98 of 103 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2013
The first thing to know about Worshipping the State: How Liberalism Became Our State Religion, is that it is not an angry conservative-radio diatribe transcribed to paper (though its tone is indignant and energetic). Benjamin Wiker (B.A. in Political Philosophy, Furman U.; M.A. in Religion and Ph.D. in Theological Ethics, both from Vanderbilt U.) is not a ranter. He has authored or co-authored 11 books since 2002, all showing scholarly workmanship and all directly or indirectly concerned with the ongoing cultural-philosophical crisis in the USA (and in Western civilization generally). He habitually takes a historical approach to his subjects, and any reader, left, right, or center, can learn from and be mentally challenged by the documented historical facts presented in this book.
The thesis of Worshipping the State is that secular liberalism, a movement in politics and philosophy, is in ascendancy in the USA today and is using its power to minimize or eliminate the public influence of traditional religious morality and of theistic belief generally (that is, the belief that God is real, that He is the source and continuing ground of all things, that He is personal in terms of having intentions and purposes and the ability to act to realize those intentions and purposes---Academic American Encyclopedia).
Wiker is one of many scholarly authors who have written against this "secularist orthodoxy" which is the default worldview in the present-day American intelligentsia.*
His focus in this book is on the relation of religion to government (the state) from the time of the late Roman Empire through the Middle Ages and up to the present situation in America. He shows that the Christian Church is actually the source of the Western doctrine of a distinction between church and state (although the Church has veered occasionally off the right track as in the times of the worldly Renaissance Popes). Since the 1600s, a succession of astute and persuasive thinkers has attempted to discredit and weaken the Church, first by subordinating it to the state and then by marginalizing it. These secularizing European ideas came to our shores in two main waves, according to Wiker, one in the 18th century and one in the 19th century (I wish Wiker had gone into more detail about the third wave, scientism, which has strongly influenced American thought in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries). In saying (with slight hyperbole, in my opinion) that liberalism in this country is a religion, Wiker means that secular liberalism resembles a supernaturalist religion in that it entails a set of beliefs about reality, a system of ethics, and a "millennial" goal of an earthly paradise. It has become the established religion because its belief system is now embraced (sometimes unconsciously) by the most powerful leaders in American government, law, and education. (One result is that numerous religious institutions in this country are currently facing ruinous fines because they refuse to compromise their beliefs about human life by allowing homicidal "health care" practices to be covered in their employees' health insurance). As Wiker's historical survey shows, this naturalistic belief system has become entrenched through a long process which will not be quickly reversed.
Even readers who have no sympathy for the current predicament of religious believers should heed the secondary theme of Wiker's book, that as the power of religion in public life declines, the power of the state increases (hence the implication of deifying the state). Anyone who thinks this concept is a wild fantasy should re-read the uneasy, fearful reflections of a profound mind, that of C. G. Jung, as he described in The Undiscovered Self (1958) the plight of the individual in totalitarian society in mid-20th century Europe.
The present situation is uncomfortable for orthodox religious believers like Wiker (and me). We may face actual persecution as secularist power is further extended. However, Wiker points out in his last chapter that courageous Christians willing to publicly witness to their faith (in spite of drastic consequences) transformed the persecutive Roman Empire and laid the basis for our civilization. His reflection on this historical example sounds a hopeful, inspiring final note and contrasts with the discouraging situation documented in Worshipping the State: "These achievements grew out of Christians' unflinching commitment to the Good News that the universe was created by a good and loving God who had sent his Son to redeem the fallen human race. Our freedom from political totalitarianism, as well as everything we have accomplished with our science, still depends on that central truth."
* I would mention two books from prior decades that are worth re-reading and comparing to Wiker's work. Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law and Education by Phillip E. Johnson (1995) expresses a clear understanding of the metaphysical meaning of secularism. The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion and Morality in Crisis by Robert P. George (2001) displays razor-sharp rationality in defending a traditional "God-centered" understanding of reality and human nature. Two other recent scholarly books might be useful in understanding the viewpoint of the secularists so severely criticized by Wiker, Johnson, and George. The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics and the Modern West by Mark Lilla (2007) covers some of the same secularizing thinkers as Wiker but reaches very different conclusions. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt (2011) celebrates the revival of materialistic philosophy in our culture during the Renaissance, virtually equating that philosophy with modernity.
