I admit I had been wondering if we might hear from Luke Fevin at some point in this ongoing discussion (for which, by the way, I should offer a note of thanks to the editors of the Gazette, for permitting the discourse to continue as long as it has). I note, too, that he makes the same error that Doris Wrench Eisler did, in mistaking my attempt at drawing a distinction for a conflation.
In at least two different letters, I did in fact draw a distinction between secular governance in general (which aligns with the definition Mr. Fevin gives) and what I initially termed radical secularist governance (we could call this “atheist” as well, for the sake of brevity and word count; I take this to mean a government which establishes an explicit, negative stance against religion, and/or puts forth atheism as a position held by the state). I am not sure how Mr. Fevin missed this, but he did, and so much of his reply to me can be considered to be a passionate diatribe against a straw man.
As was the case with Eisler, Mr. Fevin has become distracted by my listing of several communist governments, but as I explained in a previous letter, this really is just distraction. My intent was to focus on governments which – to varying degrees – made atheism a policy of the state; that a significant number of these have also been communist governments is perhaps an interesting correlation, but any speculation as to a causal relationship is far beyond what I have been saying in the letters I’ve put forth.
Mr. Fevin asks: “How does believing that the state should be neutral in the matter of religion, and not believing in gods, cause communist states to murder millions of human beings?” And to this, he answers: “It doesn’t.” But, again, this is not what I have been asserting.
We should rework his question thusly: “How does establishing atheism as a policy of the state cause communist states to murder millions of human beings?” Here, the answer is perhaps more interesting. Not because atheism is the sole cause of communism’s murderous record, but because it contributes to a utilitarian, materialist philosophical foundation which ultimately reduces the human person, in the eyes of the state, to a thing, a mechanical part in the vast machine that is the nation. Parts which, when they don’t function as desired, get thrown away and replaced.
To close his letter, Mr. Fevin asserts that “study after study showing that the more secular/less religious a country is, the better a place it is to live.” To close my own letter, I will pose a question: why, then, is it the case – in Canada, the U.S., Sweden, and other countries where religion is ostensibly in decline – that rates of depression (and, in many cases, suicide) are on the rise? That doesn’t sound all that “better,” does it?
Kenneth Kully, St. Albert