What Should We Call Secular Ideologies like Marxism and Social Justice?

As we celebrated Easter, the season when the Christians celebrate the Son of God who rose from the dead, there remained a big question for our age.

What do we call the secular movements that are such a feature of our age?  I am talking about everything from Marxism to environmentalism to feminism.

In his Why God? Explaining Religious Phenomena, sociologist Rodney Stark writes that these godless movements do not count as religions because "without the existence of a conscious divine being ... these 'Godless religions' can offer no otherworldly rewards, no miracles, not even any reason for prayer or worship."

The proof of this, according to Stark, is that Christian denominations that have de-emphasized God as a "conscious divine being ... have experienced rapid and massive declines in membership."

But then, on the last-but-one page of his book, he makes the following proposition: "The everlasting basis for religion will be the human conviction and hope that life has meaning."

Is this not exactly the point of Marxism: that instead of the endless cycle of exploitation of man by man, we are entering a new era in which the workers of the world will live in hope and justice?

Is this not exactly the point of feminism: that instead of women being oppressed by the patriarchy since the dawn of time, they are now emerging into the public square to assert their right to live as the "independent woman" of Simone de Beauvoir's Second Sex and finally come into the light?

What are these movements but religions?

Still not convinced?  Okay, here is a political and practical reason why all left-wing movements should be relabeled as religions.

It is the First Amendment, which says that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

The purpose of this clause issued from the conviction of the Founding Fathers that a combination between a government and a religion is a Bad Thing.  Back in the good old days, you see, the Puritans in Massachusetts had it in for the Quakers.  In the 17th century, writes Stark, "[w]henever Quakers were detected [in the Massachusetts Bay Colony] ... they were subjected to public whippings before being expelled from the colony."  In fact, down the ages, wherever religions have reached a condominium with government, they have used it to enforce a religious monopoly and punish the dissenters, often unto death.  So the Founders, from bitter experience, wanted to keep religion separate from government.

Here in the United States today, if you express a political or cultural opinion in the public square that dissents from the liberal line, you risk your job, your career, and your sacred honor.  It's true that there have been no public whippings, but there have been plenty of "mostly peaceful protests" against the appearance of heretical speech on campus.

This intolerance is a universal problem with monotheism, writes Stark, because every monotheism knows the truth: to believe in its truth is to be saved; everything else is eternal damnation.

The solution, according to Rodney Stark, is to prevent any religion from getting a monopoly.  In a pluralistic religious economy where every church and sect is too small to hope to get in bed with the government, religious activists are more concerned with preventing other churches from getting the ear of government than working the government inside track to ditch the other guys.

I don't know if you have noticed, but our liberal friends seem to have got the idea that they are the monopoly church and sole moral arbiters of America.  They arrogate to themselves the right to determine who is a racist, who is a white supremacist, who is a campus rapist, who is a sexual harasser.  Of course they do, because their lefty secular religion makes every liberal activist into a secular priest with the power to name and shame any sinner straight to secular Hell.

So what would it take to get the liberal Torquemadas to cool their jets?

When all the sects and churches and secular ideologies are restrained by a proper separation of church and state, then, according to Rodney Stark, you can get a "religious civility," where public religious expressions are restrained "out of deference to what others present truly believe."

Since liberals do not observe "religious civility," it means that their ideology amounts to a secular established church with monopoly religious powers.

There is only one solution.  We must promote lefty ideology to the dignity of a religion.  Then demand that Congress stop legislating liberal morality.  Because separation of church and state.

Christopher Chantrill (@chrischantrill) runs the go-to site on U.S. government finances, usgovernmentspending.com.  Also get his American Manifesto and his Road to the Middle Class.

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