60 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2013
Prophets in the Old Testament spoke the words of God, but they also knew how to read the signs of the times. Ben Wiker has put together in Worshipping The State a mountain of data and historical facts to prove his point: liberalism as we see it today is designed to obliterate Christianity and replace it with a hedonistic pagan-state that functions both as government and religion. Liberals who read this book might scoff initially at it's forthright premise, but after reading only a few pages, would see that this is no joke. Liberalism takes on all of the characteristics of a religion (dogma, doctrines about cosmology and morality) but utilizes the coercive power of the state to implement its agenda. Wiker notes the eerie parallels to pagan Rome that we are seeing in modern society today. And he carefully constructs the rise of this in the last 500 years through Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Rousseau, Locke, and into the universities of today. This work is engaging, incredibly readable, highly researched, and well-documented. I highly recommend this work from a modern day prophet who is reading the signs of the times. His insight helps us understand where we are now, where we are headed, and why we have to stop the persecution of Christianity in order to save us from becoming the next formerly great empire. And while you are at it, pick up some of his prior books that carefully and insightfully examine where we are, and how we got here.
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2013
Worshipping the State is definitely worth a read. It is very clearly written, and loaded with interesting insights into the history and political philosophy underlying the current developments in the relationship between church & state. While its target audience appears to be conservative Christians, or even Catholics in particular, this book is chock full of thought-provoking questions that should be of interest to any American, and to any lover of personal liberty, regardless of their political or religious affiliation (or non-affiliation). The book proposes much-needed principles and distinctions concerning the nature of the state and of liberty, and concerning the goals of secular liberalism, principles which all thinking persons should consider, whatever they happen to think of the author's own (unconcealed) convictions. One of the main theses, that secular liberalism is itself a religion, might perhaps have been even stronger if more nuanced -- secular liberalism does not seem to be called a "religion" in quite the same sense of the word as Christianity is, the many striking parallels that Wiker draws between them notwithstanding. (He does not deny this, but perhaps does not emphasize the difference as he might have done.) Nonetheless, the book does a fine job of showing that secular liberalism behaves enough like a religion that it should not be established in governmental policy, and that it is not at all religiously neutral, but threatens the freedom of religion properly so called.
36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2013
Not that it was hidden, but Benjamin Wiker does an excellent job of explaining the history of how Liberalism came to be a state religion. He does this by explaining the motives and beliefs of many of the great liberal philosophers. How their ideas were taken and implemented. Why Christianity was the target of these philosophers. Finally he shows how slowly but surely Christianity was pushed out of the public square and Secular Liberalism was ushered in to replace it.
The first 15 chapters at times had me disheartened, amazed, shocked and in wonder. The last chapter brought hope as it had a 'call to arms' with definite actions that need to be taken to expose Secular Liberalism as a religion and to disestablish it as our state religion.
This book was very eye opening to me, a social and economic conservative. I am going to encourage both conservative and liberal friends of mine to read it as I think it will open some minds. The Truth is a hard thing to deny.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2013
Dr. Benjamin Wiker's Worshipping the State is worth reading in order to understand the particular form of Liberalism that is making itself America's established "religion," the central aspect of which is putting in the place of traditional Christianity a government that imposes the worst of pre-Christian pagan values on the rest of us in the name of "tolerance" and "rights." Worshipping the State is also very helpful in understanding why there are liberal Christians who cooperate with liberal secularists who hate Christianity.
Worshipping the State provides both the history of ideas about government and religion and also the history of political and religious events that have gotten us to this point. Too often books that give the history of ideas neglect historical events, and vice versa. Dr. Wiker's book shows the interplay between ideas and events. There is a wealth of emblematic quotes from the Liberal thinkers under study (Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Rousseau, and Locke); and there is a wealth of facts that expose key Liberal myths.
Worshipping the State is very readable while analyzing profound ideas and complex events. It can be read by college grads, at least those who are open to being intellectual and philosophical. It can even be read by college students, at least those who were capable of taking honors and A. P. courses when they were in high school.
The index is very helpful. The endnotes are very informative.
