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William Atkin serves as legal counsel for international affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
God is becoming increasingly unpopular these days. Perhaps even more unpopular in our increasingly secularist world are individuals who openly practice their faith in him.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines secularism as the indifference to or rejection of religion and religious considerations. Particularly sinister, secularism not only denies the existence of God; it denies the existence of the adversary and calls anyone who would say otherwise primitive. This rationale paves the way for hostility as we substitute academic policy for outdated morality.
In Washington, D.C., recently, I attended a lunchtime lecture that featured William Atkin, who serves as legal counsel for international affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His key message was that while the adversary utilizes secularism as an intimidation tactic to censor religious liberty, people of faith have the right and responsibility to worship and declare their beliefs publicly.
Just this past week, we’ve seen examples of secularism leading to religious censorship.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg wouldn’t allow clergy to participate in the Sept. 11 memorial because “there is a separation of church and state in our Constitution; a lot of people don’t want to participate in a ceremony where there is other people’s religion.”
In Niagara County, a new atheist billboard campaign sponsored by the Center for Inquiry is popping up. The group's mission “is to foster a secular society” based on a “humanist perspective” and hope its positions will be spread with messages such as “You don't need God — to hope, to care, to love, or to live."
“What the secularists are increasingly demanding, in their disingenuous way, is that religious people, when they act politically, act only on secularist grounds,” wrote former National Review journalist M.J. Sobran. “A religious conviction is now a second-class conviction, expected to step deferentially to the back of the secular bus, and not to get uppity about it."
In the face of subtle and persistent censorship, how can a person of faith freely exercise his religious liberties? A common thread in all mainstream religion is the belief in a supreme being. Followers humbly rely on his help and seek his inspiration in times of distress and uncertainty. This fact alone allows people of faith to stand together, especially as their right to worship comes under attack.
Slowly, immoral behaviors that traditionally have been rejected by society are assigned new vocabulary and protected by public policy. No longer is abortion immoral; it is now a choice. We are expected to be tolerant of sexual immorality and celebrate its many forms of diversity. Reaping the fruit of another’s labor is receiving our fair share. In a calculated way, these loaded terms hamper religious freedoms.
“The dangers we face are not in religion and faith, but in the caricature and demonization of the other, from both sides,” Elder Neal A. Maxwell said in a 1978 BYU devotional. “The secular church will do what it can to reduce the influence of those who still worry over standards such as those in the Ten Commandments.”
In an effort to avoid the negative results that come from intimidating attacks, sanctions and mockery, secularism expects the religious population will eventually yield to self-censorship in order to avoid conflict. Knowing this, it is imperative for people of faith to not shrink away from their beliefs.
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People of faith have a responsibility to their children, to their neighbors and to their God to proactively assert righteous principles both in political discourse and participating in their communities. The division caused by debating doctrinal differences is long past now that the adversary is coordinating efforts to mitigate the positive influence of a person with faith. Our responsibility is to make a stand using gentle, loving, wise and thoughtful words. We need not go down the path of hatred, but instead it is our pleasure to travel a high road of solidarity.
Liz Carlston is the author of two books, "Surviving Columbine" and "The Christmas Stone." Her email is email@example.com, and her website is www.lizcarlston.com.