Secularism is an illusion


[NYC subway, 2013]


The concept of secularism is based on the idea that a culture should aspire to religious neutrality.

And yet there is no such thing.

Every concept you inhabit, every habit that you form, and everything that you aspire to be has been informed by some kind of philosophical ideology.

I repeat: there is no such thing as religious neutrality.

Every idea that takes hold in elite philosophical circles eventually begins to saturate media and the arts, which you then spend your entire life consuming.

But importantly, these ideas have all been theologically informed.

For example, your quest for true authenticity (“no no, this is not a fake knock-off, it’s the real thing”) comes from the project of Heidegger, trickled down from academic circles into the media you have consumed. Your obsession with the individualistic self (“you do you!”) comes from Descartes and the Cartesian project. And your desire for freedom from the institutionalised system (“I’m not religious, but I am spiritual”) comes from Sartre and other existentialists.

You are following a path that has already been paved out for you.

And these ideas, whether we like it or not, all have some kind of religious undertone. There is no such thing as being philosophically and theologically neutral.

The secular does not exist.


Recommended Reading: On the Road with St Augustine by James KA Smith

Published by sarahcoppin

I write about theology, philosophy and everyday life. You can check out my blog at

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