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My Take: The five biggest misconceptions about secularism
Misunderstandings about secularists and secularism do a disservice to America, says Jacques Berlinerblau.
October 6th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: The five biggest misconceptions about secularism

By Jacques Berlinerblau, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Jacques Berlinerblau is associate professor of Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University. His book, How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom has just been released.

As far as the Republicans are concerned, President Barack Obama is secularism’s go-to guy in Washington. Newt Gingrich refers to him as a “secular-socialist.” Mitt Romney charges that his opponent advocates a “secular agenda.” And Rick Santorum frets that Obama is imposing “secular values” on “people of faith.”

The president, however, seems not to have received the whole him-being-a-secularist memo. American secularists have thrown up their hands in frustration over his supersizing of George W. Bush’s Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. They roll their eyes at his God talk. As for his recent call for days of “prayer and remembrance” to commemorate 9/11, well, would the late Rev. Jerry Falwell have done it any differently?

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. Let’s look at some of the biggest misconceptions out there:

1. Secularist: Just another word for atheist: Not true! But that doesn’t mean there is any thing wrong with nonbelievers. Nor does it mean that secularists and atheists don’t share scads of objectives in common (e.g., opposing religious establishment, securing freedom from religion, defending free expression).

American secularism’s roots can be traced to Christian political philosophy (yes, you read that correctly). Its main architects were Protestant thinkers like Martin Luther, Roger Williams, John Locke and Thomas Jefferson.

What evolved was a political worldview deeply suspicious of entanglements between what these gentlemen called “the civil and ecclesiastical authorities.” They asked: “How can we configure our government so that citizens of different religious groups may all live in equality, peace and order?”

Atheists, by contrast, posit the nonexistence of God(s) and proceed to explore the implications of that intriguing premise. Let’s put it this way: While nearly all atheists in America are secularists, not all secularists are atheists. In fact most secularists are not atheists — but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

2. Secularism simply means total separation of church and state: Separationism is, undeniably, a form of secularism. But not the only form. Secularists need to accept this, if only because more and more state and federal governments are giving separationism the old heave-ho.

As conservative Christians like to point out, the Constitution never mentions separationism. That idea surfaces in Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists in which he lauded “a wall of separation between Church & State.” It was not, however, until about a century and a half later that the wall was actually built. This occurred in a series of stunning Supreme Court decisions that briskly evicted religion from public schools and spaces.

The separationist worldview crested in the 1960s and 1970s. When John F. Kennedy talked about a country where the “separation of church and state is absolute,” he articulated post-World War II liberalism’s dream. Or delusion. Even Supreme Court justices whose decisions helped erect  Jefferson’s Wall conceded that total separation is impossible to attain.

That is because the United States is historically and culturally Christian. We rest on Sundays. We close federal offices on Christmas. We put the word “God” on our coinage. Most citizens are believers. The state cannot logically “separate” from them. As Justice William Douglas - no foe of secularism - once remarked, total separation would mandate that, “Municipalities would not be permitted to render police or fire protection to religious groups.”

Government and religious citizenry are entangled. This doesn’t mean we should endorse those entanglements. Rather, we must recognize separationist secularism as something extraordinarily difficult to achieve.

3. Secularism is for Democrats: This was increasingly true with each passing decade from the 1960s forward. But after John Kerry’s debilitating loss to George W. Bush in 2004, all of that changed. Party strategists now recognized the power of the so-called “values voters” — the conservative Christians whose energy and activism propelled the incumbent to his second term.

A few months before Kerry’s defeat, an obscure state senator named Barack Obama blew the roof off the 2004 Democratic National Convention with a speech in which he intoned: “We worship an awesome God in the Blue States.” It was a harbinger of things to come. By the 2006 midterms, stories leaked about Democratic consultants who advised candidates never to say “separation of church and state” on the stump.

By 2008, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton were Bible-thumpin’ with aplomb. Presidential candidate Obama, for his part, was promising to renovate George W. Bush’s faith-based Office. Separationist secularism, long in decline, was about to be rolled. What replaced it? Read on.

4. Secularists don’t make accommodations: Although few have noticed it, the Democrats have pivoted from “separation” to “accommodation.” This means the government can fund or assist religion; it just can’t play favorites. Thus, all religions are equal in the eyes of the faith-friendly state.

Is this approach secular? The jury is still out. Accommodation does respect the First Amendment principle of refraining from federal establishment of religion.

