COMMENT: Prayers will be offered on the 20th anniversary of September 11th. But fewer people will pray than before, because there are fewer people praying.
Did September 11th Contribute to Growing Secularization in Some Parts of the World? Does the rise of “nuns” – those who claim no religious belief – among millennials have anything to do with their maturity at the time of the attacks?
Secularization – at least in North America and Europe – is a long-term trend, with many contributing factors. It is likely that, in 500 years, the biggest contributors to secularization will be identified as the two world wars. If Europe’s Christian faith was not sufficient to prevent depravity and destruction on such a scale, then what was it for?
Yet, for our specific passage through history, we might consider those events, on a smaller scale, which had a significant impact. September 11, 2001 was one of them.
It is undeniable that September 11 was an act of religious hatred, an act of religious violence.
The caveats were all made then and remain valid today, that a corruption or perversion of religion does not discredit religion as a whole any more than counterfeiting means legal tender loses. of its value. But if counterfeit banknotes are a big enough problem, or at least are seen to be, it hurts the way people think about the real thing. Just ask any convenience store owner who refuses to accept bigger banknotes.
This was also the case with September 11. For the devout Christian, the perversion of Islam that produced the September 11 attacks is not a theological problem, much less a crisis of faith. He belongs to that valley of tears in which even the devotee can be guilty.
To anyone who reads the Holy Scriptures, that the devotee can be corrupted is not news, no matter how painful it may be to witness or to suffer.
It can, however, be shocking, even unsettling, for someone with marginal religious faith, just a part of their heritage fading away, such as the fact that their grandparents emigrated from Dublin, Warsaw or Milan. Combine that with the tendency of these people to think that all religions are the same, different expressions of the same humanistic principles of fairness and compassion.
The immediate response of most leaders to 9/11 made this argument, more or less, in a well-meaning desire not to blame all Muslims for the actions of jihadist extremists. Their comments at the time that 9/11 had nothing to do with Islam unwittingly argued that Islam was not really different from Christianity or other religions.
A person who rarely visits a place of worship has little personal contact with true believers in his own community. So what is his encounter with religion? For him, the “face of religion” revealed on September 11 could be what he considers to be the “real” face of religion.
A well-known Catholic commentator has even adopted the term “Taliban Catholicism” to describe those of a more assertive and conservative bent. Part of it was a joke, but it showed the mindset that every religion has its extremists, and that there may be something in every religion that encourages violence. Hence smallpox on all their places of worship.
September 11 alone does not explain the growth of secularism over the past 20 years. Already at the time, discussions on the draft constitution of the European Union adopted a distinctly secular approach, excluding from the historical dossier the very Christian faith which created the idea of Europe.
Perhaps a better example could be the arc of United States religious freedom case law and legislation.
In 1990, Judge Antonin Scalia took an unusual misstep in an otherwise excellent judicial career. Write for a 6-3 majority in Division of Employment c. Smith, Scalia rejected constitutional claims for religious freedom by Native Americans related to the use of peyote, then prohibited by an Oregon law.
The political reaction has been negative and almost universal. Religious freedom was seen as essential to enable religion – including minority religious practices – to make its contribution to the common good. That religion had in fact made such a positive contribution was not in dispute.
Congress acted quickly to undo what Scalia had done in Black-smith. The law on the restoration of religious freedom (RFRA) was introduced by the representative at the time. Chuck Schumer of New York and Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. It was passed unanimously in the House and passed through the Senate with only three negative votes. President Bill Clinton enacted it in 1993.
Today, it is not clear that this RFRA can go through Congress. Now-Sen. Schumer himself could vote against. It may well face a veto from President Joe Biden who, as part of the Obama administration, enacted policies that were struck down by the courts on RFRA grounds.
Could September 11 have something to do with the erosion of trust in religion as a contribution to the common good? It seems likely.
Other factors were probably more influential. The clergy sexual abuse scandal was another major contributor, and the importance of the same-sex civil marriage debate cannot be overstated. In 2013, the Supreme Court would rule, under constitutional case law, that any opposition to civil marriage between persons of the same sex could only stem from harmful animosity. Religion and religious freedom, from this perspective, was a threat to the common good, not a contributor.
It should be noted that confidence in the positive role of religion has been eroded by the agenda of the progressive left (same-sex marriage) and by those who would like to denounce it from top to bottom (jihadist terrorists).
Prayers will be offered on the 20th anniversary of September 11. But fewer people will pray than before, because there are fewer people praying. It is part of the tragic legacy of September 11.