The 21st century began in the shadow of a reawakened Islam, with its fanatical side symbolized by the destruction of 9/11/2001, and a resurgent Christianity, each resisting modernity in its way. But, by 2050, the Israelis and Palestinians will have a found a way to share the Holy Land and somewhere a liberal democratic Islamic state will have emerged. Meanwhile, humanity, more united than ever by the environmental crisis, by a global economy and by technology and more open than ever to the images of science rather than religion, will begin a long, slow turn away from religion to secularism. The year 2100 will dawn very differently from 2000. Long before, Presidential candidates in America will have ceased hesitating about global warming and evolution.
But what will secularism have to offer to the people of the world? If you look at the new atheists of today and their writing, all you really get is hostility to our religions. There is nothing there about how to live abundantly. The problem is that the world’s wisdom is by and large contained in its religious traditions, as Huston Smith reminds us. There is no such thing as living by “reason,” which is what secular writers sometimes suggest. Our religions also say they live by reason. And when a real question comes up, like whether an embryo should be protected as human, or should used for the benefit of others, scientific reason has little to say. Biologically, after all, the embryo is obviously a new, individual human being.
To serve the people of the world, secularism will have to get over its juvenile and unthinking hostility to religion and embrace what it can of religion. This will mean each religious civilization’s secularism embracing its own tradition. In the West, that means Judaism and Christianity. Thus, hallowed secularism.