Award winning blogger Gus van Horn writes today that
Ann Coulter, when she attempts to pretend that there is no such thing as a "religious right", will sometimes cite hit counts from Lexis-Nexis searches for "religious right" in left-wing media reports. I wonder what a similar search of "secular left" among her own writings (or those of other conservatives) would yield. As I have pointed out here before, "secular" and "leftist" do not mean the same thing, but conservatives are working overtime to make you think they do.Dennis Prager is certainly one of these conservatives. In his new column entitled Secular Europe or Religious America, there is a continuous, frustrating missing of essentials with regard to the issues involved. It seems that Prager, being a religious person, regards the presence or absence of religion as the primary factor in any historical event or social change, even when the evidence shows that this is not the case. For example, Prager writes:
There is no doubt that Western Europe abandoned religion and opted for secularism largely because of the blood spilled in religious wars, just as it abandoned nationalism because of all the blood it spilled in the name of nationalism during World War I.Is the essential point about communism and Nazism that they were both secular systems? Is that what led to the death of millions? That's what Prager wants you to believe here. Religion is a minor killer in comparison to the secular killers. Prager continues:
However, Cohen and others who argue for a secular society ignore the even heavier price in blood Europe has paid for secular fervor. Secular fervor, i.e., communism and Nazism, slaughtered, tortured and enslaved more people in 50 years than all Europe's religious wars did in the course of centuries.
This point is so obvious, and so devastating to the pro-secularists, that you wonder how they deal with it. But having debated secularists for decades, I predicted Cohen's response virtually word for word on my radio show the day before I spoke with him. He labeled communism and Nazism "religions."I would agree that strictly, communism and Nazism were not religions. However, it is also clear as Prager admits, that they had much in common with religions. To term something as "pagan" is not deny its religiosity, merely its connection to monotheism. But leaving that aside, how do we know it was not the religion-like elements within these two movements, perhaps in conjunction with other factors, that are the cause of the greatly increased deaths that resulted when they came into power? In fact, it was exactly the religion-like elements of mysticism, altruism, combined with collectivism and the fact that these totalitarian regimes were able to rely on the capitalist technological base that had been absent when religious regimes had previously ruled Europe, that led to the mass murders. Numerous otherwise religious Germans supported the Nazis (as Paul Johnson documents in his History of Christianity) and the similarity of many elements of Communist doctrine to Christianity is not at all unknown. Stalin, in fact, studied for the priesthood.
This response completely avoids the issue. Communism and Nazism were indeed religion-like in their hold on people, but they were completely secular movements and doctrines. Moreover, communism was violently anti-religious, and Nazism affirmed pre-Christian -- what we tend to call "pagan" -- values and beliefs.
I would not deny that these totalitarian regimes were worse than anything Europe had seen during the Middle Ages. However, they were worse because they were more irrational and collectivist not because they happen to be secular. It is not at all inconceivable that a similarly irrational and collectivist religious regime would commit similar atrocities. Certainly, the Islamic regimes today seem to aspire to such a goal.