Because of this book's excellence, I hope that Dr. Wiker will give us a similar analysis--identifying seminal thinkers and formative events--of another pervasive and destructive form of Liberalism: identity politics and political correctness with their emphasis on race, class, gender, and orientation instead of a common human nature.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
This is quite an interesting book. Dr. Benjamin Wiker takes us through the history of the state and religion since Rome and demonstrates how rare a thing it is the Constitutional protections for private conscience and personal choice of values and religion. The main thesis of this book is one I have been declaring for decades and that is that secular humanism - the approved Liberal Orthodoxy - is, in effect, our established faith; an established "church", if you will. The Left adamantly refuses to see religion as private conscience. In fact, they deny private conscience except as it conforms with the social values that currently receive their stamp of approval. Conveniently for them, their approved social values have a strong correlation to that which provides more political power and control to the Progressive agenda.
Wiker presents his argument in six parts: Part I takes demonstrates the current war on Christianity in our culture and through our government. In fact, he shows how the state has itself become the object of worship for the Left and how people are being indoctrinated from childhood in that faith in government to run their lives and provide a kind of illusory security.
Part II is the history of Christianity and Paganism from Rome through the Middle Ages. The author shows the value of the Bible in keeping religion from simply becoming a tiny piece of the state mechanism and how religion and the state became separate things.
Part III explains how Paganism in the form of Liberal ideals re-emerged and the state became secularized as an ideal and evolved into its own "civil religion".
Part IV provides a big picture view of the last couple of hundred years - principally the world created by John Locke and his peers - and how Liberalism became two sides of its own coin in taking over the State all over the world; albeit in different guises.
Part V takes on the secularization of America from its founding through the Progressive movement of the 20th Century and the radical Leftism from the 1960s to the present administration.
Part VI is a pep-talk and a list of principles to provide you with a foundation to challenge the established faith of the Left. What you must adopt as your core principles and how you can not only resist but help to push back and "dis-establish" the Progressive faith.
While Wiker's arguments are not always the arguments I would make and I think he is somewhat too wedded to his own views on Christianity which would cause otherwise fellow believers to blanche a bit, I do take his underlying arguments, conclusions, and goals to heart. For this reason I give this books a strong recommendation with just tiny reservations. The Progressive Faith is so pervasive it is almost impossible for most people to see and understand in this way. It just is; just as a fish cannot fathom being wet.
I think this is a vital topic and a good book on the issue.
Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2013
Worshipping the State: How Liberalism Became Our State Religion.
By Benjamin Wiker, Ph.D.
Regnery Publishing 2013. 330 Pages plus notes. ISBN 978-1-62157-029-5.
Dr. Wiker has written a fascinating, well-researched, and informative historical review of the multiple factors which have contributed to our current cultural dilemma, and the on-going discussion of the separation of church and state in the public square.
I recommend "Worshipping the State: How Liberalism Became Our State Religion" for anyone who wants to understand the historical background of our current political and cultural environment.
Before there can be a discussion of the origins of liberal and conservative thought and philosophy, there must first be developed a working definition of terms. Dr Wiker spends no little time clarifying his terms and chronicling the significant historical components, personalities, and events to bring uniformity to the discussion.
After his initial foundational chapters, Dr. Wiker builds on the previous chapters with new information & more depth spiraling to the impending conclusion like a good murder mystery. Chapters end with more questions enticing this reader to continue to unravel the mystery to be found in the next pages.
Is there a need for the state church? Is there a state church?
Who shares the credit and responsibility?
"Worshipping the State: How Liberalism Became Our State Religion" is very readable and often witty.
This book is very well researched, and backed up by thirty pages of notes and circulations.
Dr. Wiker, in "Worshipping the State: How Liberalism Became Our State Religion", makes a strong case for liberalism being a religion and lays out the premises of his theory for a compelling conclusion.
Worthy of reading, study, and reflection.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2013
"Worshipping the State" was an intriguing and powerful read. The author, Dr. Wiker, uses well-reasoned arguments and expansive evidence to support his hypothesis that secular liberalism is not merely a worldview embraced by some, but rather nothing less than the new state religion, with adherents eager to remove obstacles that do not support its tenets and the weight of the law behind those efforts.
