by Stephen Foster


Exactly what is it about the word “secular” that particular elements of the American religious-political class find so objectionable; so much so that it is routinely considered and used as a pejorative? The following is from dictionary.com.

sec·u·lar

[sek-yuh-ler]
adjective
1. of or pertaining to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred; temporal: secular interests.
2. not pertaining to or connected with religion ( opposed to sacred): secular music.
3. (of education, a school, etc.) concerned with nonreligious subjects.
4. (of members of the clergy) not belonging to a religious order; not bound by monastic vows  (opposed to regular).
5. occurring or celebrated once in an age or century: the secular games of Rome.
 
Neither the name nor the concept of God is mentioned in The Constitution of the United States. What’s more the American Constitution expressly forbids there to be a religious test for holding public office and further forbids Congress from enacting “any law respecting an establishment of religion” or any law “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion.
 
So, why would any major party candidates for the presidency of the United States, or any other office, make it a point to criticize the fact that the U.S. is not regarded as religious, spiritual or sacred, and is not connected with religion, and does not belong to a religious order or bound by monastic vows?
 
What exactly does it indicate, or what is actually implied in the criticism of secularism; which curiously is defined, by defenitions.com, as follows:

sec·u·lar·ism
[sek-yuh-luh-riz-uh m]
noun
1. secular  spirit or tendency, especially a system of political or social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship.
2. the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element.
 
I would suggest that a denial of the fact that American civil jurisprudence—of which an American President is the chief executor—should be secular is founded in the rhetorical use of the first of these definitions of secularism to the exclusion of the second; and that the implementation of the second definition of (of secularism) is endangered by the “successful” rhetorical use of the first (of these secularism definitions).
 
In other words, the U.S. is and should be an officially/operationally secular nation in accordance with the second definition of secularism above, but the rhetoric of contemporary religious-political leaders is predominantly in keeping with the first definition—without regard to, or to the exclusion of, the second. Evidently the founders intended the U.S. to be operationally secular (in accordance with the second definition) as witnessed by the omission of any reference to God, or even the concept of God, in The Constitution.
 
If you happen to be somewhat unclear as to what I mean about the religio-political class rhetorically lamenting the civil rejection of religion in order to reverse or undo the practice of conducting public affairs without a religious element; you should know that a well-known politician, who for now shall remain nameless, recently asserted that the United States is not a secular nation.
Now, look at those two definitions of secularism again. Is he right or wrong?