What is Atheism part N
Here I go again trying to define "atheist" and "secular". What a bore.
Tristero quotes Barbara Forrest at length
ID proponents and their Religious Right allies promote a distorted understanding of secularism, presenting it as synonymous with atheism and antireligious animosity. However, contrary to this misconception, “secular,” properly understood, merely means “not religious” rather than “anti-religious.” In the same vein, criticism of ID as a religious belief rather than a scientific theory is not criticism of religion per se.
the vast majority of Americans, .. understand that the strongest protection for people of faith lies precisely in maintaining government neutrality with respect to matters of religion.
I agree with the substance but, as an intolerant atheist theologian, object to the wording. I would say that that "secular" means "not involving religion at the moment". If I understand correctly, the Catholic church introduced the word to describe legitimate authorities who were not clergy people. It is possible to be both religious and secular, that is, personally religious and in favor of keeping religion out of some part of our society (and in particular government policy). So a secular state is not a state run by non religious people, it is a state run by people who do not use their official powers to advance their religious beliefs. The founders were Christian (with the likely exception of Thomas Jefferson whose heterodoxy was a bit extreme).
The reason I object is that Forrest does not note the difference between atheism and anti-religious animosity, although she doesn't say that one implies the other either.
I think this vagueness is unfortunate.
First in a quibbles quibble I note that, if I had to coin a word for anti-religious animosity, I would invent antitheist. the prefix "a" means "non" or "not."
On a more serious point, if "secular" were used to mean "not religious but not anti-religious" then there would be no word for "religious but in favor of separation of church and state."
I think a bunch of atheists decided to take control of the word "secular" distorting the language. IIRC the unfortunate phrase "secular humanism" was introduced in a document called "The Secular Humanist Declaration" signed by, among others Isaac Asimov and B.F. Skinner. I'm sure they were secular and Asimov at least was a humanist, but one of the principles of the declaration was "6. Religious Skepticism"
so signers were at least agnostic if not atheist.
I just checked the Wikipedia and I see that there were much more eminent signers. Also the date, 1980, seems very late for the introduction of the phrase so probably I didn't recall correctly.
The problem with letting the religious right define "atheist" as hostile to religion is not just that leads to horning in on the turf of "secular". It also leads to abuse of the word "agnostic" which properly does not refer to someone who has no doubt that no God exists (or who has no hope that a God exists). In common usage atheists who are not anti religious tend to claim they are agnostic. Not as bad as claiming to be simply secular, but not accurate either.
Atheists are numerous (I am one of them) and by no means all of us are anti-religious (obviously I don't think any religious belief is true, but one of the teachings of Christ which does not convince me is "the truth will set you free" and, all in all, I think believing the truth is often over rated).
I do like Forrest's use of the phrase "civic friendship"
Civic friendship means, at the very least, being reasonable enough and respectful enough of one’s fellow citizens to trust that they can be good people—good neighbors—without adopting one’s own religious views, or perhaps without any religious views at all.
Although, perhaps, she could have done without the "perhaps".