Charles Krauthammer's web exclusive column, "In Defense of Certainty" from Time yesterday, has its central supposition (that secularists are dangerously dogmatic) taken apart in "Contra Charles" by Andrew Sullivan. As Sullivan mentions, Krauthammer is wrong on several counts. Chief among these is his accusation that:
"Instead of arguing the merits of any issue, secularists are trying to win the argument by default on the grounds that the other side displays unhealthy certainty or, even worse, unseemly religiosity."
In reality, it is only secularists who are actually trying to discuss any of the issues (i.e., abortion, same-sex marriage). Religionists' only contribution is to say that no discussion is possible because (their) god says so (in their interpretation of their translation of their compilation of their scriptures).
Sullivan describes the effects of secularism's "great modern achievement" – that of the separation of church and state – this way:
"Secularism allows Christians, and any other religious faith, to affirm religious values, live exactly as they see fit, and avoid such moral outrages as abortion and gay civil unions in their own lives, if they so wish. All secularism does is say that as a political matter, there will be as much government neutrality as possible because the government should represent all citizens; that the Church and the state shall coexist, but independently of each other."
Critics of the Bush administration are not "aroused and infuriated" by "a universal aspiration to freedom," as Krauthammer posits, but by their questionable means and (sometimes) the appearance of ulterior motives. If Krauthammer wants to truly champion "moral clarity," instead of merely cheerleading for the administration, isn't Bush-sanctioned torture (either directly or via rendition) absolutely wrong? What about avarice-supported tax cuts? Lying? Killing?) It is easy – and lazy, not to mention incorrect – to accuse secularists of being relativists, but what excuses turning faith's blind eye to its proponents' many hypocrisies?
Sullivan notes that he is "really concerned that secularism is slowly becoming tainted with the same brush as 'liberalism.'" – presumably via the mass-media echo chamber of which Krauthammer is a part – and he ends by observing that secularism is:
"is an honorable tradition, integral to the entire concept of Western liberty. The difference between secularism and Christianism, to put it bluntly, is that one side is happy to let people make their own moral choices; and one side isn't. So who exactly is imposing on whom?"
While secularists work for a neutral and inclusive public square, Christianists [those who politicize Christianity, as Islamists do to Islam] will tolerate no compromise. They should, therefore, shoulder most of the blame.