Chris Dillow reminds us that secularists seek not to extirpate religious belief but to keep it out of the public sphere (a distinction that's mostly lost on Richard Dawkins, incidentally). At least, that's the moral I draw from his attempt to answer a "tricky question" raised by Johann Hari about the Christian roots of Gordon Brown's egalitarianism.
Chris points out that it's not very egalitarian to suppose that Christians have a monopoly on the truth and that, in any case, there are secular ways of arguing for equality (a point I made here, while insisting, pace Ophelia Benson, that one of the most influential arguments for equality in the liberal tradition, Locke's, is in fact ultimately theological). Chris concludes (and this is the bit that really interests me):
I should stress here that my beef is not with religion as such. It’s about the role it should play in politics. In an egalitarian polity, in which people should be persuaded rationally of policies, religion should have no place – even if it is true. Religion might motivate political beliefs, but it shouldn’t, and needn’t, be the public justification for them.
In other words, the truth or otherwise of religious beliefs is irrelevant to the question whether they should play a role in public deliberation. So the putatively religious roots of Gordon Brown's egalitarianism oughtn't to worry us so long as they play no role in his public justifications for it.
But it seems to me there's still an important question left hanging here, and it's whether this version of secularist-egalitarian politics requires that people's religious convictions be wholly excluded from political debate.
As it happens, this is a question confronted by Ronald Dworkin in his book Is Democracy Possible Here, which I reviewed in The Philosophers' Maagzine a few months ago. Dworkin, I wrote, is after a way of engaging those fundamental convictions that "stay[s] true to the 'attractive hope' which animates [John] Rawls’s political liberalism – that reasonable people with differing ethical, moral and religious beliefs will come to accept the constraints of public reason."
ADDENDUM: One implication of this post of Norm's on certain of Richard Dawkins' characteristic argumentative moves is that Dawkins would deny that we can engage religious believers qua believers while at the same expecting them to accept the constraints of public reason.