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Secularism and Religion - are they at war?

What is secularism?

 

Secularism keeps religious doctrine out of state affairs and treats all religions or non-religions equally.

 

Secularism insists that the religious freedom rights of a religion’s individual members is not the same subject as the rights of the religion itself. The difference between the two is vast. It follows that if you let a religionist say that banning capital punishment is a sin or say that abortion is murder it does not follow that you must automatically let the religious system say it. The organisation is not above the law.

 

Why secularism?

 

Religion's job is not to rule the state.

 

Religion and state need to be separate for state should be too busy with its own affairs instead of looking to handle religion.

 

Letting a religion dictate leaves other religions out.

 

Much religion needs to be kept out of state affairs for it is dishonest or violent.

 

There are problems with defining if an entity is a religion for not everything claiming to be a religion is and also the definition is controversial.

 

More about why secularism?

 

The vast majority of all wars have been fought by people who claimed a religious faith.  Religion hates secularism though secularism, properly understood, is about addressing that situation.  Calling secularism a religion is a cynical tactic to get the state to throw it out.  Religion does that quite often not realising that if it succeeds it will get itself thrown out too.

 

Religion oddly enough condemns secularism that has religious traits as bad.  If any form of secularism develops religious traits or is in the process of turning into a religion surely if it goes bad it shows a more authentic religion should be worse.  If secularism and religion are an evil mix then religion has to go.

 

In a world that will suffer for all eternity for the wars caused by religion which always leave their mark, is secularism the answer? 

 

Is it true that both secularism and religion have led to violence so that one is as bad as the other?  Which one is trying at least?  Secularism is trying even if it goes wrong. Sometimes all you can do is try.  Even if it were true that secularism spills blood like religion does at least secularism is an attempt to deal with violence over ideology.  Nobody can know that secularism is as bad.  But we do know that religion with its tendency to worship morally suspect Gods or gods and its opposition to truth through putting forward doctrines that nobody can test or check is divisive and dangerous and its prevalence makes it hard to implement secularism for realistically, in any culture one religion ends up with more rights than the other.

 

Is a religion entitled by the state to claim to be the true faith and not to give any defense of that claim? No it is permitted to. Secularism says you let religion do its own thing but permit people the freedom to refute it.

 

Secularism forbids blasphemy laws so for there is a right to freedom of speech and a right to satire.  As the idea of God may be evil if it is true that God cannot permit evil there has to be a right to express that by mocking God.  And as for sacrilege and desecration, they must not be given special attention.  Treat damage done to religious objects or building the same as damage done to anything else.


Is there a war between secularism and religion - a cold war maybe?

 

Is secularism about protecting religious beliefs?

 

Is secularism about protecting religious faith?  The suggestion is ridiculous.    It is about protecting people from discrimination just because they believe something unless that belief is directly dangerous eg a belief that you must don a suicide belt and walk into a busy playground. 

 

Secularism protects believers not beliefs.  And the believers need not be religious believers.

 

Secularism is hostile to the religious belief that some beliefs in religion are so sacred that they come before everything else.

 

How does a secularist define religion?

 

Daniel Dennett said, “When it comes to interpreting religious avowals of others, everybody is an outsider. Why? Because religious avowals concern matters that are beyond observation, beyond meaningful test, so the only thing anybody can go on is religious behavior, and, more specifically, the behavior of professing”.  This is interesting.  It says you cannot test a religion to see if it is true or believable for there are many incredible faith ideas around all opposing each other.  Labelling a person is bad for it is not up to you to call anybody say a Catholic and labelling is about the desire to put somebody in a box and not concerned about truth or honesty.  Ask them first but bear in mind that if Catholicism is man-made then its only a man-made label and means nothing and should not be dignified by being taken seriously.  Remember that the person may not really be a Catholic by Catholicism's own criteria - eg a heretic.  For Dennett, a Catholic who does not live by the required rules of Catholicism is not a Catholic anymore.  A Hindu who hates the Vedas and laughs at karma is not a Hindu at all.  The secularist has to take account of religious practice to decide if somebody is really in a religion.  Secularism then has to oppose religious labelling for that habit is really about creating an us versus them without any real regard for religion or faith except as social boundary markers.

Is secularism about destroying religion?

No - it is about ensuring that all people, religious or not, have the same rights. It is about stopping religion from imposing legal disadvantages on those who do not believe in it and advantages on those who do. It is not about imposing the beliefs atheism or agnosticism on the nation. However, it cannot be denied that it acts as if there were definitely no true religion or no divine monarch. It's attitude is, "If God wants the Church to run the state, it is still not going to happen."

Democracy doesn’t care what God wants. It is about what the majority of the people want. It is no answer to say that maybe God cares what the majority of the people want. It just does not matter to democracy. Thus democracy is anti-god and secularist.

