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Experts Warn of ‘Ominous Trends’ in Western Secularism

Tim LewisNM

Catholic News Agency - published on 12/17/13 - updated on 06/08/17

"[T]he patterns we're talking about are not like those in the remaining Communist world or the Middle East. It's not persecution in that sense, but it's getting very worrying.”

Experts on religious liberty cautioned participants at a weekend conference in Rome that discrimination and persecution against Christians is growing in many regions of the world. 

Paul Marshall, a senior fellow at the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, spoke about the causes underlying current global anti-Christian persecution.

“Western secularism has been growing in the last few decades,” Marshall told CNA in a Dec. 13 interview. “I want to emphasize that the patterns we're talking about are not like those in the remaining Communist world or the Middle East. It's not persecution in that sense, but it's getting very worrying.”

“There are very ominous trends and I think we need to be aware of them, in terms of job discrimination, of the ability to speak out your mind, the ability to live out your faith. Things are really worsening in the West,” he explained.

He pointed to several recent examples of this discrimination, including “German home-schooling families applying for asylum in the United States; people being fired from their jobs for holding Christian symbols.”

“These things are new, and then the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a major center on religion statistics, says its measures of religious hostility in Western Europe are now as high as they are in the Middle East.”

Such situations arise from an underlying mentality, noted Marshall. “You've had patterns, very strongly in the educational system, of the assumption that a secular society is a society where religion has no place. It can be private, within your home, within your church, but it has no place in society at large.”

Rather than a traditional notion, “this is a new and very unusual view,” which is further tied to the “idea that a society cannot really be open if religion is present.”

“Instead of a generally open society where secular people are free, Christians are free, (and) Hindus are free,” the more novel view of secular society is one “where the State holds to a particular ideology and demands that everybody succumb to it.”

Marshall described the change in understanding as “a shift from a plural society to an ideologically secular society.”

“And that’s worrying,” he stressed.

Marshall spoke at the “Christianity and Freedom: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives” conference, held Dec. 13-14 at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome. The conference is a project of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.

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