My Take: The five biggest misconceptions about secularism

After spending years trying to sequence the genome of American secularism, I have arrived at a sobering conclusion: no -ism is as misunderstood as this one. All of which is bad for secularists, secularism and America.

Democrats’ Theology of Tolerance

In many ways night two of the Democratic National Convention was a coming out party for the New Democratic Theology, a liberal theology, a theology of togetherness (and a theology whose internal tensions were evident in a disastrous day two).

Romney’s Play-It-Safe Speech

Here and there, Romney indulged in a smidgen of faith and values politicking. Those who thought he was going to “own” his Mormonism were disappointed.

Santorum Stands Out as the Anointed One of the Christian Right

Let there be no doubt: with his impressive showing among evangelicals this past winter, the former senator from Pennsylvania is presently the leading candidate to receive the Christian Right’s unified and early benediction should they need to endorse around, say, 2014.

The Death of American Secularism

When, how, and why did secularism become such a problematic and controversial idea in America? Why have both of the nation’s major political parties and three branches of federal government turned their backs on it? Why has jacking-up (as the American footballers like to say) an already woozy secularism become such a lucrative sport for political and religious demagogues alike?

What Is Ross Douthat Thinking?

For those who are not familiar with this new culture-war killing zone, let me bring you up to speed. A seemingly value-neutral term has shifted ideological shape in the past election cycle. “Religious freedom” has become the Religious Right’s very own “J’accuse!” cross-pollinated with Clint Eastwood’s “Go ahead, make my day.”

Dear Pastor Rick Warren: Thank You, You’ve Done Enough

A sectarian pastor, in my opinion, should not have been posing questions with such an obvious theological/political bias–especially at the first joint appearance of two individuals vying to be president of the United States.

The USCCB’s Fortnight for Freedom, Part I

Unless I am mistaken, one of the emerging story lines of the 2012 election, at least as regards religious politicking, is that the Catholic Church is suddenly out in front. Catholics are the single largest religious denominational voting bloc in the United States and, as I argue in How to Be Secular, lay Catholics are a crucial secular constituency.

When the Academic Left and the Academic Right Unite

In any case, those scholars whose work is predictably liberal or conservative are missing out on the pleasure of not thinking politically. This entails the joy of not belonging to a team, a faction, a party, etc. A Philip Roth character, in a line that never ceases to amuse me, celebrated the virtues of belonging to a kibbutz made up of one person (“my kibbutz”). My sentiments precisely.

Why So Little Religious Politicking in This Presidential Election?

Yet now that we have entered the 2012 general election, F and V campaigning is at its lowest ebb since the 1996 presidential campaign. We have been spared the “pastor disasters” of 2008. A scriptural silence prevails. It’s a deceptive silence, to be sure. But we need to figure out why it exists…

Romney Takes Care of Business at Liberty University

Winged words about Jerry Falwell, Sr: Check.
Hats off to evangelical fave Rick Santorum: Check.
Reminder that “marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.”: Check.
Intimation that religious freedom is under assault: Check.
Christian triumphalism–as in “there is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action”: Check.
Mentioning Ann Romney’s inspired mothering: Check.

Obama to the Christian Right (Nervously): It’s On!

My surmise is that Obama’s people looked carefully at recent blow-ups with the Christian Right (most notably, the HHS mandate episode, which united the crucial co-belligerents of Catholic and evangelical conservatives) and arrived at a conclusion not unlike the one they discovered about the possibilities of bipartisanship with congressional Republicans: It ain’t happenin’.

Reflections on Rick Santorum Withdrawing From the Race

Most Americans have no problem hearing about your religious views. In fact, many are respectfully curious about such matters. But insofar as “most Americans” are a gloriously diverse lot who represent every shade on the theological spectrum, faith-based messaging must be conducted with extreme discretion and caution.

Why Santorum Didn’t Sell

Running his campaign as an anathemetizer-in-chief permitted Santorum to score big among white conservative Evangelicals. The problem for Santorum is that his “Game On!”exuberance turned off his fellow co-religionists. In primary after primary he lost among (likely Republican) Catholic voters. A truism that indicates that lay Catholics are among the most laudably independent-minded voters out there, often eschewing the counsels of their bishops as well as those politicians who claim to speak in their name.


  • Order the new book!

    A rousing defense of America’s secular roots as our nation’s best way to protect freedom of—and from—religion
    "How to Be Secular serves as an important reminder that . . . as I have noted in the past . . . we protect our rights to our personal beliefs by preserving the rights of our neighbors to believe otherwise. I agree wholeheartedly with Berlinerblau’s argument and highly recommend this powerful book.”

    —MARIO M. CUOMO, former New York Governor
    “This insightful book is not designed to convince you of the non-existence of God or the afterlife; it exists to convince both the non-theistic and the religious that if we don’t find a way to work together, we will all pay a heavy price. Berlinerblau makes a compelling, urgent case, with rigorous regard to history as well as a keen eye for the relevance of today’s many new variations of fundamentalism.”

    —BARRY LYNN, executive director, Americans United for Separation of Church and State

    Read more reviews