Jul 7, 2020
Josh forgoes the podcast guest this episode and offers some thoughts on how the conservative worldview differs from the worldview of secularism, scientism, and materialism.
Secularism can mean the belief that governments should remain neutral on the matter of religion and should not enforce nor prohibit the free exercise of religion, leaving religious choice to the liberty of the people. However, this describes a viewpoint held by many religious and nonreligious people and is not wed exclusively to a materialistic worldview. Secularism, for the purposes of this discussion, has less to do with whether a person has fine feelings about government neutrality on religious matters and everything to do with whether or not they believe religious matters comport to reality or hold any weight beyond mere private superstitions.
Secularism, then, is more than the principle of separating institutions of government from institutions of religion—though that idea is present. But the secularist also possesses an indifference, rejection, or exclusion of religious considerations or appeals to supernatural explanations. This would include both a person who rejects all supernatural explanations as well as a person who—though they may consider themselves to be religious personally—for all practical purposes behave as if all that exists is the material world.
Some secularists ascribe to scientism; the belief philosopher and theologian J. P. Moreland defines as “the view that the hard sciences—like chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy—provide the only genuine knowledge of reality.” Other secularists hold that personal introspection, reasoning, logic, and philosophical inquiry are also means of discovering truth—not just the scientific method. But all secularists agree that religious traditions and divine revelation—that is supernatural methods—are illegitimate means of discovering truth.
In fact, many would describe religious truth claims as not only nonsensical, but destructive to the form of modern, Western society we live in today. The conservative staunchly disagrees with this notion. For, while conservatism isn’t a religion, it is interested in conserving things of value in our culture (among which are certain religious traditions). That is, the conservative defends religious convictions not out of some sense of loyalty or nostalgia, but because the conservative believes religious convictions play an important role in the formation of culture and—even more importantly—comport to reality.
Are reason and science sufficient for acquiring knowledge? Can they sustain a society of ordered liberty? Can they provide us with a moral code rivaling religious doctrine? Can they fulfil humanity’s desire for the transcendent? Can they answer our deepest questions? The secularist says “yes” the conservative says “no”.