Ross Douthat, the only truly conservative NYT op/ed columnist (which may be why he usually runs on the back page of the Sunday opinion section), echoed much of what I have written here and elsewhere about how “freedom of worship” is attacking freedom of religion. He gets into the Obama Free Birth Control Rule—recently and laudably enjoined against a company owned by Catholics—the German circumcision decision, and other cultural issues I haven’t discussed here.
Douthat believes that there is a full scale war being waged by secularists against the free expression of Judaism and Christianity (in particular) outside of house of worship walls, and gets into some reasons for the attack on the first liberty area mentioned in the First Amendment. From, “Defining Religious Liberty Down:”
To the extent that the H.H.S. mandate, the Cologne ruling and the Chick-fil-A controversy reflect a common logic rather than a shared confusion, then, it’s a logic that regards Western monotheism’s ideas about human sexuality all that chastity, monogamy, male-female business as similarly incompatible with basic modern freedoms. Like a belief that the gods want human sacrifice, these ideas are permissible if held in private. But they cannot be exercised in ways that might deny, say, employer-provided sterilizations to people who really don’t want kids. Nor can they be exercised to deny one’s offspring the kind of sexual gratification that anti-circumcision advocates claim the procedure makes impossible. They certainly cannot be exercised in ways that might make anyone uncomfortable with his or her own sexual choices or identity.
And here’s the money quote:
It may seem strange that anyone could look around the pornography-saturated, fertility-challenged, family-breakdown-plagued West and see a society menaced by a repressive puritanism. But it’s clear that this perspective is widely and sincerely held.
I have been thinking of expanding my coverage of human exceptionalism to all issues that degrade our intrinsic dignity, and porn (as opposed to eroticism) sure seems to fit that bill. But I have to think about that some more, so we’ll discuss that later.
Back to Douthat: I agree with his diagnosis: The secularists, particularly among the ruling classes, have crossed the “post Christian” bridge into open anti Christianity. And from my perspective, that is an attack on human exceptionalism, because Judeo/Christian moral philosophy upholds the unique moral value of human life—which is why we see so much effort to reduce us to just so many animals in the forest.
As to the last point, which came first the chicken or the egg, the anti Christianity leading to anti exceptionalism or the other way around? I think the former, but it doesn’t really matter.