Before you start to get your hackles up in defense of the "have you been saved" pitch please hear this. I have no desire to convert anyone or to preach a particular creed. If we are to talk in the terms of religion, as opposed to faith which is something different, I am undeclared, non-aligned, unaffiliated. I am an agnostic. Or maybe I'm a pagan. It depends on who is writing the definitions, I suppose. That having been said I still have formed ideas about the questions of spirituality and faith and it's rightful place in our society. Even without holding any vested interest in one or another I am still appalled at the relentless assault upon faith and those who choose to practice a faith in their lives.
In the prevailing "progressive" mindset that resides in left leaning politics, academia and media it has become the fashionable thing to scoff at and disparage religion and faith in general and it's practitioners specifically. Any person who declares their faith openly is characterized as some ignorant, backwoods rube who asserts that each and every word in the Bible is the inspired word of God and is to be taken literally, right down to the last Thou and Thine. I won't try to claim that there are not those of that variety. I've met them, they are a little creepy for my liking, but all in all I think they are mostly harmless. The attempt to characterize any who hold their faith as an important aspect of their lives as belonging to some blindly following sect is dishonest and clearly hostile in it's intent.
The evangelical Christian is the preferred target for this contempt, but this hostility extends to Christianity as a whole, equating any identifying as Christian as falling into the evangelical category. Oddly there are many who have adopted this attitude towards Christianity who at the same time seem to be only too willing to play hands off with Islam. Often this is taken the step further to laud the sanctity of that holy faith and extension of added consideration and protection to the rights of Muslims to practice freely. These same people are conveniently able to turn a blind eye to the tenets of Sharia law and radical clerics that are in clear contradiction of those other progressive virtues of diversity, tolerance and equality for all. It is a clear contradiction, but one which can easily be explained.
The radical elements of Islam have hijacked the faith as a vehicle to their own sinister ends. They have openly declared war upon the infidels of the west, Christian and Jew alike. You can try to pretend that this is not so but it does not change the fact. For the progressive, leftist, statist, whatever you may care to call them it is another inconvenient truth. For the further purposes of this discussion I'll simply refer to them as "the left". They know that the jihadis have defined the terms of engagement and they have accepted it. They just can't bring themselves to admit it because doing so plunges them through a trap door of their own making. To acknowledge openly that the jihad has declared war upon Christianity and to then move to defend our culture (not religion) against it places them in the very uncomfortable position of being the de facto defenders of the Christian faith. For the progressive this simply will not do because Christianity is a rival church. Though it is not spoken their position in practice has become an embrace of the idea that " the enemy of my enemy is my friend".
The left is unable to separate cultural legacy from the religious practice. One does not have to march under the banners of Christian Knights to defend what is a historically Christian culture against that which means to bring it's end. The jihadis have in fact borrowed a page from the left's own playbook. The left in trying to advance any of their ideology will meet any opposition by demonizing the opponent. As an example let's consider affirmative action preferences in granting admission to state universities. It is not possible to discuss much less debate this with the leftist on the merits of the policy. Any opposition is immediately characterized as racist. They simply redefine the terms of engagement in a manner which puts their opponent into a defensive posture. By defining their jihad as a war against religious infidels the Islamist terror syndicate has done exactly the same thing.
Western society is comprised of secular states which just so happen to have been formed out of a Christian cultural heritage. This heritage does not, however, define western society as theocratic. If you know history you will no doubt be a aware that this was true at one time. The Roman Church was the center of political power for long years. There was the Holy Roman Empire. There were the dynastic lines of the early western states who pledged their allegiance to Rome and furnished armies to wage the crusades. We all know this, but it is history. It is in the past, that is not how things are now. As a society we have outgrown this form of social order. The Church, in fact now many churches, still exists, but they are not in charge of the state. Membership is not compulsory and heresy ( at least religious heresy) is no longer an offense which may be punishable by the state.
In the Islamic world (we will call it that by virtue of their cultural heritage) is another story entirely. It is comprised of states that are nominally secular in the sense that they have boundaries, a hierarchy of authority vested in the state, a construct of civil law, etc. They may have some of the characteristics of the secular state, the same as say perhaps 13th century France. By that time France had developed as a secular state, but the ruling house of France still owed fealty to Rome. Many of the states of the Islamic world have either not advanced beyond this stage, or in some instances have reverted to it. The most striking example of this is in the state of Iran. Iran is an outright theocracy. They present a cosmetically secular face, but the authority rests with the Mullahs. In Islamic states which are not overt theocracies their civil law is often an adoption of the religious law of Sharia. This code of law is enforced in varying degrees depending on the country, but the outward signs of it are everywhere. With precious few exceptions women are relegated to second class status in the Islamic world. For a religion to prescribe this would be one matter because, at least in theory anyway, religion is a choice. In the vast majority of Islamic states the religious law is enforceable under their civil law, or the religious authority has the tacit approval of the state to conduct their own form of justice. Would any of this be permitted in western society?
