Home > Uncategorized > Why start a blog called ‘Secular Progressive’?

Why start a blog called ‘Secular Progressive’?

Well, to answer this question, we must first turn to the inimitable wisdom of Bill O’Reilly.

O’Reilly, a self-described foot soldier in the so-called Culture War, makes it a centerpiece of his schtick to bemoan the erosion of “traditionalist” values in America – essentially, values that are grounded in Christian doctrine. And who perpetrates this sabotage? Who seeks to undermine the moral fiber of our great nation? 

You guessed it: the Secular Progressives, or “S-P’s” as O’Reilly calls them. The socialist, anti-Christian, blame-America-first crowd, who huddle in their coastal enclaves conspiring against hard-working, God-fearing folks. Throughout O’Reilly’s body of work, which I follow surprisingly closely, the S-P’s have become sort of a catch-all term for everything that is wrong with America. Whether it be political correctness, sex on TV, or misuse of stimulus funds, most anything can somehow be traced back to the corrupting influence of S-Ps and their corrosive agenda.

Take a look at O’Reilly’s column from last month, in which he chastises the state of Vermont for decriminalizing “sexting” between 13-17 year olds. In other words, the Vermont legislature made the decision that if a teenager sends a nude picture of him or herself to another teenager, neither party would face criminal charges. Seems pretty reasonable; it would not make much sense to permanently declare some stupid kid a registered sex offender because he or she was in possession of what is technically child pornography. But to O’Reilly, the Vermont law was another startling example of S-P attempts to break down the “traditional boundaries of behavior” as dictated by Judeo-Christian values. Indeed, it’s emblematic of a dangerous trend: “All over the USA, secular-progressives are on the move, promoting gay marriage, legalized drugs, unfettered abortion, and attacking almost all judgments on personal behavior.” Vermont, which incidentally has the lowest level of religiosity in the country and therefore presumably the highest ratio of “secular progressives,” sounds like it is on the verge of breaking down into complete chaos.

But we all know that not to be the case. Vermont is a great place to live, and we would all be better off if more of the country shared its values of social progress, environmentalism, and so on. 

The point is this: No longer can those of us who identify as secular and/or progressive allow ourselves to be caricaturized by the likes of O’Reilly without putting up a fight. That’s how the Right stole the term “liberal” and it’s how conservative Christians have demonized the term “atheist.” Us S-P’s have ourselves a set of values, and we happen to think that they’re better than the alternative, or else we wouldn’t hold them in the first place. Rather than undermine society, we think that those values will actually strengthen our communities and our governments. Our agenda must not be characterized as one that seeks to over-sexualize children, give them drugs, and encourage them to have abortions. 

In some respects, however O’Reilly is right. I do believe that we would all be better off if people were less religious (at least in the putative sense), and have no qualms with publicly declaring as much. But I also want to emphasize that this blog should not be thought of as “anti-religion” per se; religion can mean anything people want it to mean, and is not limited to our traditional notion of worshippers gathered together in ornate pews. What’s more accurate, I think, would be to say that this blog is anti-dogma; it is opposed to beliefs that require no evidence for substantiation and are not amenable to reason. Some forms of Buddhism espouse no dogma, and are indeed quite compatible with a secular progressive lifestyle. Thus, it would be brash to declare oneself hostile to religion without offering any nuance or qualification. In a similar vein, the Third Reich advocated policies that were thoroughly dogmatic, and tragically delusional; those sorts of beliefs should be subject to just as much criticism from secularists as any belief that is “religious” per se. 

Although this blog is obviously centered around my personal convictions, I want to make it as open a forum as possible. Little is achieved when dialogue is limited to those who agree with one another. Regardless of your worldview, please contribute! 

I have to admit that part of the reason I decided to start this blog is pure selfishness; I need a medium through which I can record my ideas. But hopefully it will be able to spur some critical thinking, some debate, and some insight among a wider audience.

Some big things are happening right now in terms of “Secular Progressivism”: religious belief as a whole is on the decline, the Secular Student Alliance (a chapter of which I am president of) is booming. Religion in America is at quite a crossroads, and I’ll surely get into that in future posts. But I think it’s incredibly important that there are moderate voices from within the S-P community making themselves heard; portraying themselves as something other than some scary group of “others” that people like O’Reilly have attempted to artificially construct. And when I say moderate, I mean moderate in terms of temperament, not ideology. We should not parse our words, but we should also not unfairly represent the positions of our philosophical and political adversaries. That gets us nowhere. 

One issue that is intensely relevant at present, and will be discussed at length here, is same-sex marriage. Although the debate is framed largely in the context of gay rights, I also think it serves as a proxy for examining the role of religion in the U.S. More on that later.

So in conclusion, I hope you will pay me some mind as I try to dissect religion and politics through a secular progressive lens. Here I come, BillO!

Categories: Uncategorized
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  1. August 18, 2009 at 2:44 am

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