During my first few weeks in America, I vividly remember my mom gasping in surprise and pointing out a large cross on a hill overlooking the freeway in southern California. As my dad tried to concentrate on driving, my mother exclaimed with amazement (in Arabic): “They allow crosses on hills in America!” My father brought me to America so that I could have freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of thought. We never thought that they would be curtailed. We never thought that a day would come when people would agitate over crosses on hills, the Decalogue in courthouses, and pro-life pins on lapels. My father brought me here. If this trajectory continues, where might I take my children?
This is the precise question with which Mary Eberstadt begins the introduction to her small but mighty book, It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies. Faced with hardships, vilifications, and discriminations great and small, many believers have begun to ask: “Where will we go?” Inspired by their experiences, Eberstadt offers an extended meditation on secular progressivism’s “soft persecution” of Christians and religious freedom.
But we can’t comprehend our current cultural clashes without understanding the history that gave rise to the new intolerance of today. Knowing this, Eberstadt walks us briefly from the philosophical skepticism of Voltaire to twentieth-century anti-religious campaigns. A little more than a decade ago, assaults on religious liberty and on Christian men and women began to accelerate and escalate. Eberstadt points to two seismic cultural events that contributed to this escalation: first, the terrorist attacks of September 11; and second, the Catholic Church’s catastrophic sex abuse scandals. Together, these two events gave not only the “new atheism” movement but all unbelievers the impetus to start clearing away the vestiges of American religion. Eberstadt recounts the evidence of discrimination, financial bullying, legal warfare, harassment, social media shaming, and many other forms of intimidation used by secular progressive activists to shut down Christians.
Read the rest of the book review at Public Discourse