway.  I think as a psychologist and health educator, it is more important to educate you in a direction that you might actually stick to.  So, I am going to stay mostly on with the sex side because that is the area I know more about.  I want to encourage you all to have healthy, sexual behavior.

    Becker continued, “We all experiment. It’s very natural for young people to experiment with same sex relationships. When you are 13, 12, 13, 14 certainly probably one of the most appropriate sexual behaviors would be masturbation. Even today, there are psychiatrists who will do sessions under the influence of ecstasy. If I had some maybe I’d do it with someone, but you know.”

    According to Ron Tyler, “The students were given graphic details of the sex lives of the other panelists.  They were told to experiment with various forms of sex and sex partners.”

    “When a parent, Priscilla White, attempted to read the transcript of the conference in front of a Boulder Valley school board meeting, she was told to stop because of the graphic nature of the content.  Yet this over-the-top presentation was given to school children.”

    You can also read about this incident, and others in Newton, MA and Deerfield, IL (where parents were banned from attending, and at one school the students had to sign a “confidentiality agreement” forbidding them to speak about the assembly matters to parents or anyone else) at

    These incidents are **exactly why** so many in Connecticut support the work of the Family Institute of Connecticut. We don’t want these types of incidents MANDATED BY LAW in every public school in our state, which is what will happen if SSM is legalized here, along with rewriting the textbooks as to what “marriage” is–removing all reference to “husband” and “wife,” etc.

  13. on 26 May 2007 at 8:13 amDave

    I agree, it is truly shocking when you consider the ultimate impact of such changes upon the educational system. Yet another example is California’s SB 777, a bill already passed by the State Senate, which will further undermine principles of the traditional family unit. This bill will require teaching materials to be amended, replacing “male and female” with “gender defined as either real or imagined, and not limited to a person’s assigned sex at birth.” Those with traditional family beliefs will no longer be allowed to express their opinions freely within the public schools. Supporters of the bill conceal the depth of their true intentions behind the seemingly innocuous language that says the bill prohibits school activities or materials reflecting “adversely upon persons because of their disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.” From a superficial perspective, it all sounds so reasonable – until you stop and consider the ramifications. You can read more about it here –

  14. on 28 May 2007 at 6:22 pmDavid


    Funny that the bulk of your post doesn’t have the tiniest bit to do with same sex marriage yet somehow we are going to cause all your fears to come true simply by taking vows to each other. Are you able to be rational? or do you just live in this fantasy land of “christians” vs the rest of humanity. One good thing in your post is that you gave a giant clue to the source of your paranoia and hatred – worldnetdaily. If you indeed believe the excrement they put out on that site then there’s little chance of the truth reaching you. You mentioned in one post you think that I confuse y’all with Fred Phelps. Untrue, there’s a world of difference. Phelps and his clan are HONEST about their hatred. They open and vocal and the whole world can see them for what they are. The “family” groups and the “conservative christians” try to paint a human picture, use nice words, and smile a lot while saying “God Bless you. But you what? The goals are the same, the underlying attitude towards LGBT people, towards liberals, towards non-Christians are totally and completely identical to Phelps. And rest assured, the only bile in my life is that which flows continuosly from the lips, pens and websites of “christian” right wing. And you needn’t worry about meeting me in person. I do my best to stay clear of places that attract people like you. I feel safer walking down a dark street alone at night in the toughest part of Hartford than I do when in the presence of more than a couple of “good christian people”, there is far less chance of being attacked.

    I hope the day comes soon Christianity is set free from the bondage of legalism and hypocrisy that so many churches have put on it. Oh, and lastly, yes it is horrifying to think of the “ramifications” of a law that in a civilized country should not even be needed because all people are automatically treated with respect and valued. You people who spend so much time, money and energy fighting to maintain your “right” to hate and discriminate are exactly the reason such laws have become necessary. And sadly, yes, they will be abused and misused – you have only yourselves to thank for that. Practice what Jesus taught, you could change the world. Practice what you are now and you will simply destroy it.

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