Sometimes it's tempting to look at the secularity of other western nations as a sign of advancement. The amount of religiosity in the US seems to translate into attacks on the sciences, in particular evolution, attacks on gay and lesbians, and lends itself to active support of warmaking. And yet such a conclusion fails to draw a distinction between diffferent forms of religiosity in this country, collapsing evangelical protestantism with the term religion.
It also doesn't address the vacuum which the collapse of traditional religion in these western nations have created. Before religion was typically moderate to liberal, state bodies from the Anglicans in the UK to the Lutheran churches in Scandinavia. With the loss of these church's hold in society, we've had a brief summer of what some call "secularism" but nature abhoring a vacuum means that other things are starting to fill in this whole, illiberal ideologies which threaten the very things we may admire in such countries.
Partly it's a question of whether such nations have a compelling liberal vision from which questions of ultimacy might be raised. Without one, other groups promoting an illiberal framework will come in to provide answers. Some are looking at the west's inability to respond to the rise of radical Islam as an example, but another is the rise and exportation of evangelical protestantism and the US culture war model to other nations.
In the Britian some rightwing Tories have looked to the successes of the religious right and the GOP in the US as an inspiration and a framework based on "traditionalist notions of the church, patriotism and family values" from which they can find an indentity and perhaps make inroads in the country. In New Zealand, the Labour government's support of civil unions has produced a social conservative backlash, which the previously moderate National Party is trying to exploit by moving right on these social issues.
US evangelical groups from Focus on the Family to Campus Crusade, have done cross border work, in helping evangelicals in Canada create a social, political, and religious atmosphere which mirrors the US's religious right. "U.S. evangelicals have helped create a Republican Christianity in Canada". With rising evangelical numbers and increased visibility of social issues, the Conservative Party has moved rightward to exploit this change.
And in Australia, their last election, mirrored what happened in the US. The discovery of an army of evangelicals and social conservatives that came out in significant numbers to re-elect the right of center government. The values debates, the debates about abortion, increasing opposition to gay and lesbian rights, and an increase in evangelical church numbers in the country. And increasingly through out Europe, a more conservative Catholicism has broadened it's assault on reproductive and women's rights.
The collapse of the mainline and of any overarching liberal vision in which questions of meaning and ultimacy can have a place to be worked out in the end has not provided the grounds for secularity at all. Rather it has provided a door by which fundamentalisms of the right, whether protestant, catholic, or muslim, have been able to come in and exploit. The decision by some on the left to attack or court religion fails to address why a liberal framework has collapsed and what might be done about it. It's a conversation which needs to begin.