Christians may say that in a pre-dominantly Christian country democracy does take into consideration what God wants for the Christians let his revelation to them influence their voting. But this is not taking God into consideration. It is taking the people's will into consideration.

Democracy needs to be secular for a religious influence is only going to make it more difficult to implement and less likely to reach its potential as a force for good.


Democracy implies that the decent person keeps religious belief out of his or her politics.

Is secularism directly against religion?

Secularism is not directly against religion. It simply ignores it - unless it is dangerous religion. To be against religion just because it is religion is not secularism.

 

However, if religion forbids you to ignore it, then secularism is directly against it.

As secularism does not favour any religion, it follows that it lets religion and the opponents of religion get on with it. If it is not the enemy of religion, it is not exactly the friend either!

Even the most bigoted religions still depend on secularism for their own existence. Without secular law, one religion could annihilate another. The religious often say that secularism is against them. If so, Buddhists are liars for saying they are not against Christianity but are just doing their own thing. If so, every religion essentially needs to be against every other religion and will nourish this sectarianism if it has the integrity to be true to itself. Religions that claim to be the truth necessarily have to accuse secularism of being against the truth for ignoring their claims to magically know the truth. In their view, secularists are evil whether they know it or not. But it is obvious that in politics and in life, it is right to try and be neutral so secularists are being maligned. Giving any religion favours is only going to cause problems. Resentment will surface.

When secularism must be hostile to some religion and to supernaturalism

Secularism is necessarily hostile to religion in the following cases.

Doctrines such as that God comes first or alone is important infer that if people have value it is only in so far as they believe in God and submit to him. Such a view if taken seriously can lead to crime. It means that if the believer doubts he or she begins to lose the reason why he or she is a civilised person. If you only serve others as a means of serving God it follows that deep down you have no regard for them. If you lose your faith, you will find it easy to engage in anti-social activity and even crime.

Many religions require members to put God's laws and wishes first. Secularism will ask them to consider only secular principles - they have to think and act as if they do not believe. The religious followers must choose to obey the state and not their gods or faith and especially when they become members of the government. The religious person must betray or be against (that's hostility!) his or her faith.

Some religions claim that they are not man-made - they claim to be faiths or facts revealed by God. The religionists who seek political office must treat their faith as man-made and not authoritative when it contradicts secularism. Secularism requires that religion be treated not as factually true. It requires that religion be treated as if it were as human in origin as a golf club is.

The state will have to take measures to counteract religious teaching that undermines its authority and place.

Even if the divine rules match the secular principles the believers are betraying the secular state. This is because the reason they uphold the principles is not because they are secular or right but because their religion says so. They might act like secularists sometimes but that does not mean they are secularists to any degree.

There is the issue of trust. Can we trust a secularist who claims to be religious (in terms of belonging to an anti-secular religion) as well?

Secularism is against all religion that claims to be relevant to politics. It opposes the idea that the state should care about what God's law is. To assert secularism is to oppose those faiths and so all secularism is at least indirectly opposed to such religion.

If a Church teaches that God alone matters or even that God comes first does it make sense to say, "Church and state must be separate"? Of course not! Secularism must discourage such religion. Its at least an implied threat.

The state must work by naturalistic assumptions

There is no such thing as a person without a political stance. Even if you are passive and will not vote you are still making a political stance of some kind. Religion will either actively or passively interfere with politics. That is unavoidable. It is a reason why naturalistic and non-religious views need to be encouraged by the state. Too much religion weakens the separation needed between Church and state.

Suppose a Catholic gets a miraculous cure from an incurable disease. The Catholic decides to try and make some money out of it. The state has to decree that he never had the disease in the first place and decide that his doctor made the mistake of misdiagnosing him and tricked him. Thus if a complaint of fraud is made against him, the state must uphold it.

The state will have to act as if miracles don't happen - even if they do! The state needs a naturalistic (ie non-supernatural) methodology otherwise murderers who claim that aliens or demons who impersonated them committed the crimes will have to get off scot-free on the grounds of insufficient evidence. If a doctor diagnoses a person with cancer and that person is subsequently tested and there is no cancer what then? Even if the person experienced a miracle, the person should have the legal right to sue his or her doctor for unprofessionalism.

If the state said, "All miracles that do not promote the Roman Catholic faith are false or to be ignored" that would be a violation of the separation that is needed between Church and state. The Catholic Church says that if Mary appears it may be a miracle and must be investigated. But if some pagan God such as Mars appears they pay no attention to it and dismiss it as fraud outright without even checking. The state can't endorse such a biased and sectarian attitude so all it can do is dismiss all miracle claims. It is the only fair approach.

