In his superb Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg convincingly points out that the encroachment of the state on private life and civic culture-- the essence of progressivism-- has parallels and in fact antecedents in fascism. The subsumption of civic institutions and private commerce under state control is the heart of fascism, which is radical secularism with a "war on..." stridency. This is not to say that progressives are incipient Hitlers or Mussolini's, but merely to point out the fact that the breaking of civic life to the state is of a fabric. Progressives are at one end of the fabric; Il Duce is at the other. But it is the same fabric.
President Obama's recent regulation that Catholic and other religious institutions-- hospitals, universities, schools, etc-- provide contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs to their employees is an astonishing encroachment of government power on religious freedom. Through the imposition of a health care regime on our country-- passed by the thinnest margin amidst highly dubious legislative tactics and despite insistent assurances to the contrary provided to the legislation's skittish supporters-- the Obama administration has tossed aside protections for conscience and is actively forcing the Catholic Church and other orthodox Christians out of a central role in many aspects of our national life. Serious Christians will not acquiesce in manifest sin, and the Obama administration knows that, and obviously intends to drive Christians out of control of hospitals, universities, charities, schools, etc.
This militant secularism is manifest and rising in several areas of America's national life, areas that initially seem disconnected, but that are of a piece:
1) The rapid growth of the federal government, which now spends 42% of our GDP, up from 33% just a decade ago. This now includes substantial control of the health care industry in the US.
2) Denial of conscience exemptions in the provision of contraception, abortifacients, etc for Catholic institutions, as noted above, which, if enforced, would drive the Catholic Church out of these institutions. The Christian church has long been the primary impediment to unchallenged state power. For the state to grow, Christianity must be marginalized.
3) Fanatic censorship of any vestige of religious expression from public schools and public property.
4) Rigid protection of Darwinism-- atheism's creation myth-- from any criticism, even from objective discussion of strengths and weaknesses of the theory, in public schools.
5) Efforts to impose unprecedented control over every scintilla of national and international energy policy based on hysterical claims of an imminent global-warming apocalypse. The state control would extend to virtually every activity-- the regulated "pollutant" is the gas we exhale.
This unprecedented advance of secular state power at the expense of individual rights and civic culture is eminently in the fascist tradition:
"Against individualism, the Fascist conception is for the State... It is opposed to classical Liberalism, which arose from the necessity of reacting against absolutism, and which brought its historical purpose to an end when the State was transformed into the conscience and will of the people. Liberalism denied the State in the interests of the particular individual... for the Fascist, everything is in the State, and nothing human or spiritual exists, much less has value,-outside the State. In this sense Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State, the synthesis and unity of all values, interprets, develops and gives strength to the whole life of the people. [emphasis mine]... Outside the State there can be neither individuals nor groups..."
... "Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state."
There's nothing new under the sun.