One of the enduring myths of the secular state is that religion is so dangerous, so volatile, so likely to burst into conflagrations of violence, that the only protection we have from societal destruction is the erection of a wall that separates religion from the state.
We’ve all heard the story, and in fact, having also heard endless tales of horror about the great religious wars—especially the French Wars of Religion and the Thirty Years War—we might be strongly inclined to believe the myth.
Even my calling it a myth seems out of place. Isn’t it true—in fact, a truism—that wherever religion and politics mix, it is like gasoline and a match? Isn’t that what history teaches us?
No. History actually teaches us two things.
First, as William Cavanaugh so powerfully argues in his Myth of Religious Violence, when we take a closer look at the 16th and 17th century wars of religion we find that differences between Catholics and Protestants, and Protestants and other Protestants, were secondary to the aims of the emerging nation-states and various political and dynastic intrigues. Simply put, the main cause of these wars was political, not religious.
How can that be? If religious differences were the main cause of these bloody conflicts, Cavanaugh maintains, then we would expect to find that they were invariably fought along neat denominational lines.
What we actually find is Catholic emperors attacking popes, Catholic French kings attacking Catholic emperors, Protestant kings and princes siding with Catholic kings against other Protestants, Lutheran and Catholic kings uniting against Catholic emperors, Protestant Huguenot nobles and Catholic nobles in France uniting against both Catholic and Protestant Huguenot commoners who likewise united against the nobles, Protestant and Catholic nobles in France uniting against their Catholic king, Protestants rejecting the Protestant Union (the coalition of German Protestant states) even while some Catholics were siding with it, Lutheran princes adamantly supporting the rights of a Catholic emperor, Catholic France supporting Protestant princes in Germany, the Dutch Calvinists helping the Catholic king to repress uprisings of French Calvinists, a Lutheran leading the Catholic imperial army, and mercenaries of every religious stripe selling themselves to the highest Catholic or Protestant bidder.
This scribble drawing below indicates inconsistent, unpredictable relationships. Catholics attack Catholics. Catholics and Protestants attack Protestants, etc. These facts of history don’t line up as critics would like in their oversimplified, flawed views of history.
And that is only a very quick overview of the examples provided, at great length, by Cavanaugh. A careful, unbiased study of the so-called religious wars yields the rather surprising result that they were not religious wars. They were political wars that both ignored religious differences when the more important political aims demanded either cooperation with religious opponents or antagonism to those sharing the same religious beliefs, and used religious differences when they would serve political purposes.
That’s the first history lesson. The second is equally important, and related to the first. As Cavanaugh makes equally clear, the secular state needed (and still needs) people to believe the story that religion is the cause of violence because this belief allows for the actual creation of the secular state.
The secular state is what emerges when religion is forcibly removed from the public square through the powers of the state. The myth of religious violence justifies the removal of religion, and it is through that very removal that the state achieves secularization.
Dr. David Campbell, Packey J. Dee Professor of American Democracy at Notre Dame, in his recent lecture, ‘When God and Caesar Meet’, discussed how the large exodus from religion in today’s culture has often occurred because religion is increasingly associated with one political party.
Campbell points out this especially occurs with those in the political center and center left.
I’ll share a few videos about demographics and the interrelationships between faith and family. No faith often results in no marriage and no children. No marriage often results in no faith. The 2 — marriage and faith — rise and fall together.
Mary reports that Scandinavia — the most secular region in the world — has both little faith and few families. 40-50% of homes have a single occupant. And these are not all widows and widowers. Few are marrying.
Faith and family formation seems to go hand in hand.
Mary disputes the notion of believers vs unbelievers. All believers are people of some faith. Just what do they put their faith in?
This video is a more recent speech by Mary Eberstadt. She discusses the competition paganism — a rival faith — feels toward religion.
As part of an assignment, Elder Corbridge read critical material. Lots of critical or anti-Mormon material. In fact, he claims there’s virtually nothing he hasn’t read from critical or anti sources.
Elder Corbridge explained there are primary and secondary questions when it comes to the Church. The primary questions must be answered first, as they are the most important. They include:
Is there a God who is our Father?
Is Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Savior of the world?
Was Joseph Smith a prophet?
Is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the kingdom of God on the earth?
In contrast, the secondary questions are unending. They include questions about Church history, polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, women and the priesthood, how the Book of Mormon was translated, DNA and the Book of Mormon, gay marriage, different accounts of the First Vision and so on.
“If you answer the primary questions, the secondary questions get answered too or they pale in significance and you can deal with things you understand and things you don’t understand, things you agree with and things you don’t agree with without jumping ship altogether,” Elder Corbridge said.
More from the talk:
“There are some members of the Church who don’t know the answers to the primary questions, and they spend their time and attention slogging through the secondary questions.
They mistakenly try to learn the truth by process of elimination, by attempting to eliminate every doubt,” Elder Corbridge said.
One cannot prove the Church is true by disproving every claim made against it. Ultimately, there must be affirmative proof. With the things of God, that affirmative proof comes by revelation through the Spirit of the Holy Ghost.
• Epistemology of Religious Experience • The Distinctive Mormon Epistemic Practices • Faith, Evidence and Reason
Among many other ideas, Blake makes the point that we should trust our spiritual experiences just as we would trust our senses. He states that we’re hard wired to be spiritual. That God has implanted within us a spiritual compass we can follow when we’re faithful.
John 1:18 “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
JST: John 1:19 “And no man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne record of the Son; for except it is through him no man can be saved. “
The video above shares several biblical passages in which God is referenced.
Isaiah 6:5 “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.“
Acts 7:55-56 “5But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”
Lehi’s Vision, 1 Nephi 1:8: “And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God. “
Several accounts from the Old Testament:
This suggests bodily features of God and an ability to see Him. The Children of Israel are still at the foot of Mt. Sinai at the time of this writing. 2
This type of opportunity to see the face of God or his entire body (Stephen’s stoning context) isn’t a casual or common experience. See the verse below in John 6.
John 6:46: “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. “
This verse in Hebrews stresses the same point:
Hebrews 12:14 “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord”
Jesus himself said the following:
Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”
Moses was initially fearful to see the Lord, Exodus 3:6:
“Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. “
But later in his ministry Moses was permitted to look at the Lord’s back, Exodus 33:23
Moses’ encounter with God couldn’t be much plainer than read below. Many saw God and survived to tell about it.
After Jacob’s wrestle with the angel, Jacob shares this account:
Numbers 12:8 “With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”
Deuteronomy 34:10 “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face“
1 Kings 11:9 “And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice“
Summary: The Old and New Testament attest that people do see the Lord under the proper circumstances and when they’re prepared.
James Smith, professor at Calvin College, makes a case against rising secularism, emphasizing the continued presence of spirituality, and he asserts that a secularist explanation of humanity cannot account for spiritually motivated behaviors. This lecture was sponsored by The Wheatley Institution at Brigham Young University and delivered on March 10, 2016.
Calvin College is a liberal arts college located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founded in 1876, Calvin College is an educational institution of the Christian Reformed Church and stands in the Reformed tradition of Protestantism. Calvin College is named after John Calvin, the 16th-century Protestant Reformer.