Sadly there are instances where these practices have been permitted in the west. Sharia courts have been tolerated by western governments to placate the demand of a growing muslim population. This can not be tolerated. It is not a question of any religious discrimination. The practices under these laws are a clear and direct contradiction of our civil law. If a cult of ancient Aztecs were to seek asylum in the west and claim the right to perform human sacrifices under the protection of religious tradition would that be permitted? No! Why? Well because it is contrary to our civil law, which in a secular society holds greater authority than any religious law. If there are peaceable muslims that wish to come and live in western societies, retain the practice of their personal faith while respecting our civil laws and practices then fine. Let them come. If they want sharia law they should stay home. And as long as the potential exists for the more radical elements of Islam to secret themselves into their communities to infiltrate the west to some ill purpose, muslims have to expect that they will be subjected to additional measures of scrutiny. Again, if that is a problem for you then don't come.
In many respects Christian churches have surrendered much of their social mission to the state. For much of our nation's history there were no federal or state programs to serve as the social safety net. Those who fell upon difficult times either struggled to rise above it or if they obtained assistance that came through a church organization, whatever their particular affiliation may have been. The rise of the statists brought this largely to an end. To be sure there are still church organizations who do much to aid those in difficult circumstances, but they are no longer the primary source for this kind of aid. That role has been co-opted by the state. Where assistance was once provided with the counsel against poor choices and discretion was permitted to revoke this where the recipient made no effort to correct their errors, the state positioned itself as the benefactor and salvation without judgement. Want to have six children before the age of twenty-five with no father in the home and no visible means of support? No problem! We'll gladly pay for these children, why it's the Christian thing to do, isn't it?
The biggest bat in the arsenal of the left where it concerns their battle with faith comes in the form of their mantra "separation of Church and State". This is another case where they have conveniently redefined the language to suit their own purpose. The constitution does not say that anything associated with faith in any way whatsoever must at any cost be kept strictly removed from any state entity. That is their interpretation. What the constitution does actually say on this topic is that the state shall not establish an official religion, i.e. no state sponsored church. If there were more Americans who acquainted themselves with the history of our English forebearers they would know that the purpose of this particular provision in our constitution was to avoid the bloody sectarian battles waged in the name of either the Roman Church or the Church of England ( see Charles I ; regicide ). When these loons raise an uproar for a Christmas tree or a Nativity display on state grounds they only demonstrate their ignorance. In the case of the Christmas tree, as with so many other supposedly Christian icons, it is in fact a pagan tradition that was handily adopted by the Church to gain acceptance from the early European heathens.
When we defend those institutions which have some religious origin it is not a defense of or a promotion of the religion or any sect thereof. It is the simple acknowledgement of a cultural heritage which, whether one likes it or not, is rooted deeply in Judeo-Christian tradition and history. To recognize and accept this is not for the purpose of endorsing a particular church. It is not for the exclusion of any who may not share in that heritage. It's our heritage and we should not try to rewrite history to placate a few malcontents because they are "offended". The irony is that most of those who are wailing the loudest are native born Americans. For any coming into a western country who were not aware that this is a culturally Christian society I would say that perhaps you should have done more homework on this before arriving.
Religions and their churches, the church hierarchies, are a human creation, not divine. Churches have historically, and to a certain extent still are, political entities. They are a vehicle for the exercise of power, plain and simple. Faith is the manifestation of one's spirituality. Although we may not agree with another person's interpretation of this the freedom of conscience encoded in our constitution allows for the individual's free practice thereof. It does not say that you have to believe it. In fact it doesn't say that you have to believe anything.
To say that I am an agnostic does not mean that I do not believe in God. I may not believe in your god, or Chaim's god or Abdul's god. What many reconcile themselves to as an entity that somehow resembles a human form and resides in some other plane of existence called heaven is their means of understanding the power or forces that are beyond our understanding. What one man may call the will of God I call the will of nature. There are things beyond our control and beyond our ability to understand. You may call it what you will.