As an author, Dr. Wiker writes with a readable, yet scholarly style. He is not given to hyperbole, nor drawing conclusions from scant evidence; instead, he takes readers through a sober and ordered walk through history, beginning with the early Roman pagans and ending with the neopagans of the early 21st century. While Dr. Wiker convincingly makes the case that the embrace of the religion of liberalism is effectively driving Christianity from public life, he does not leave the reader with a sense of hopelessness. The book's final chapter is a thoughtful call to arms, outlining the "revolution of mind and heart" needed to disestablish secular liberalism. This book should not be of interest just to religious believers; rather, it should be thoughtfully considered by all who believe in religious liberty.
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
"Secular liberalism is a kind of inverse image, like a photo negative, of the religion it has so energetically worked to displace for the past several centuries. It is a kind of anti-Christian religion as extensive in its claims as the Christianity it denies, with its own set of passionately held beliefs and dogmas. It doesn't just look like a religion. It doesn't just function like a religion. It is a religion. - p. 307
From the time I was a teenager back in the 1960's I knew in my gut that there was something drastically amiss with the direction our country was headed in. I became even more convinced of this while attending a public college in the early 1970's. Like so many others I have had a great many misconceptions about the actual origins of many of the outrageous ideas and worldviews that have been steadily taking hold in our country. For virtually my entire lifetime the specter of secular liberalism has been advancing incrementally and relentlessly. One wonders how in the world did this happen? Recently I heard a fascinating interview with author Benjamin Wiker, PH.D. I immediately became convinced that his latest book "Worshipping the State: How Liberalism Became Our State Religion" would address many of the nagging questions that I have had about these issues for all these years. And while this was not a particularly easy read I found that I could not put this one down.
Throughout the pages of "Worshipping the State" Benjamin Wiker introduces us to a number of influential philosophers whose ideas have contributed mightily to the secular liberalism that has become so prevalent in our day. Much to my surprise, many of these ideas and concepts are hundreds of years old. Wiker explores the radical anti-Christian ideas proffered by such luminaries as Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Auguste Comte, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and most especially the Jewish-Dutch philosopher Benedict de Spinoza. Shame on me because I had never even heard of Spinoza and as it turns out that his ideas are among the most important in the advancement of the secular liberal agenda. According to Wiker Spinoza's concept of a three-layered "human pyramid" goes a long way in helping to explain radical liberalism's contorted view of the world. You will discover why liberals seek to tear down the moral integrity of Christianity to a more easy-going moral code that nearly everyone can follow with very little effort. Thus, we have the emergence of the mainline or liberal Christian churches that are entirely at home in this world. These so-called churches and their leaders are useful tools in the drive to advance the statist agenda. As Benjamin Wiker so very cleverly puts it "You don't need the Nicene Creed if you're nice". In addition, Wiker shines the spotlight on the ruthless tactics employed by liberals down through the centuries to help them to get what they want. Clearly, as far as these folks are concerned "the ends justify the means".
While "Worshipping the State: How Liberalism Became Our State Religion" is definitely not light summer reading most readers should be able to grasp the vast majority of the concepts that author Benjamin Wiker is trying to get across here. This is a scholarly and well-written book that goes a long way in helping to explain precisely how we got here. In the final chapter of the book called "Disestablishing Secular Liberalism" the author offers up a number of concrete suggestions and strategies designed to finally begin reversing all of this nonsense. But make no mistake about it.....we Christians certainly do have our work cut out for us. The election of Barack Obama and the radical policies being pursued by his administration are merely the culmination of a centuries-long effort to replace Christianity with a new secular religion. We cannot let them succeed. If you are concerned about these monumentally important issues then I believe that reading "Worshipping the State" would be a marvelous way to get yourself up-to-speed. In many ways this book proved to be a revelation to me. Highly recommended!
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2013
Author Benjamin Wiker examines the intellectual history behind the current secular liberal politics that has overtaken the U.S. and Europe. From early conflicts over separation of church and state to the co-opting of moral authority by secular liberals, Wiker lays it all out in a clear, reasoned, and readable analysis. Eye-opening, thought-provoking, and highly informative,this book reveals the motivation behind some of the contradictory and irrational political decisions of modern times. A worthwhile read for anyone troubled by the decline of American culture and society.