Challenging the prevailing secularist narrative
The self-styled opponents of "myth and superstition" such as New Atheist Richard Dawkins have been shrewdly peddling a few myths of their own, argues Scott Buchanan
By Scott Buchanan
May 11 2017In former times, secularism meant the state’s neutrality in the face of competing worldviews and comprehensive claims about reality. Ideas could be freely trafficked in a pluralistic environment, whilst no one religion or creedal system could claim official establishment. Although people adhered to a minimum set of shared values – the better to preserve social and political harmony – all were permitted to enter the public square according to their own lights and their own convictions.
More recently, however, a new conception of secularism has arisen. Unlike its intellectual forebear, the contemporary model is neither neutral nor passive in regards to contrasting worldviews. Quite the contrary. In fact, it is largely built upon a fundamental antipathy towards what it sees as the unwarranted public influence of “belief”. Scientists like Richard Dawkins and Neil de Grasse exemplify this view, whilst Australia is also home to its own tribe of new secularists. Proponents of this view devote themselves to a vision of the public square expunged of anything allegedly lacking in scientific objectivity. Much of this ire has been directed, of course, at religion.
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