Consider the White House faith-based office. In theory, it funds all religious groups who provide social services (hence no establishment). In practice, however, things have not worked out so well (see complaints against both the Bush and Obama offices). Further, accommodation doesn’t really accommodate or take into account nonbelieving citizens.

5. Secularists are anti-religious: In recent years some have made secularism into a synonym for godlessness, possibly because a few extreme atheist groups have taken to calling themselves “secular.” Yet the idea that believers cannot be secular is incorrect and politically disastrous.

Secularism, as noted above, was born of Christian thought. Historically, its greatest champions have been those opposed to state support of one church or religious institution, such as Baptists, Protestant dissenters, and minorities including Jews, Catholics, Sikhs and others.

Secularism’s mission is to maximize freedom of and freedom from religion. But unless we start speaking of it in precise terms, and bringing secular believers and nonbelievers into coalition, it won’t be able to render this service to America.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jacques Berlinerblau.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Church and state • Courts • Politics

soundoff (1,517 Responses)
  1. JSF

    Secularism is the hope that there is a melting pot of universally accepted values that can keep the American culture knit together. Secularism has it's own set of values and reflects a world review – it has that in common with "religion". There is no "valueless" perspective. It is these values that clash across politics and states.

    America is not a "melting pot"anymore. As other commentators have suggested, we are now a "salad bowl". A centralized Federal Government like ours derives it's ability to govern from a base of values that a majority of the citizenry embrace. Secularism denies the reality of it's own values and world view, placing this view above those of Muslims or Christians or whatever...a superimposed meta-religion so to speak. There is no freedom to be found without a backdrop of noble values from which governing can occur.

    So what is the solution? America must adapt to the reality of the great American diversity, not by a imposing a new meta-values system called secularism, but rather by find real ways for diversity to be expressed. We have a tall mountain to climb in America. My belief: the sun has set on the melting pot. Federal powers of centralized government must be distributed back to states and their cities where accommodation of diversity is at least feasible. The Federal Government must return back to the activities that reflect our most basic shared needs (security and commerce). State Governments will do a better job of dealing with other needs of governing. If we don't the clash of world views will have us increasingly wondering if (tongue in cheek) Texas will secede from the Union.

    October 7, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Luis Wu

      State government should be abolished. It's just another (unnecessary) level of bureaucracy. Why do we need 50 different sets of laws. This is America, it's no longer a group of smaller countries (states), it's ONE country. I've lived in 5 different states under 5 different sets of laws, some of which are downright stupid. States rights is just a buzzword for racism and bigotry.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • FillaTX

      I’m afraid I don’t believe that any “hopes” are intrinsic to secularism. There are plenty of disparate motivations behind the people’s defense of secularism, and secularism may happen to lead to some particular world views being promoted. But secularism isn’t “about diversity.” It’s more akin to civil rights than to any positive vision of a rich “melting pot” culture. What disappoints me more than secularism being mistaken for a positive humanistic doctrine is that it gets mistaken (even by educated politicians) for atheism. Secularism is the principle that we ALL depend on when considering certain forms of majority abuse. Stop pretending not to embrace secularism! You all DO embrace its basic principles, but some of you pick and choose where to implement it according to your selfish agendas. Surely you remember from your American History classes that the founders were worried about our nation’s democracy allowing a majority to have too much power. Allowing every matter to be subject to the whim of a majority amounts to incorporating a "might-is-right" regime in which minority individuals soon suffer abuse. Secularism is one of our safeguards against that kind of threat.
      Tomorrow, there may be a new religion prevailing in our land, and if its members are a majority that want your children to say a prayer in public school (to the religion’s three-headed dragon god), how would you feel about that? If we allow a religious majority’s FAITH –BASED rules to enjoy governmental enforcement, then tomorrow you may have to dance the “Hokie Pokie” on your front lawn or have your taxes doubled so that solid gold dragon sculptures can be put on the roof of every city hall. If your best counter argument is that you doubt this will happen and that “Christianity prevails now, so we Christians should get to impose our ways on everyone”, then you are a might-is-right thinker, and there’s no point in discussing legal principles with you. If you want to impose faith-based rules on others, then go start a cult on some private land and try to attract some followers. Stop trying to make America a place where citizens can’t escape from (and are forced to pay for) your faith-based vision of how to live.
      Let’s see if YOU share my view about certain communist regimes (maybe all of them). I consider the following to be clear: You really KNOW that a regime has lost its right to govern when its citizens are SO disappointed with it that the only way for the regime to survive is by making it illegal for citizens to leave. Most of you will agree. The argument that “We have to hold citizens prisoner in our country because otherwise our regime would crumble” isn’t very compelling, and the following argument sounds just as bad to me: “We have to legally force people to live according to our faith-based rules because otherwise our religion will lose membership.” Both claims are so selfish and shameful that nobody openly speaks them, but I’m certain that millions of Americans secretly hold the latter view. Regimes deserve to survive if and when people are willing to live under them. Religions deserve to flourish to the extent that people are willing to voluntarily embrace them.

