Jonah Goldberg

What I think secularists don't appreciate is how unfair this feels to religious people who believe that the secularists have, for all intents and purposes, a moral faith of their own. For example, back in the Dark Ages when John Aschroft ruled with an iron fist, and decent people everywhere quaked at the prospect of borrowing "Catcher in the Rye" from the library lest they land in the Gulag under the Patriot Act, Ashcroft was unable to ban a Gay Pride Month celebration at his own Department of Justice. I don't think that celebrating Gay Pride Month would lead to the end of civilization, but I don't think Christian Pride Month would either. And yet we all understand that Christian pride is a nonstarter on government premises.

The idea that liberalism operates - or should operate - like a secular religion, complete with its own dogmas, rites and customs, has a very old pedigree stretching from ancient Rome to such modern figures as August Comte, Herbert Croly, John Dewey, Thurman Arnold up to the liberal philosopher Richard Rorty. Without wading out into those weeds, I think secular liberals could work harder at understanding that contemporary liberalism, whether it is a secular religion or not, for its non-adherents it might as well be one.

Liberals use the state to impose their morality all the time, and they get away with it because their faith isn't called a religion.

Yet conservatives should be wary of launching a backlash. Just as it is counterproductive for a secular liberal to take offense at a well-intentioned "Merry Christmas," it doesn't help if a conservative says "Merry Christmas" when he really means "Eat yuletide, you atheistic bastard!" If you're putting up a Christmas tree in order to tick off the ACLU, you've really missed the point.

Of course, none of this would be problem if judges in Washington minded their business to begin with. But that's the real heresy for some liberals.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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