In comments here, Hitch argues the following:
Secular does not mean without religion everywhere, secular just means that religion does not define/influence/interfere/be intertwined with government.
Tulse makes a similar argument here (Comment #8):
No atheist cares about the community that religion offers, we care about the truth claims it makes. If religious folks want to get together for bingo and have potlucks and visit each other in the hospital, that’s just dandy. The problem arises when they demand changes to school curriculum or abortion laws or marriage laws based on their theological position. The problem in Western society with religion is not its community aspects, it is the interference in public culture based on beliefs.
These comments reflect a common misconception about how religious belief can properly impact public policy. I don’t want religion to co-opt the state in any way. I don’t want the state to interfere with how I express my faith and I don’t want any church to interfere with the proper running of government. I think the First Amendment is clear about that.
Yet my faith reflects who I am, most fundamentally, as a human being. I simply cannot and do not want to divorce that reality from my thinking at any point. I think my Christianity makes me better. It informs my thoughts and thinking at every level (I hope). Moreover, only some form of thought censorship could enforce a desire to keep faith from influencing public policy, and that would violate the First Amendment.
President Obama’s statement on the issues and questions surrounding church and state as well as religion and politics within his Call to Renewal speech during the 2008 campaign expresses the key point nicely:
Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.
It doesn’t matter whether my view of murder (or the hunger problem, or slavery, or any other potential policy issue) is predicated upon religious conviction, some other conviction(s), or a combination thereof or whether that view impacts public policy. There is nothing inherently wrong with faith influencing the state, which influence might be good, bad or indifferent. We have examples from all sides throughout our history. What matters is if I can adequately justify it in terms everyone can understand and that are accessible to all. If I can, religious influence needn’t be merely acceptable, it can be a tremendous benefit.