From the title of Russell Blackford’s response, I can tell that we agree on at least one thing: Fawlty Towers was a brilliant television series. I suspect we agree on a few other things as well, such as the wisdom of the separation of church and state – but before we get to the agreement, there are some misunderstandings that need to be cleared up.

Blackford is right that, in his original piece, he did not explicitly claim that the wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were resolved at the time by introducing secularism, which was a much later development. But he must have had some reason for beginning his piece with the tale of the religious wars. The heroes of the piece are Hobbes and Locke, who were “deeply troubled by the experience of religious strife.” The solution Locke and Blackford offer to the problem of religious strife is secularism, the privatization of otherworldly religion so that public policy may deal with purely mundane matters.

The idea that I challenged in my response is not that Christians and Christian churches were involved in these wars. Of course they were, and it marks a severe failure of Christians to be faithful to the Gospel admonitions against violence. What I challenged was the idea that the cause of the violence was “religion,” understood as an essentially otherworldly impulse that had illegitimately gotten mixed up with mundane concerns.

Continue Reading on