We Christians need to get something through our heads: Secularists do not like us. This is perfectly understandable. But the case against Christianity has now degenerated into paranoid bigotry.
The old argument against Christianity was simply that it is not true. Modern science, evolutionary theory, rational argumentation, and the like were said to disprove the existence of God and the claims of the Bible.
But this line of attack does not work well anymore. Postmodernists themselves distrust science and rationality, and they consider such hallmarks of the now passé modernism to be so last-century. In fact, now Christians are about the only ones still standing who have a worldview that has a place for reason and the reality of the objective creation.
So instead of arguing that Christianity is not true, the more popular argument today is that Christianity is evil.
Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris last month reached No. 10 on the Amazon bestselling list and No. 6 on the New York Times nonfiction list. Going beyond the old argument that the world's suffering shoots down belief in God, Harris argues that belief in God causes the world's suffering.
As he put it, "That so much of this suffering can be directly attributed to religion-to religious hatreds, religious wars, religious delusions and religious diversions of scarce resources-is what makes atheism a moral and intellectual necessity."
Of course postmodernists do not believe in moral absolutes, either, so any argument invoking them against religion, their only conceivable source, is going to be lacking. What postmodernists do believe in is power. They teach that all truth claims are "constructions" that can ultimately be traced back to one group trying to exercise power against others. That is, "imposing" beliefs on other people is a way to seize power.
As Ross Douthat has pointed out in a review essay in First Things, a whole raft of books have come out recently warning America that conservative Christians are on the verge of taking over the country: Michelle Goldberg's Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism; Randall Balmer's Thy Kingdom Come; and Kevin Phillips' American Theocracy, which hit No. 2 on the New York Times nonfiction list.
The most lurid of them all is James Rudin's The Baptizing of America, with this opening paragraph:
"A specter is haunting America, and it is not socialism and certainly not communism. It is the specter of Americans kneeling in submission to a particular interpretation of a religion that has become an ideology, an all-encompassing way of life. It is the specter of our nation ruled by the extreme Christian right, who would make the United States a 'Christian nation' where their version of God's law supersedes all human law-including the Constitution. That, more than any other force in the world today, is the immediate and profound threat to our republic."
Never mind that virtually all Christian conservatives would be content if we would just follow our Constitution. That "specter" metaphor is a cliché originating with Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto, and Rudin tries to scare his reader with all sorts of ghost stories.
According to Rudin, once we Christians get into power, "All government employees-federal, state and local-would be required to participate in weekly Bible classes in the workplace, as well as compulsory daily prayer sessions." We would issue everyone a national ID card giving everybody's religious beliefs or lack thereof, and "such cards would provide Christocrats with preferential treatment in many areas of life, including home ownership, student loans, employment and education." Religious censors would control all speech, political dissent would be outlawed, and freedom would be eliminated. Did you know that was what you wanted to do?
It is one thing to oppose religion, but now we have arrived at the marks of dangerous religious bigotry: spreading sensationalistic lies, instigating fear in the public, and promoting paranoid conspiracy theories.