Letter to the Editor: Local columnist wrong about pluralism and secularism

FirstAmendmentReligionClauseUPDATE: The Marietta Daily Journal published this letter on July 5, 2016. Thanks editorial board for proving me wrong!

Some of my letters to the editor make it to print and some don’t. I’m no conspiracy theorist by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m beginning to wonder if there is some unwritten rule at the Marietta Daily Journal when it comes to columns written by “venerable” Nelson Price, the retired preacher of Roswell Street Baptist church.  It seems as though his columns rarely see any push-back in the op-eds. I’ve written several over the years that never seem to rise to the appropriate “Nelson” standard. This is a post about my latest such attempt.

Mr. Price wrote a column a couple of weeks ago warning against pluralism and secularism, saying about the former:

“Pluralism is the cultural belief there are many right ways to live and believe. There are no absolutes, therefore there is nothing about which to be dogmatic. There is no right or wrong. Everything is relative. It purports to free persons from the limitations of absolute truth. It militantly fights against any belief in God and the absolute belief of the Bible. Applied, it exchanges conviction for convenience. Today’s alleged inoffensive neutrality ignores all values.”

And on secularism he said:

“…secularism has stolen our minds and hence our hearts.

Consider how secular our basic world view has become. The word “secular” means “belonging to the world or its affairs.” Secular is a contrast to sacred. It means ignoring God and living as though He doesn’t exist.

By comparison, there are few atheists today, but there are many agnostics. The word consists of “ag” meaning “no” and “nostic” meaning knowledge. Primarily among millennials, the concept is I don’t know if there is a god, but if there is, I don’t care to know anything about him. Though they may not even know the word agnostic, it defines who they are. One book on how to relate to millennials advises against quoting the Bible because they don’t know it and have no interest in it. Government accommodates this philosophy and entertainers advocate it.”

My response is below:

Price couldn’t be more wrong about pluralism and secularism

Dear Editor

In Sunday’s column, “Stand against the odds of a secular and pluralistic world,” Nelson Price contends that “pluralism” and “secularism” are causing our poor, beleaguered American society to slip further in to instability and cultural malaise. He couldn’t be more wrong.

Claiming that pluralism means there is no right or wrong, is just incorrect. Pluralism simply means that components of a society can maintain their own cultural identities within the broader society. The United States and indeed, most developed democratic states are pluralistic societies. It is because of pluralism, not despite it, that decisions about what is “right” and “wrong” can be made so that everyone in that society is protected equally, not just the ethic, religious, racial, etc. group in charge at the time. It is how we make progress.

Secularism is our First Amendment in a single word.  Unlike in many majority Muslim countries governed by Sharia law, everyone in our secular nation is free to believe or not believe whatever they want about whatever god or gods they want.  Secularism is the rule of law over the rule of some divine interpretation of scripture and is the very cornerstone of religious liberty.  That Price puts “people of faith” at odds with secularism and pluralism doesn’t make rational sense.  People like the reverend have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy the freedom to worship as they see fit in the United States because we are secular and because we are pluralistic.  So unless his intention is to force everyone to believe the same exact things he believes about deities, he should celebrate our freedoms, not bash them.

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