Mormonism, Purity, and the Conditions of Truth

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Ecclesial Secularism, Fundamentalism, and Authoritarianism
In essence, secularists are those who advocate separation of state from religious institutions. In this sense, most religious Americans might be considered secularists. Even those who self-identify as secularist do not usually actively seek religion’s dissolution, nor are they of necessity temperamentally hostile to religion and religious peoples. They merely wish to be free from religious conceptual and institutional imposition. However, I’m more interested here in a more narrow and specific subset of secularism, what I have labeled “ecclesial secularism.” Ecclesial secularists see in secularism an all-embracing or universally encompassing worldview, the shape and contours—obviously not the content—of which look quasi-religious or ecclesiastical, whose adherents are devout, organized, and committed to not simply maintaining a separation between religions and states, but to actively promoting the erasure of religious institutions and ideas throughout all of human culture, not merely as they touch on political and otherwise non-religious institutions. Like many churches, ecclesial secularism:

  • claims ideological universality. Its ideas aren’t meant to only apply to certain regions or cultures or groups, but to everyone everywhere as the sole possessors of the “truth” of enlightenment and rationality.
  • accepts the legal reality of separation between church and state (in those areas of the world where such exists), but actively works to undermine and ghettoize religion where possible with the ultimate purpose of eliminating it from competition in the arena of ideas and loyalties. Likewise, churches historically sought to maintain religious monopolies in order to eliminate their competition.
  • attempts to be closely allied with cultural, academic, and political institutions in order to diversify and intensify the enforcement of its beliefs and ideas. Churches have also almost always tied themselves to state and/or secular powers for the same reasons.
  • attempts to gain converts through aggressive proselytizing.

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