      October 7, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • FillaTX

      Woops. I didn't mean for that to be a reply to JSF. I'd like anyone who disagrees with me to reply to JSF so I can see it. (You too, David)

      October 7, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  2. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:->>>>>>

    Putting the final kibosh on religion and therefore putting an end to the word "secularism" .

    • There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    A quick Google, Bing or Yahoo search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    See p. 4 of the commentaries for definitions of secularism, Buddhism and Taoism.

    October 7, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Luis Wu

      ALL religions are nothing more than ancient mythology and primitive supperst!tions. Period. End of story.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  3. Jake

    “To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”

    -Thomas Paine, just one of our Founding Fathers who was against organized religion and Christianity in particular.

    There is no point in arguing with American religious nuts; it is exactly like administering medicine to the dead. They have convinced themselves that our country is based on Christianity despite the fact that most of our Founding Fathers were the equivalent of atheists in their time. They ignore all evidence and logic (obviously a requirement to believe in religion in the first place). All we can do is continue to provide information that makes it less and less possible for a sane person to deny reality. And in the mean time, shake our heads and sigh...it's a sad state religion has put us in and our founders would be appalled.

    October 7, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Edweird69

      Awesome post!

      October 7, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • moi

      amen!!!

      October 7, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Luis Wu

      I agree, except for the part about many of the founding fathers being atheists. A lot were Unitarians or free thinkers but few if any were real atheists. Many of them were not Christians though and at least one was Jewish.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • good one

      I LIKE the way you think.You sound like the kind of person I could sit down and have a VIRTUAL pint with.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • badlobbyist

      I agree fully, however I am concerned about inaction.
      I can't recall the exact quote, but something like..."all it takes for evil to win is for good men to do nothing."

      What if secularists do not put up a good enough resistance? I, probably like you, look at it and think these guys have to come around to the realization that at the end of the day, we just don't KNOW the answer to many questions. We have to allow for the possibility that we may be wrong on whatever side of the spiritual debate you are on. But many of them KNOW the Truth with a capital T.

      If at the end of the day, the non-secularists win, we all lose. Look at Iran, or for that matter any society where rational thinking has ceased. I am scared that that is where we could end up if we do not counter the irrationality that faith can produce. While I don’t agree with the militant atheists tactics, I understand that that at some point, the battle must be fought, or we risk losing our freedom of religion\non-religion.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Jake

      Luis Wu, I said they were the equivalent. You can tell based on what they profess to believe that many of them were essentially atheists, even though none openly admitted it. Consider that we haven't had a single president who has admitted to being an atheist, despite the extremely likelihood that many of them did not believe in god (the definition of atheist). Even today, being an open atheist is political suicide in the US. My point is that it's pretty clear that most of our founders were against organized religion, didn't believe in a religious god and were essentially what we would call atheists today. Even today I know plenty of people who call themselves Christians due to family / social pressure, but their actual views when I speak with them are atheistic.

      October 7, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Jake

      Badlobbyist, I didn't mean to imply that we shouldn't fight for what's right in terms of laws, etc. I just meant that trying to convince a religious person of the flaws, problems and evils of religion using logic is futile. Giving up logic is a prerequisite to subscribing to religion.

      October 7, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  4. Malcolm

    Wow...to see the responses since I was on here earlier....I have seen everything from rational responses to flat out hatred. If you can't have a rational thought, please just read and try to learn before you type. People need to think and not hold so closely to their belief, even if that belief is non-belief.

    I would just like to say that it needs to be everyone's position to effectively argue and try to rationalize your thoughts and beliefs before you chastise others. The religions of the Middle East and West have done more to hamper science than all of the alcohol in the world. That being said, we don't need to chastise people because they want to believe in a higher power. I have read a lot of people on here stating "I don't care what you believe, but keep it in your home." You should really try to read some religious text sometime. If the people truly believe what is written, they believe in spreading their ideals and values. If you read some of those ideas and values and incorporate them into your life (ex. don't steal, don't lie, don't cheat, et. al.) you don't have to believe in someone's religion, but just show them some respect and let them worship in their way.

