One of the most influential movements of ideas in recent American religious life has been the return to accepting the
primacy of natural law as the single most important force to stop the secularization of society.
Prof. Wilfred M.McClay of the University of Tennessee presents (in the Wilson Quarterly, Summer, 2000) a highly sophisticated case, building on the critique of secularization described in RW (May, 2000). He asks how it can be that the industrial world’s “principal bastion of religious faith and practice” can at the same time demonstate convicing evidence it is also the world’s most secualrized society. The author offers original evidence that the major trend is that secularism, not religion, that is on the decline. He suggests that citizens are realizing that religious faith is in fact an indispensable force to uphold human dignity and moral order in a world dominated by political bureaucracy, moral inoffensiveness, and individualistic pursuit of hedonistic gratification.
As evidence, the author points to events in the l990s such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the faith-based involvement of church related groups in societal welfare reform, the growing popularity of vouchers for secondary education, as well as maintaining the traditional religious practices of prayer in Congress, God’s name on the national currency, and the tax exempt status of religious institutions. McClay insists that secularism today has “no energizing vision” no “revolutionary elan”. It can flourish only when the excesses of the religious right and left demand a reconsideration of existing policies of keeping religion alive in the public square. Secularism is losing its appeal to those who strongly upheld the policy of keeping the public square free from any kind of religious discourse.
Citizens are becoming increasingly aware that unless public leadership acknowledges that each person has “an inviolabale dignity simply because he or she is created by God”, that worldly secularization will continue to do its destruction. The evidence today, McClay insists, shows that such a course has been reversed, that today’s citizenry is understanding the importance of “the givenness and rightness of an orderly nature” which cannot be overcome by “the human will.”
This article as well as that cited above, points to the resurgence within the academic and public policy world of the need to reject the older secularization thesis that society would inevitably give in to the forces of secularism. Rather, new evidence is marshaled pointing to the need and the viability of restoring familiar teachings in religious natural law.
— By Erling Jorstad