If we decide to send our children to secular institutions, we had better do so with our eyes wide open to the worldview their minds will be filled with on a daily basis. If we send our children to public schools, we must be aware that the bewitching influence of secularism runs swift and strong. Maximally, this is a call for Christians to seriously consider the need for Christian schooling.
Secularism is a religion. Make no mistake about it. Though many seek to advance it as a neutralizing alternative to a religiously structured society, it is, in its own right, a religion. A secular worldview is not content until it has permeated every fabric of society–civics, ethics, media, and education. Just as the Christian worldview is meant to permeate all human activity, so secularism seeks to stand in the gap and block a truly consistent application of Christianity to every aspect of life. There is a bewitching element of secularism to which many–even many Christians–are blind.
Prior to considering one important measure to counter the permeating influence of secularism, a brief history of secularism as an ideological movement is in order. In the chapter, “Atheism and Secularism,” in the Ligonier Field Guide on False Teaching, we read,
“The Enlightenment in France particularly fueled atheism and secularism in the Western world. Baron Paul-Henri Thiry d’Holbach—an atheist intellectual—taught a form of mechanistic metaphysics that served as a catalyst for the modern atheism movement. D’Holbach devoted two works to the defense and propagation of atheism: Système de la Nature and Le Bon Sens. His contemporary Denis Diderot is believed to have assisted him in the production of the strongly atheistic and materialistic book Système de la Nature. Diderot was the first to give a modern definition of atheism, including it in his Encyclopédie.
With the rise of the scientific revolution, materialistic understandings of the origins of the universe became more widely accepted in the West. Accordingly, the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species in 1859 was seized upon by atheists as providing a scientific justification for their view. Darwin’s work fostered secularist agendas in Western countries, primarily through Karl Marx’s application of Darwin’s principles to his economic and political theories. In Das Kapital, Marx appealed to Darwin’s contributions. Although Darwin was not supportive of Marx’s use of his philosophy for the propagation of political and economic socialism, the rise of secularsm can be directly tied to the influence of Darwin on Marx.
After Marx, the nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche further advanced anti-theistic philosophy throughout the Western world. On numerous occasions, Nietzsche used the phrase ‘God is dead’ to explain the effects of the Enlightenment in producing an increasing disbelief in God and subsequent secularization in Western society.
In 1927, the British philosopher Bertrand Russell gave a talk at the National Secular Society in London that was later published in 1969 under the title Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects. This book had a significant effect on readers in Britain and America, further popularizing atheism and secularism. Russell helped pave the way for the “new atheist” movement—a contemporary form of atheist apologetics popularized by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. Dawkins’ The God Delusion, released in 2006, was a New York Times best seller and the second-best-selling book on Amazon that year. New atheism distinguishes itself from older forms of atheism in that it does not simply reject belief in God but also is hostile to those who hold religious views.
The term “secularism” was first coined by George Holyoake in the mid-nineteenth century in his work Principles of Secularism. Holyoake defined secularism in this way:
‘Secularism is a series of principles intended for the guidance of those who find theology indefinite, or inadequate, or deem it unreliable. It replaces theology, which mainly regards life as a sinful necessity, as a scene of tribulation through which we pass to a better world.’