Back to the murderers, belief in miracles necessarily creates doubt in their guilt. Miracle claims are always based on acceptance of human testimony. They imply that we should believe a miracle on the strength of the testimony. The argument, "A criminal who believed in miracles would blame a miracle anyway", is ad hominem. That means opposition to the person rather than the argument they make and its therefore unfair. Even if the man or woman is a liar, they could be telling the truth. If we are honest, there is always at least a bit of vindictiveness when somebody gets punished. We enjoy it when we see "bad" people getting what we may call their come-uppance. To punish a person when a miracle increases the possibility that they may be innocent enhances vindictiveness. It makes us at least want to be partly unfair. It might be fair to punish x for a crime, but in so far as you doubt x's guilt in so far you intend to be unfair. There is a touch of unfairness in our hearts even when we are fair.

Religion says miracles are not absurd. This is despite the fact that many honest and sane people speak of experiencing absurd miracles such as alien abductions and communications from other planets. Miracle beliefs are based on the evidence of reliable testimony but religion only accepts this evidence when it suits it. It only pretends to care about the evidence. Each religion only adopts miracles for belief when they suit its theology and its prejudices. Their belief is really self-deception. Its about prejudice and not truth or decency. The truth is that miracle claims attack and undermine the reality check we need to be able to function in this world. Some people have such faith in God that they would cause a nuclear holy war if they could. All who promote belief in miracles are contributing to this mind-set even if they don't like it. The state has no choice but to hold that all who get any benefits from miracle and apparition claims are charlatans. This is not dogmatism or prejudice. It is about being a state and concerned for the common good.

If a religion chooses to approach an issue with naturalistic glasses there is no problem with letting the state consult it. This does not undermine Church and state because the Church in cases like this is not speaking as a religion but as a group of thinkers.

The state should discourage religious faith

Secularism is the guarantor of religious freedom. That does not mean it has to encourage religion. If religion vanishes through secular influence, that is not an indication that secularism has destroyed religious freedom as long as the people leave religion of their own accord. Religious freedom implies the freedom to become non-religious.

The state has the right to discourage religious faith but by research and debate only. Does this contradict the principle of separation of Church and state? No. If the state does nothing it is encouraging religion. Silence is tacit consent.

Religion has the right to criticise the state. So the state should have the right to give its opinion on religion.

The state should warn people against religion. Religion should have complete freedom in the press but warnings and refutations should be attached to their books.

Let the state conduct official investigations into harmful religion. Let it make the findings public. Censorship is never necessary. If a religion advocates murder and publishes a book to promote this view, let it. But the state could produce a booklet giving the proper view that is distributed with the book. Defamation of religion should be allowed as long as a balancing viewpoint is made reasonably available.

The state should never fund religious enterprises that attempt to evangelise.

The state is to be neutral on the question of religion - whether it is true or not. Is that neither encouragement or discouragement? In theory it is. In practice it is discouragement. Enthusiasm is contagious. A neutral state can't do the one thing that encourages religion - show fervour and passion for faith.

When a religion is anti-secular, is it so bad to be anti-religion?

It is right to be anti-religion when the religion is anti-secular and therefore anti-liberty and against human rights. Such a religion is against human rights in principle. It may allow and respect some rights for it has to have any success but this is purely Machiavellian "respect".

Some may say religion must have a say in how the government runs the country. Why must religion have this right? Religion might say that it is because it brings people to God and all authority belongs to God. Then if so religion is to run the country but then which religion? Religion might say it is because it teaches morality to people. But you don't need religion for morality. If you need religion for morality then what religion? Bible religion? But then consider how Buddhists are so nice.

Some religions order their followers who are political figureheads on pain of sin to oppose abortion law. This is expected even if the people have decided as a democracy to permit abortion. They argue that protecting human life is more important than respecting the will of the people. They could say this not in the name of God but in the name of right. It can't be both. In so far as you do something because somebody says so, you do it because of them and not because you care if it is right.  You are actually putting them before what is right.

It is important that people separate from religion. If enough religious people decide that a country must ban anything that can cause a person to go to Hell forever, they can. If you don't want such political disasters then separate from religion. There is enough to disagree about without religion adding to it. There is enough to legislate against. Don't add to it. The money wasted on fighting legislation battles declared by religion and superstition could have been used to build amazing hospitals and improve the health of the nations.

God is seen a sort of person or being who embodies principles of right and wrong and love. Thus you cannot love God personally with all your heart and abandon his principles just because a secular nation does not like them.

Religion commands that politicians and judges who subscribe to it must put its dictates first. It claims that the infallible God is to be loved above all things and in preference to everybody else and yourself. The Catholic politician who believes that God forbids use of the contraceptive pill and calls it murderous is denying that God comes first if he supports the view that women who disagree with this have a right to choose abortion and this right should be provided for in law. The very concept of God contradicts the way most politicians operate. It opposes their secular values even if it does manage to pollute and obscure true secularism.

