Carol Towarnicky STILL Doesn't Get It,...
Carol Towarnicky | THE BOGEYMAN OF 'RADICAL SECULARISM'
TM - What about the MSM's refusal to acknowledge any religious aspect of holidays, such as Easter, Hanukkah and Christmas, while pushing the mass consumerism associated with the same seasons? Or the ACLU's constant fight to remove all vestiges of their mention in our schools, public places, and society as a whole?
After all, polls say that more than half of Americans (53 percent) would refuse to vote for an otherwise qualified presidential candidate who is an atheist. In its recent hunt for a "non-theist" member of Congress, the Secular Coalition for America could find only one, Pete Stark of California, and he turned out to belong to a Unitarian Church.
Yet there was ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich last month at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University challenging the graduates to confront "the radical secularists" who "insist that religious belief is inherently divisive and that public debate can only proceed on secular terms."
Excuse me, but how would you have a public debate in religious terms? A Scripture-quoting competition?
TM - You don't need a debate. Radical secularists want to circumnavigate the First Amendment's caveat that our government, while secular, cannot prohibit a citizen's freedom to express a religious inclination (or a lack thereof). "Scripture-quoting" shows your narrow-minded bias that defenders of the First Amendment are inherently Christian!
Then I saw a study by the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America and something clicked. Helped yet again by a clueless news media, the religious right not only has cleverly framed the discussion about religion in America, it has managed to get many people to equate secular government with secularism.
TM - Its not the religious right who are distorting the line between and secular government and a secular society. But you're right,...the clueless media is showing its own bias against freedom of speech and expression of beliefs.
Media Matters is the group that first attacked the comment by Don Imus about the Rutgers women's basketball team that set off a firestorm that led to his firing. In studying the content of major U.S. newspapers and TV outlets since the 2004 presidential election, Media Matters found that, on TV, conservative religious leaders were almost four times more likely to be interviewed, quoted or mentioned than so-called progressive religious leaders. And that was after separating out religious "celebrities" like Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. (In all media studied, attention paid to conservatives outnumbered that paid to progressives 2.8 to 1.)
TM - No! Media Matters didn't drive Imus away from radio for his remarks! Media Matters is a Fifth Column Group supported by "radical secularists" who want any and all dissent from their point-of-view silenced!
Outside of the celebrities, the No. 1 "go-to guy" on religious matters for all media is Tony Perkins, president of the ultra-conservative Family Research Council. Many of the other conservatives, like Franklin Graham and Chuck Colson, simply swamp the progressives. The result, according to Media Matters, is a picture of religious people in America as overwhelmingly conservative and obsessed with their opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage.
TM - And thus, Media Matter demonizes the right and adds fuel to their own paranoia-driven crusade against conservative media outlets.
In fact, polls show that most religious people are centrist or progressive politically and much more concerned about moral issues like the Iraq war, materialism, poverty and economic justice than abortion or gay marriage.
TM - Oddly enough, these "polls" seem to never air on CNN, MSNBC or the Big 3. How come?
The distortion likely is even worse than Media Matters portrays it. In the first place, 18 out of the 20 "go-to guys" are just that - guys. And, as noted by the Religious Institute of Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing, only two out of 10 of the so-called progressive religious leaders are "unambiguous and outspoken" about their support for gay rights and reproductive choice.
The most media-popular liberal religious leader is the Rev. Jim Wallis of the evangelical group, Call to Action. Wallis is progressive on issues of poverty. On abortion and gay rights, not so much.
WHEN I READ the study, it occurred to me that conservative religious leaders are quite clever to attack "secularism" instead of challenging progressive people of faith who differ with them just as profoundly.
Ignoring religious progressives makes it easier to equate religion with conservatism. And, with the media's help, that makes it easier to question the spiritual bona fides of people who believe in secular government as outlined in the Constitution, as most religious progressives do.
Note: By pointing out the difference between religious progressives and secularists, I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong with the latter - although I am getting rather tired of the "new atheist" movement that also lumps together all religious people to dismiss them as superstitious theocrats. That's another column for another day.
In the meantime, I can't help but fantasize about an actual Bible-quoting competition between religious conservatives and progressives, comparing, say, the Scriptural mentions of abortion with the words about helping the poor. (Bet on the poor.)
Praying With the News: President Bush has nominated James Holsinger, a man who believes that homosexuality is a lifestyle from which a person can recover, as surgeon general. Let us pray for a day in which ideology will not trump medical knowledge in federal appointments. *
Carol Towarnicky is a freelance writer who was a longtime member of the Daily News editorial board. E-mail her at
The TrekMedic concludes with:
Obviously, Ms. Towarnicky took on several topics at once here. The main complaint the Trekmedic has is her continued belief that "radical secularism" is merely the upholding of the First Amendment and a counterbalance to some shadowy conservative threat from the right to impose a Christian "sharia" law upon the Untied States.
If you want to understand the true nature of the First Amendment, try reading the Federalist Papers before making commentary on the basis of our Constitution!
And for what its worth, many of our Founding Fathers were not members of any organized religions themselves, but were, in fact, deists - believers that based solely on reason, in a God who created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life, exerting no influence on natural phenomena, and giving no supernatural revelation.