If we were a secularist nation 80 years ago, what are we today after pushing religion from our public places? Whatever it is that we have become we are no longer a secular nation for if we were, religion would not be publicly rejected, but rather respected while establishing none. No, we are no longer an all inclusive secular nation; we have become a nation that rejects religion. We are an atheocratic state.
According to that spurious bon mot of Chesterton's, when men cease to believe in God, they do not believe in nothing; they believe in anything. But, in practice, the anything most of the West now believes in is government. As Tocqueville saw it, what prevents the "state popular" from declining into a "state despotic" is the strength of the intermediary institutions between the sovereign and the individual. But in the course of the 20th century, the intermediary institutions, the independent pillars of a free society, were gradually chopped away — from church to civic associations to family. Very little now stands between the individual and the sovereign, which is why the latter assumes the right to insert himself into every aspect of daily life, including the provisions a Catholic college president makes for his secretary's IUD.
"Atheistic humanism" became inhumanism in the hands of the Nazis and Communists and, in its less malign form in today's European Union, a kind of dehumanism in which a present-tense culture amuses itself to extinction.
The Obama administration's "freedom to worship" leads to the same soulless destination: a church whose moral teachings must be first subordinated to the caprices of the hyper-regulatory Leviathan, and then, as on the Continent, rendered incompatible with public office, and finally, as in that Southampton homeless shelter, hounded even from private utterance. This is the world the "social justice" bishops have made. What's left are hymns and stained glass, and then, in the emptiness, the mere echo:
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar . . .