“The philosophers had one predominant object, which they pursued with a fanatical fury,—that is, the utter extirpation of religion. To that every question of empire was subordinate. They had rather domineer in a parish of atheists than rule over a Christian world. Their temporal ambition was wholly subservient to their proselytizing spirit, in which they were not exceeded by Mahomet himself. They who have made but superficial studies in the natural history of the human mind have been taught to look on religious opinions as the only cause of enthusiastic zeal and sectarian propagation. But there is no doctrine whatever, on which men can warm, that is not capable of the very same effect.” – Edmund Burke
Secular humanism is the worst proselytizing movement of all, for it always needs to change the political regime of countries into something secular in order to spread, and especially since the advent of socialism – into something intrusive and secular. Once the secular state starts becoming intrusive, this secularism turns from a compromise in the name of tolerance into a culture in itself, destructive of religiosity and builder of a materialist virus who devours the national soul. This is why those who reject Modernity today must realize that they are the moral minority, that almost everything traditional and beautiful in our societies will sooner or later contradict modern principles and will be destroyed.
Although I find a resurgence of classical liberal neutrality even less possible than that of religion, I have read Russian Orthodox bishop Hilarion Alfeyev suggest in a paper addressing the EU that it is the duty of the EU to be religion-neutral, and that it should be neutral towards secular humanism too. He said that the EU should leave member-states decide for themselves their religious policies and that religious people should be allowed to live the fullness of their religion in multi-confessional societies, just as secular people are allowed.
I personally believe that secularists won’t agree with such a compromise, since their culture is based on politics. Alfeyev, for example, said that it is the duty of Christians to protest and even disobey governments who violate God’s law. I think he doesn’t understand that soon, there won’t be many people to protest this, with time secular humanism will swallow the entire West – and people who believe God’s law matters will continue to be branded “fanatics”. Secularists are already the majority; we should know that society is theirs and that they control the education, the media, the government, the culture.
I remember described by many poets and writers from the Balkans the times when Ottomans kidnapped children of Christian families and made them completely loyal to Islam and to the Sultan. While in romanticizing this, they did not talk about the sin of murder, they did describe cases where Christians didn’t only try to hide their children, but once they knew their children discovered, they threw their children in the river or murdered them in other ways.
This practice of murder is maybe a folkloric leftover from paganism, but it teaches us the important lesson that we, and nobody else, are responsible before God for our children. If we leave our children without Christian education, without letting them participate in the life and culture of the Church, we should know that secularism or Islam will welcome them with open arms, and that both of them can condition rather than educate, as we have often seen. Moreover, we should tell secularists that our culture and their culture are two separate things, and that our children, like us, will belong to Christian culture. We are, just as the secular right accuses Muslims, a society within society.
Know it well – it is likely that giving your children to be educated/conditioned by the government will give you more time for yourself, will maybe even save you some trouble and give your children social status. It is a sacrifice, and the temptation to give up and fall into hedonism will always be there, for you and for your children.
Nevertheless, in a recent discussion with a fellow Orthodox and conservative, I heard the opinion that our demographics are growing, and that Eastern Orthodox countries are already seeing a revival and more and more compromising of the secular humanist (or atheist communist) principles.
While I still tend to be sceptical about a future fall of the liberal order (and I am not alone), I was suggested to read Philip Longman’s The Empty Cradle. It basically suggests this: “Does…the future belong to those who believe they are (or who are in fact) commanded by a higher power to procreate? Based on current trends, the answer appears to be yes.”
In my friend’s opinion, secularism is “masked” by an apparent overwhelming public and elite consensus, but this consensus is built upon a culture that has no future. The much smaller groups who dissent are simply ignored as posing no possible threat to the establishment by the same elite consensus. The problem is that you turn around in three generations and the world will no longer be secular.
I guess I owe my great distrust in statistics and demographics to Chesterton (statistics can fool us!). Also, I think that “seeing is believing”, and I am not seeing much change – I haven’t met one single cultural traditionalist in real life outside of my Orthodox parish. But my friend convinced me that I have been too influenced by these two principles, and that it makes sense that since our children aren’t taken away from us, and we make more children, we own the future.