Pariahs Unite!

by Michael Potemra

Almost entirely overlooked in the press last week was the fact that Boston’s Cardinal Law attended a prayer service at a mosque. This is from the Boston Globe report: “During a brief speech . . . Law suggested that religious Catholics and Muslims have more in common with each other than they do with ‘radical secularists who demand that life be seen without God.’ I feel very much at home with my fellow fundamentalists here, who are convinced that God must be at the center of our lives.” First point: Very few secularists in the United States “demand” that anyone else see life as “without God”; what they do insist on is that the Constitutional right of free exercise of religion be respected, and that therefore no one person’s religion can be bindingly declared normative for any other person. Second point: Catholicism and Islam-like Protestantism, Hinduism, Judaism, etc.–are great spiritual traditions that have much to recommend them. But a supposed united front against something labeled “secularism” is not one of them. Take away the pejorative connotation, and all secularism really amounts to is the rest of life not included under the label “religion.” The World Trade Center was a secular symbol; this is not to say that no religious people worked there, but merely that these people, religious or no, worked in a free secular society that didn’t impose religious beliefs, or atheism, on them. Third point: Cardinal Law has become-not entirely justly, as I have argued here on NRO-one of the most vilified people in America. I am surprised that the U.S. media are not calling on al-Qaeda and other Muslim extremists to disavow Law’s support.