A very popular modern day myth is that the public square is secular, and therefore neutral. Public schools are secular, and therefore neutral. Government is secular, and therefore neutral. Nothing could be further from the truth. Secular doesn’t equal neutral. Secularism sends us messages all the time about what is important, what is to be valued, and what is to be prioritized, and is therefore just as biased as any other worldview or philosophy. As Yoram Hazony recently said, whatever is not honored in public life is dishonored in public life. Ask yourself, if you go to a public school or have kids that go there: when was the last time religious doctrine came up in your school, not just as a peculiarity that a small subset of people believe–a feelings-based or merely culturally derived crutch for the few who need it to lean on that might explain some aspect of culture in a parochial corner of the world–but as something worthy of deep thought, consideration, and perhaps commitment–a source of truth, or potential source of truth, about the world? That happens rarely, if ever, in secular, supposedly “neutral” public schools, and that is not a neutral message! Whatever is not talked about or relegated to the realm of mere feeling (read: not reality, but just belief) or to the private realm is irrelevant. There are all sorts of messages embedded in that vacuum about what is valuable and important. What is not talked about is deemed irrelevant, and since religion in that way is rarely if ever talked about in the space that most young people spend the most of their time, the message they get subtly driven into their heads constantly is that religion is irrelevant and unimportant. No one has to spell it out explicitly or teach a lesson where it is said out loud–it is simply assumed subtly as the way things are. The system so thoroughly inculcates it into student’s heads that they rarely pause to actually think about it or question it. Here’s the thing about vacuums, though: vacuums don’t stay vacuums for very long. Something else always rushes in to fill the void. If young people haven’t been given anything transcendent to commit to, they will look to an ersatz substitute. We are worshiping beings by nature. Even agnostics and ardent atheists worship….they just worship something incredibly small. Atomized, cut off from their heritage, cut off from institutions, cut off from their history, young people are searching desperately for something to give them solidarity, meaning, and purpose.
There are altars to unknown gods all over the place in our modern age. This is what has happened to the citizens of the world state in Brave New World. Cut off from their cultural heritage, cut off from the deep cisterns of the transcendent things, they instead turn to the alternative masters of pleasure, self-satisfaction, sex, and perpetual distraction. Their yoke is heavy and their burden is immense. Cruel masters those gods are. This is one reason why the young find ideologies like communism and Social Justice ideology so attractive. It’s not that those worldviews give us a true picture of the world. Its not that they effectively eradicate harm. In fact they bring more misery–lots more. They are attractive because they function as alternative religions to worshippers who are hungry for something to worship in the void left by secularism. If they don’t fill the God-shaped hole in their heart with true religion, they’ll get it from somewhere else. As G.K Chesterton once noted, when a man stops believing in God, he doesn’t believe in nothing; he believes anything.