September 23, 2004
For years, I've minimized any talk of conspiracies and emphasized the
importance of the battle of ideas. But now along comes a book, "The Secular
Revolution," edited by University of North Carolina professor Christian
Smith and surprisingly published this year by the liberal University of
California Press, that shows a whole lot of plotting going on.
"The Secular Revolution" is difficult reading because most of its chapters
display the academic dislike of plain English. But it is worth study for its
specific detail on how anti-Christian intellectual leaders substituted for
biblical hope "their own visions of secular progress," and became famous and
rich in the process.
As Smith puts it, "Intellectuals are not any more 'above' the pursuit of
status, power and wealth than others." Bribes -- often thinly-disguised as
university chairs and foundation grants -- are as effective among
intellectuals as among others. A relatively small group of people who
control the mechanisms of laud and lucre can have a tremendous influence on
"The Secular Revolution" shows how key influencers pushed universities to
teach that the perfection of social mechanisms will deliver us from evil,
including the evil of that primitive human invention known as religion.
Other chapters show how, starting in the 19th century, the National
Education Association and interest groups of secularizing scientists
appropriated for themselves the sole franchise for defining the public good
in education and research.
The book also includes a fascinating case study of the destruction of moral
reform politics in Boston through ridicule and sarcasm. A chapter on those
who sold the concept that law is socially constructed (rather than natural)
provides good background for understanding how the Supreme Court came to
assert its supremacy to clear Constitutional intent.
Similarly, a chapter on journalism shows how "key persons within journalism
(especially publishers and editors, and also journalism professionalizers
from the ranks of the universities and the active press) actively sought to
minimize and ultimately to undermine traditional religion."
That accelerated journalism's slide from a sometimes erratic mix of
truth-telling and cultural conservatism toward a leftist ideological tilt so
profound that CBS and Dan Rather ignored elementary principles of
verification in their irrational exuberance over "getting the goods" on
"The Secular Revolution" provides many valuable insights into why secular
revolutionaries succeeded in journalism as in other fields. They turned
science from a pursuit that supported theism into one that viewed
Christianity as a barrier to true knowledge. They turned colleges from sites
where faith and knowledge would be integrated into fortresses of bias
Smith repeatedly shows that secularization was not "the natural and
inevitable byproduct of 'modernization' (but) was in fact something much
more like a contested revolutionary struggle than a natural evolutionary
His bottom line: "The secularization of the institutions of American public
life did not happen by accident or happenstance. ... (It was) an achievement
of specific groups of people, many of whom intended to marginalize religion.
The people at the core of these secularizing movements, at least, knew what
they were doing, and they wanted to do it."
In other words, educational and media institutions change because of
cultural pressures but also because some people promote their friends, buy
off in various ways their enemies and purge those who cannot be seduced.
The battle of ideas is also a battle for power. We should not overlook the
ambitions and arrogance of people who claim to be unbiased experts and
public servants, especially since intellectual peacocks of a feather flock
"The Secular Revolution," with all its stories of Christian and conservative
defeat, is actually a hopeful book. If conscious activity moved American
society one way in the past, a new type of activity can, with God's grace,
move it another way in the future.
Marvin Olasky writes daily commentary on Worldmagblog, a Townhall.com member
©2004 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
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