    BTW, people knocking on Santa Claus, remember that Saint Nicholas was a real person.

    October 7, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • Jake

      Malcolm, not trying to be mean, but anyone who "really believes what is written" in a book like the bible is insane. Anyone who believes that a guy put two of every animal on the planet into a big boat and floated them to safety, saving all living beings on our planet in the process is absolutely crazy. I respect their right to be crazy as long as it doesn't negatively impact the rest of us. But it very often does and that's when I lose tolerance.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • moi

      And your response reigns over others' because.....?

      October 7, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • moi

      jake.... my thoughts exactly

      October 7, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  5. pat o'brien

    not being a christian does not mean being an atheist, there are many other interpretations of God that are equally acceptable. Being atheist is being absolute in your mind that there is no "other". I think simply saying we don't know, we are not capable of "knowing" and keeping an open mind is a better course than being indoctrinated in a dogma of belief.

    October 7, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Jake

      I'd consider what you described as atheism. Which is why I believe realistically, probably at least a third of our country is atheist.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • FillaTX

      You don't know what an atheist is Pat. An atheist doesn't believe in a god, and there's a HUGE DIFFERENCE between that and a person who claims to be certain that there is no god. I've known dozens or hundreds of atheists in an academic setting, and I doubt that any would claim to rule out the possibility that our universe was created by a superior intelligence. Heck, I'm sure they'd also agree with me that what many cultures have in mind when they speak of gods is well within the range of space aliens that might be out there. I suspect that some people who want to suggest that agnostics aren't just a subgroup of atheist (they ARE a subgroup) are trying to manipulate concepts in order to make "atheism" seem arrogant. How could atheism itself be arrogant? It's the claim that we lack enough knowledge to conclude that there's a divine creator. Sure, SOME atheists are arrogant, just like some of every group are arrogant.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Luis Wu

      It's call agnosticism or "free thinking".

      October 7, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • moi

      jake... agreed. they either don't know it, or are too afraid to admit it.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • badlobbyist

      Agreed with Luis Wu –
      For a long time I was strcitly an athiest, but realized that yes, I had to allow for the possiblility that there was some creator because we just don't know.
      I think the majority of atheists are technically agnostic, meaning that they probably do think there is a slight chance of a creator existing, but for practical purposes, they are athesits.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • One one

      I don't agree. Keeping an "open mind" about the possible existence of things like elves, fairies, and unicorns, etc., is silly. At some point you have to use some common sense or accept the possibility that any myth that some nut job conjures up could be real.

      October 7, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  6. NorthVanCan

    Why is every article I read that contains a religious subject matter leave me fuming angry?
    When will we ever learn ?
    Religion in the church and science in the school.
    Now , was that so hard?

    October 7, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • moi

      no, it's not, but try implementing it.....

      October 7, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  7. 21k

    who cares what you call it, it is a step towards rational thought: ie, the fact that god does not exist. even if god did exist, would you really want to spend eternity with a being that would not stop hitler, even though he created him?

    October 7, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Alicia

      Rational thought?.. like you proclaiming that God does not exist?....you must have information that none of us has.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Edweird69

      @Alicia – newsflash! Believing in invisible beings is irrational. There's no reason to believe it.. therefore... irrational. Derp

      October 7, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • moi

      Alicia... sit in on the first five minutes of Philosophy 101 to gain some knowledge of the definition of "rational". It is you who are brain washed. GO be happy in your little pink fantasy, and stop trying to be smart, unless you are real willing to learn something.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  8. Mauser

    As a secular minded individual whose family is extremely right winged religious fundamentalists-I have to applaud this article for the clarity it brings to the secular debate.
    Written quite well.

