If I Could Te
Chapter Four: To the Non-Christian (Part Two)
In the previous chapter, I spent some time speaking to non-Christians with definite religiousconvictions, whether convinced atheists or adherents to other world religions. In this chapter, I wouldextend my audience, and speak to those of you who are agnostic in some sense. Perhaps you are blithely agnostic – you have given little thought to the whole matter of religion, you don't know for sure what to think of spirituality and the afterlife, but your agnosticism is not an uncertainty born of deep thought and bitter striving of spirit. It surrounds you like the atmosphere, it is as natural as the air you breathe, you are frankly so busy with the affairs of this life that you have no time even to consider seriously whether you are an atheist, an agnostic, or anything else. Or maybe you genuinely areagnostic; you have struggled and striven with the weighty things of eternity, but to no avail, and withno blessed end of the peace of certain conviction for your souls. Perhaps you are downcast anddepressed, or cynical and bitter. Perhaps you are seeking for something to believe in, something greatenough to satisfy your empty heart. But in any case, no matter what your particular situation may be,you do not have definite, settled convictions on the topic of religion. It is to you that I now speak. Godgrant that you may find the certainty which you lack in the blessed truth of Christianity!
To the Secular and Satisfied
I would speak first to you who are largely secular, and feel no need to pursue religion or spiritual truth. Perhaps you would explicitly claim to have no religion; or perhaps, if one were to ask,“Are you a Christian?”, you would say, “I guess so. I never really go to church though”. Maybe youwould call yourself a Lutheran, or a Catholic, or a member of any other common denomination. Butwhen it gets right down to it, it's just a left-over label from some ancestor, and retains nothingmeaningful for you. It's perfectly incapable of describing you accurately. It really doesn't affect whatyou believe or how you live your daily life. In reality, you are more an American than a Christian (or whatever other religious label adheres to you by obscure tradition). What really affects how you see lifeis the philosophy of America – Hollywood and the public school system, Washington D.C. and theshopping mall – all the cultural forces that make America what it is.I would first of all solemnly assure you that you are not as non-religious as you think. Theculture of America is not “secular,” if by secular you mean, “not characterized by any religious beliefsor principles”. On the contrary, secular humanism is itself a deeply religious ideal. It is perhaps themost widespread religion in America; and if one were to affix a title to it, he could scarcely find any better name than “Americanism”.What does this religion look like? If you are an American, then you already know by instinct.Even without realizing it, you think in a million ways like a secular American, which is to say, ahumanistic individualist. Let me give you a few characteristics, so you can see more clearly what I amtalking about.American secular humanism is the religion that deifies individual autonomy. The creed of theday is, “If I hurt no one else and infringe upon no one else's individual rights, then I have the right to dowhatever I want to do. I can believe what I want, I can think what I want, I can act how I want, there isno outside standard to which I must submit. I'll do it my way, I'll pursue my own happiness, I'll shapemy own character and make my own mark. And as long as I leave everyone else to do the same thingwith their lives, it's okay. It's my fundamental right, in fact.”But American secular humanism does not just assert individual rights; it also has a deep-rooted belief in individual abilities: “I am able to do anything I want to do – I just have to believe in myself! I