Is Secularism good for society? | Third Space

Is Secularism good for society?

Michael Bird says it depends on which type of secularism you mean
Wed 3 Jul 2024



To non-religious people, secularism represents the freedom to live in a way that suits them, and majority religions don’t get to tell them what’s right or wrong. For religious people, secularism can feel like a threat to their spiritual way of life.

So is secularism good for society?

Michael Bird, from Ridley Theological College and author of Religious Freedom in a Secular Age thinks it depends on what type of secularism you mean.

Here are 5 ways to think about the secular and the sacred in our culture:

1) Tolerance for dissent

Because of the constant barrage of news, opinions and social media, public conversations about religion can become explosive, so we need to learn tolerance for other people's views, even when they upset us. Tolerance will help us communicate more calmly about religious and secular freedoms.

2) The difference between types of secularism

There are actually many different types of secularism. In Australia, many secular values are based on Christian foundations, but other countries have different types of secularism. The best kind of secularism makes space for “all faiths and none”, which will allow Christians the freedom to worship.

3) Christian Nationalism vs Progressive Authoritarianism

When I asked Michael which was worse, Christian nationalism ( Christians decide how other people should live) or progressive authoritarianism ( progressive movements decide how people should live). He thought both sounded terrible! No one wants to live in a world where they are forced to live a certain way. If we want the freedom to live out our faith we also need to support the rights of other religions and non-religious people to live freely in Australia.

4) Turning the World Upside Down

In Acts, an angry mob feels threatened by the Apostle Paul sharing the gospel. One of the men in the mob says “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too” (Acts 17:6, CSB). If our society does stop us from being able to follow Jesus, we will need to turn the world upside down, not through nationalism or politics but by finding new ways to live peacefully and love our neighbours.

5) Truth and Peace

Romans 18 says “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”. It may not always be easy to be Christians in a secular world, but the most important way that we can show the benefit of Christianity is to be peacemakers as much as we can.

To listen to the whole conversation between Michael Bird and Deeper Questions host Amy Isham, listen on our website or search for Deeper Questions wherever you get your podcasts.

Photo by Mark Neal:

More like this ...

Amy Isham, Michael Guerzoni | 22 Sep 2023
If we like true crime, does that make us bloodthirsty?
Amy Isham, Dani Treweek | 30 Jun 2023
Is it meaningful to be single?
Aaron Johnstone, Tony Rinaudo | 5 Oct 2023
A green branch of hope for the climate crisis
Aaron Johnstone, John Cook | 12 Jul 2023
How can we know what is true?