There is an organisation whose goals I support called the Freedom from Religion Foundation. They are a non-profit based in Madison, Wisconsin and they promote the separation of church and state, and educates the public on matters relating to atheism, agnosticism, and non theism.
There is also a clone group that attempts to mirror them called Freedom from Atheism Foundation and they promote … “awareness of and resistance to militant state atheism, support victims of intolerant and hostile atheists, defend and protect religious freedom, and educate people on the illogical nature of atheism using science, logic and reason“.
“Militant state atheism” … seriously!
So anyway, my point with the comparison of these organisations is to underline a rather important distinction between them.
- One seeks a neutral playing field, freedom for all to believe whatever they wish, but no tolerance for any to promote their ideas within the public square
- The other simply seeks to preserve a special privilege for a specific variation of belief
Now assuming that the Freedom From Atheism folks had a completely free hand to do whatever they wished to do, then which specific belief would they permit to thrive?
Islam, Buddism, Hinduism … Scientology perhaps?
Nope, not even if they had a truly free hand, instead they would nurture and cherish just the “right” belief, the “true” one, and keep the other beliefs in check. That there is the essence of the issue, because what is the right belief, who gets to decide that?
Historically Europe has learned the hard way that mixing religion with politics is a really really bad idea and simply enables whatever the prevailing popular belief is to dominate and suppress all the “wrong” variations.
The complete separation of religion from politics is what has enabled the vast diversity and variation of belief in the US. There the worlds very first secular state gave complete market freedom to religion, none where permitted to dominate and oppress the others, so a vast diversity exists.
As a contrast, consider the UK, a nation that has an official Church and not as much diversity of belief, not due to the current climate of tolerance, but rather due to the historical religious intolerance of any diversity that once, not so long ago, prevailed.
Secularism is not about opposing religion, but rather about granting complete and total freedom to all beliefs, and also to non-belief. It creates an even playing field where nobody gets to dominate or suppress anybody, and all ideas can then be out there for natural selection to then take its natural course.
So would truth and rationalism win out in a completely open marketplace for all ideas?
We are not at the best of times wholly rational creatures, and yet we do in the end strive to believe as many true things as possible. We believe what we believe as individuals because we are sure it is true, and so if indeed truth truly does matter to us (which it does), then it is truth that can only be the inevitable outcome in the long term.