    October 7, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  9. palintwit

    Repeated studies have shown that there is a greater incidence of child molestation and incest among southern white evangelical christians than in any other group that participated in the study. Living in cramped quarters (such as trailer parks) is one of the main causes of perverted behavior among christians. Those requiring further proof need only to take a casual drive south of the Mason-Dixon Line. The abundance of toothless christian cretins you will encounter are a direct result of generations of inbreeding. Historians have long theorized that the south lost the civil war because of the many mentally challenged soldiers in the Confederate army, another resulut of this inbreeding.
    Oddly enough, many of these christian misfits make their way north or west where they can be found working in gas stations and car washes. And yes, some do end up in Congress on the republican side of the aisle. And some end up in mainstream cinema, appearing in such classics as Deliverance and Smokey and The Bandit

    October 7, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • 21k

      don't forget country musicians.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  10. Galaxy Prime

    Okay, I can tolerate the casual religious person who believes in god and accepts that there are people who believe in a different god or none at all – but the ultra-religious nutjobs who think EVERYBODY should get on their knees and pray to THEIR god, put Christian bibles in public schools, and have the Ten Commandments hanging on walls in US courthouses are no different than those religious nutjobs in the Taliban. Keep your religion to yourself!

    October 7, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Mauser

      Couldn't agree more!
      I hate the extreme views of those religious nutjobs.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Alicia

      ......You won't have to worry... we won't be around much longer. After that, the world is yours and you can take down all the crosses, etc.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Edweird69

      @Alicia – Now there's a happy thought. Please hitch a ride on the next passing comet.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • moi

      amen sista!

      October 7, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  11. Colin

    A quick quiz should help us understand why the Seperation of Church and state must be maintained at all costs, especially in our education system.

    The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the field of:

    (a) Children’s fairytales;

    (b) Medieval mythology;

    (c) New age pseudo science; or

    (d) the most politically powerful religion in the USA

    I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am

    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;

    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly

    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or

    (d) your average voting Christian

    Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:

    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;

    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;

    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or

    (d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.

    I believe that an all powerful being, capable of creating the entire cosmos watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty" like protect myself with a condom. I am

    (a) A victim of child molestation

    (b) A r.ape victim trying to recover

    (c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions

    (d) A Christian who can influence access to condoms and other birth control

    You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are a:

    (a) historian;

    (b) geologist;

    (c) NASA astronomer; or

    (d) Christian who can infuence education policies

    I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am

    (a) A failed psychologist

    (b) A fraudulent geneticist

    (c) A sociologist who never went to college; or

    (d) A voting Christian with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.

    The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:

    (a) Architecture;

    (b) Philosophy;

    (c) Archeology; or

    (d) Religion

    What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:

    (a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they must believe under threat of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;

    (b) Religion can make a statement, such as “there is one god comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;

    (c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas religion is regional and a person’s religious conviction, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than an accident of birth; or

    (d) All of the above.

    If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:

    (a) a deep psychiatric issue;

    (b) an irrational fear or phobia;

    (c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or

    (d) my religious belief.

    If I am worried that my children, who I love very much, will not believe something I tell them, such as "smoking is bad for you," I should:

    (a) have our family doctor explain to them the various ill effects of smoking.

    (b) show them a film produced by the National Inst.itute for Health on the topic.

    (c) set a good example for them by not smoking; or

    (d) refuse to give them any evidence of the ill effects of smoking, insist they rely on faith and then take them out into the backyard and burn them to death if I ever catch them smoking.

    October 7, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • NorthVanCan

      What ever man! I hope you get the help you and the religious people need.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • moi

      I love this. where did you get it??

      October 7, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Colin

      I wrote it. post email address if you want a copy

      October 7, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • winter

      FOR ARCHAEOLOGY!!!!

      October 7, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • BoSheryl

      Very well written and thought provoking.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Mike

      brilliant, insightful, informative, and insightful all at the same time!

      October 7, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Kimberly

      Colin, you have written, by far, the most hysterical (and logically sound) comment I have ever read online. You have made my day. (My "day of rest.")

      October 7, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Julie

      Beautifully done! Yeah... I keep wondering how people can believe this stuff. "Faith" and "dangerous insanity" are pretty much the same thing. Except "faith" is far more dangerous!

      October 7, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Mike

      Didn't mean to say insightful twice, but rather hilarious at the end. Seriously, this is great and the simple minded religious will respond with something like, "God said it, I believe it, that settles it!" Bill Maher explained it all very well in his movie religulous. It's bad enough to believe in something that doesn't exist, but if humanity is to survive, we must abandon religion to prevent airplanes flying into buildings again.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • moi

      I'll copy and paste-thanks;)

      October 7, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • moi

      north.... I'm sorry, did you not understand this post???

      October 7, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  12. Sagebrush Shorty

    Obama is what he is ,and becomes anything that is necessary for re-election.

