Sean Faircloth is former director of the Secular Coalition for America (SCA) and now Director of Strategy and Policy at the Richard Dawkins Foundation. He was brought up in a Catholic family and attended Catholic schools, but is an atheist, and author of a good new book, Attack of the Theocrats: How the Religious Right Harms America—and What We Can Do About It. I recommend it, at least to American readers, though folks from other countries might like to read how bat-guano crazy the U.S. is about religion.
I have only two reservations about the book: the chapter on sex seems a tad excessive, almost obsessive, and his prescription for how to create a secular America seems appears to consist almost entirely of helping the SCA or donating money to it. Oh, and the cover, a cartoonish drawing, detracts from the gravitas of the book’s message:
The book paints a scary picture of how, despite America’s official policy of church/state separation, our laws and our legislators are still deeply imbued with irrational religiosity. (Read his summaries of the 50 most religiously insane American senators and representatives.) It’s also very eloquent and convincing about how the “Founding Fathers” of America—people like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin—were by no means religious, but were at best agnostics, and certainly did not form the U.S. government on Christian principles. That’s a must-read section if you want to go after the common religious claim that “America was founded as a Christian nation.”
Here’s an empassioned 32-minute talk on “Catholicism, contraception, and secular morality” that Faircloth recently gave at Notre Dame, a Catholic university in Indiana.
The main points are these:
- Addressing the largely (and preumably liberal) Catholic audience at Notre Dame, Faircloth reminds them that their ilk doesn’t follow the doctrines and rules as dictated by the Vatican. Futher, official Catholic doctrines about reproduction are, in fact, largely immoral.
- American Catholics from a few decades ago were almost completely behind the Constitutional separation of church and state; this has changed for the worse.
- Current lobbyists and politicians who claim to speak for Catholic America are more in line with hard-line Protestant thinking of the last few decades than with the thinking of practicing Catholics.
- Current “new” (i.e., hard-line) Catholicism espouses controversial principles that don’t belong in public policy. Religious exemption clauses are meant to protect freedom of thought and expression, not to promote the transformation of personal religious beliefs into national law.