Promoting religion means that you are assisting in a power that takes away peoples rights if not in this country but in another.

 

Obedience to religious authority is always demeaning

 

We know that authority based dogma is evil. Nobody has the right to say to you, “Live this way and do what I say and believe what I say because I say so. Few dare to be that blatant so they usually claim that God gave them authority. They know that makes them seem more plausible. No being must claim authority over us but encourage each one of us to have authority over our own lives like grown-ups. If there is a God he must not be king but friend.

 

Nobody has the right to tell you to do what is against your conscience. Not even God could have that right. If your conscience is wrong those who know better have to try and enlighten you but they cannot compel you.


It is vital that each one of us thinks for herself or himself. Do not let yourself be victimised by your biased feelings. Feelings are just feelings. Feelings never help you find the truth. If you think they do, it is what you thought about your feelings did that. Learn and inform your conscience. Always live by your conscience. Your conscience must be informed.

 

Is secularism a religion?

Strangely some people who say religion is by definition good fear what they call "The Religion of Secularism".

 

Secularism is not a religion.  It cannot be for it does not revere gods or God. Some say that secularism teaches that each person is his or her own God and that is religious. Secularism does not teach that but it certainly thinks it. But being your own god is a metaphor. You are not really a god. You are only a god in the sense that you decide what to think and do. A God or religion has no say.

 

Secularism does not tell you what to believe so it is not a religion. When you reject an authority telling you what to believe, you are thought to be merely deciding that something else will now tell you what to believe. If you will no longer let yourself be influenced by people saying, "God says this or that" you are agreeing to be influenced by the non-religious. But if you ditch religion and Bibles you are not necessarily going to some other authority. Secularism is not about authority but about people free from religion dialoging together. Secularism may use authority in the law but that authority is a necessary evil and should be the result of dialogue among the people.

 

Secularism seeks to be a default position not an authority position.

Is secularism fundamentalist?

It is not fundamentalist to give people as much freedom as is possible. For example, the state must forbid stealing but has to mind its own business where divorce is concerned and not be banning it. Resist those who object to the freedoms we have and who complain that they are being afflicted with a liberal dictatorship. They might for example say that no-fault divorce and abortion on demand in the early stages of pregnancy is liberal fundamentalism. It is not if those things are the will of the majority of the people. Because we trust ourselves and have confidence in ourselves, we eschew monarchy and the idea of God functioning as king. Our devotion to democratic rule is unwavering.

Liberalism can never be fundamentalist for it if is then everything is fundamentalist! Even if it is fundamentalist better it than any other kind. It is the least damaging kind.

People who are against liberals complain that liberals impose liberal laws on sections of the nation who want stricter restrictive laws. For example, liberals are called fundamentalists for imposing say laws that legalise homosexuality on sections that want gay men imprisoned. They are accused of defending homosexuality at the expense of the will of the people and ignoring religious prohibitions against homosexuality as a very serious sin.

Only true tolerance ignores religious doctrines

What is the difference if any between secularism and equal tolerance of religion?

Secularism is a better guarantor of freedom of religion than equal tolerance of religion. Equal tolerance of religion is intolerant towards those faiths which admit that one religion is not as good as another and all religions cannot be true. Equal tolerance implies intolerance towards religions that advocate intolerance.

Faith must promote what is best for people on the human level. Keep all religious and spiritual assumptions and prejudices out of this. This way even if the faith is wrong, there is no harm done. Here is an example of how this works. A pregnant girl has a strong chance of dying if she has a baby. We can argue that the embryo she carries doesn't have a developed brain yet so she can have an abortion to stay alive. A religious person will say that the embryo has a soul like the rest of us and has the exact same right to life as we have. So they conclude that a termination would be murder. We don't say that it is wrong to terminate the pregnancy on religious or spiritual grounds. We consider the issue without bringing in unproven religious assumptions. If we err, let us err on the side of caution. Yet it is true spirituality to decide the issue on natural grounds! Religious assumptions are mere ideas and must not be put before people. To do that is inexcusable intolerance!

True tolerance bases itself on the non-religious level. What else can we do? If we start bringing in religious presumptions there will be no end to confusion and the disagreement. Bringing in religious presumptions is intolerance. If they call us intolerant, and if they are right, then there is no such thing as tolerance.

It demands that they respect peoples' freedom to believe in religion or to not believe. It demands that the followers of each religion be at least tolerant of other faiths if they cannot accept them as valuable or as good as their own.

Tolerance means that you point out errors in people's thinking and even in their religions. Laxity is not tolerance. Laxity is being too lazy to care about the world around you. Not giving a toss what others do is not tolerance either.

What must govern our society? Religious rules? Secular rules? Fundamentalist rules?

The answer is secular rules.

Uphold your dignity by understanding what the secular state must be like and contribute to it's development.