    October 7, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • moi

      In case you didn't notice, drone-head, this is an article about secularism. Yes, Obama is who he is (as everyone is), but the second part of your statement is confusing Obama for Romney, who has proven himself a substance-less joke.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • tony

      A great, thoughtful and sensible US President, who happens to be black, and therefor automatically hated by a large percentage of core republican voters and particularly their chosen elected congressmen.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Luis Wu

      Probably a Mormon, they believe that when Cain "went to the Land of Nod and took a wife", that since the only people on Earth at the time was Adam, Eve and Cain, – that he married an ape and that's where black people came from. The black skin is the "mark of Cain". They've officially removed that tenet from their teaching, but I'm sure most still believe it.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • moi

      thank-you. well said

      October 7, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • frank montgomery

      @tony Sad but true. I think when your raised a certain way, its just hard to change what you've thought all your life. People don't want to be overt in their hate, they become more socially acceptable when they try to cover their distaste with some sort of reasoning, it is what it is.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  13. heeeey

    Secularism works in Canada. By having non-profit socialized medicine and banking laws that protect the countries AAA+ credit rating and peoples money, that seems more "Christian-Like" than what goes on in the US.

    October 7, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Lets not forget that we give equal rights to same-gender couples as we do to common-law couples; we have the abortion issue sorted out; we have no fighting over whether or not insurance companies cover the cost of birth control...our taxes, as much as some vary from province to province, are generally standardized (everyone pays federal and provincial income taxes).

      October 7, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • moi

      Vancouver bound... here I come!

      October 7, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  14. fibergirl

    great article....now hurry up and tax the churches already.

    October 7, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • moi

      Amen to that! My thinking exactly....so what's the hold up? Oh wait, that's right, no one with that agenda can get elected with our fervent, insane religious right populous.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  15. GAW

    I guess that 5 is the new 3.

    October 7, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  16. Nietodarwin

    Our test scores will continue to drop below other western nations as long as these religious sickos and "Talibangelicals" are left in our government. Bill Nye is correct to point out that creationist beliefs are "not good for kids" and parents should stop teaching this nonsense to their children. GOP Rep. Paul Broun from Georgia, (a Doctor who is on the House Committee for Science and Tech.) is now on record as saying evolution, embryology, and The Big Bang theory are "lies from the pits of hell" Religion is UNPATRIOTIC. Most christians I know don't vomit at the table while others are eating, yet they behave that way toward our governance.

    October 7, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • kso

      amen.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  17. NorthVanCan

    Obama needs to say what people want to hear in order to get elected. He's a politician , god dam it!
    Why are so many people so gullible ?

    October 7, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • fibergirl

      Funny, I said the the same thing about Bush

      October 7, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Luis Wu

      That's what I've been saying about Romney.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • moi

      They are all politicians. Only half the population is smart enough to take this into consideration. The other half..... well...

      October 7, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  18. bosefasaurus

    @Glenn I don't really see any difference between a Muslim and a Christian president. They both believe in an invisible man in the sky. I would much prefer an honest president that didn't believe in any gods.

    October 7, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Helena Handbasket

      AMEN! 🙂

      October 7, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • moi

      Never going to happen...as hard as we pray for it;)

      October 7, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • moi

      religion is too strong a power tool for controlling the ignorant.... read about Constantine...

      October 7, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  19. Caleb

    Your history is a bit off on point #2. The first written point of this being a secular nation was in 1796 in article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli when this country was described as "...the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..." The "wall" as you put it had to put in place later because people seem to have forgotten what we stood for.
    You also neglect to mention that we added the word "god" to our money in 1861. We replaced our motto "E pluribus unum" in 1956 with "In God we Trust". The words "Under God" were added to our pledge in 1954. If this was the intention of our founding fathers, surely it would've been in place while some of them were still alive. In my opinion, these are some of the greatest shames the religious community has yet placed on our nations history, however I'm sure it wont be the last.

    October 7, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Nietodarwin

      Way to go Caleb, it brightens my day to see these corrections made and facts about money and the pledge reiterated.
      Religion is the opposite of education. Have a good day.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • moi

      I know! and thank you for posting it!

      October 7, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  20. Glenn

    I bet people would be clamoring for a wall between church and state if Obama(hypothetically) proclaimed himself a Muslim after winning the election.

    October 7, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • frank montgomery

      Subdue trolling, very nice.

      October 7, 2012 at 10:57 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.