I just not sure about the sentence below, which I read in an online article discussing the American atheists:

"The shift away from any dominance of any one religion is good for a secular society whose government is structured to discourage 【catch basins】 of power from buliding up and spilling over into people's private lives."

So what does 【catch basins】mean in this context? Thanks!

  • It uses "catch basin" figuratively to imply that the government structure has been engineered in such a way that it stops an entity or a branch of the government to become so powerful, which otherwise that powerful source of authorization would encroach on the people's private lives! – Cardinal Jun 7 '19 at 2:29
  • It's a clumsy metaphor. A catch basin is "a reservoir or well into which surface water may drain off". it's a way to store waste water so that it doesn't flood inhabited areas -- however as used in this sentence, it sounds like the opposite meaning. – Andrew Jun 7 '19 at 2:31
  • @Andrew Here the catch basin stores power not water IMO, or it provides a suitable ground for power to be built up! – Cardinal Jun 7 '19 at 2:33
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    @Cardinal well, again, a clumsy metaphor. A "reservoir" can be thought of as a way to store power, but a "catch basin" is no more than a way to manage flooding. Just my opinion, though. – Andrew Jun 7 '19 at 17:47
  • @Cardinal Thank you! – Jesse Jun 8 '19 at 8:26

A catch basin is a low spot in the ground where water gathers. It's usually built to keep the water from accumulating in other places where people don't want it to be.

In this context it's used to mean something that collects power. The assumption here is that when one religion becomes dominant it is a 'catch basin' for power and if it has enough power, people's private lives will be affected by that power. If the religion shifts away from being dominant, its power won't 'spill' out of the catch basin and affect people's lives.

  • Thank you dwilli! I think I got the point of it. – Jesse Jun 8 '19 at 4:34

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