A person who believes that society should be governed only by laws consistent with his religious faith is not a theocrat if he merely tries to persuade majorities of his case, and restricts himself to constitutional, legal, and nonviolent activity.
But this much can nevertheless be said of the new American fundamentalists: they deny the possibility of a government that is neutral between differing views of what the meaning of life truly is. They reject the whole idea of the law as a way to create a neutral public space, to mediate between competing visions of the good, to provide an umpire for a game between competing visions of what is moral, right, or true. They reject, in short, the entire premise of secular democracy: that religion should be restricted to the private sphere, and the law should be as indifferent as possible to the substantive claims of various impassioned groups of true believers.
It’s worth insisting here on the proper meaning of secularism. It is not anti-religious, as is now often claimed. Definitionally secularism merely argues that public institutions and public law be separated from religious dogma or diktats. A secular society can be one in which large majorities of people have deep religious faith, but in which politics deals with laws that are, as far as possible, indifferent to the religious convictions of citizens, and clearly separated from them.
—Andrew Sullivan, The Conservative Soul
This book is a doozy, and boy is it heavy. Luckily, though, it’s written well so it’s really approachable.
What strikes me about Sullivan is that he’s most definitely politically conservative (in the truest sense of the word) and he’s absolutely a Catholic. But he’s also decidedly not a fundamentalist, when it comes to either of those labels. He doesn’t mince words, but he’s even-handed and fair in his critiques of how religions should, but mostly should not, mix with government.