Friday, April 14, 2006

Atheism/secularism a religion. (Off topic)

My concern regarding this point is a serious one.

I may be wrong of course but my conviction is that atheism/secularism is very "sneaky". Atheism portrays all religions as options on a non-religious background.

Atheism becomes then the only religion that is entirely non-religious and gets the position of power by default.

All religions are excluded from civil power by the default assumption that states have to be secular or they end up as one religion fighting with another.

By seeking to present itself as the non-religious default position atheism swipes all the power. It is a brilliant piece of intellectual and cultural manouvering by atheists which has resulted in a dominant atheistic position being assumed as the only basis for civil and educational endeavour at the state level.

It is simply a brilliant but deceptive device to present secularism as if it were the default position for civil government to avoid religious strife.

Defining atheism as outside of religion and saying that a state MUST be secular is simply the same as saying the only states that have a right to exist are secular ones. Which is ruling that atheism rules without a struggle….a conclusion that I am unwilling to concede… not surprisingly!

It is much more accurate (in my view) to think of atheism/secularism as a religion or world view which needs to compete on the same intellectual basis as all the other religions/worldviews. There is no non-religious neutral level playing field… to imagine such a thing is simply to concede the field to the atheists.

22 Comments:

Anonymous Brian said...

I have to take a different position on this. I don't see atheism or secularism as being a power struggle issue. It is there as a position of neutrality that allows for the harmonious co-existence of differing faiths. Britain is a christian country but I would think (I don't have figures) that it is not the dominant faith. Would you have governance changed to accomodate this position? In a democratic society I would rather have state issues seperated from all religious viewpoints, which should then be left to the individual to choose.

I take issue with this 'atheism=religion' argument because it is often used to imply that civility and morality cannot be achieved without acceptance of divinity. Choosing not to believe in the latter does not alter my moral compass. If anything, it strengthens it by shifting responsibility onto me.

10:04 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Brian,

Thanks for your comment! You are illustrating exactly the point that I am trying to make. You believe in a neutral platform of secularism upon which different religious groups preach their message and moralities. I am saying that the neutral platform is itself one of the religious groups preaching its message and its morality but the device of thinking of it as neutral is extremely effective in getting the bulk of the power.

To be a Christian country means pledging allegiance to Christ as ultimate King and seeking to bring every aspect of national life under his rule.

This is what the UK is nominally and to some extent historically but actually it is an atheistic state acknowledging no authority higher than the majority of MPs in the house of commons.

10:21 am  
Anonymous Brian said...

"To be a Christian country means pledging allegiance to Christ as ultimate King and seeking to bring every aspect of national life under his rule."

Andrew,

This is a scary thought, to me, as I reserve the right to not share this view. I don't subscribe to any religion and neither do any of them threaten me. Religion is a personal issue, just as non-religion is.

This is a multi-faith, multi-cultural country and the moralities that we use as governance must encompass and reflect that. To govern by the view above would never be acceptable to any number of other faith-groups. Thankfully, we don't live in a theocracy. I'm happy with the authority of a group of elected people. It's not perfect but it's democracy and is religious-neutral.

11:32 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Brian,

I was simply trying to convey the historical position of the UK and its actual present official situation. The current head of state pledged her allegiance to Christ as her King and the bible as her ultimate law. The crown jewels have crosses all over them signifying this. The orb is I think a symbol of the Queen holding office and rule under Christ..hence the cross as signifying Christ's dominion worldwide.

If Christ is scary...presumably you have someone less scary!

Is parliament religiously neutral? Can anyone be religiously neutral?

12:14 pm  
Blogger Jeffahn said...

Atheism is not a religion and would in fact not exist if it weren't for religion.

Atheism is merely a ration differention between those who believe in the supernatual and those who don't.

1:39 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

I'd note that there is in fact a strong difference between secularism and atheism. The former would be better classed as a form of agnosticism - in particular, in a secular education system, telling kids that God doesn't exist would be as bad as telling kids that God does exist.

Atheists actively say that there isn't a God or that belief in God is unjustified (depending on your definition of "atheist"). Secularists would merely label the question as not being one that they have any authority to comment on. I'd say I fall into both categories to some extent - I feel that atheism is right for me, but I wouldn't necessarily try to inflict it on someone else.

I'd say that it is no more appropriate for a state to be atheist than it is for a state to be Christian, but secularism is pretty much a must-have.

3:49 pm  
Anonymous Brian said...

The concept of a deity is not scary, but the prospect of having to swear allegiance to one is.

Maybe parliament isn't religiously neutral but in order to achieve harmony in a multi-faith society it has to be religiously balanced. I would argue that this is achieved by removing religion from the equation. Introduce it and you move from a democracy to a theocracy.

I think religious neutrality is all around us. It's a position I'm happy with - I, like many people, don't subscribe to any religion and I have no opinions on the religious choices of others (it's a personal choice) - doesn't that make me religiously neutral?

7:04 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Jeffahn,

Atheism is a world and life view for the people who reject superhuman intelligence as part of reality.

In many ways it operates in exactly the same way as a religion. It influences thinking regarding origins and destinies it affects views of morality and law and history and influences the important "rites of passage" in a persons life and family.

I use religion in the sence of a "world and life view" because it is quicker! Are you happier with "world and life view"?

11:03 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Lifewish,

"I'd note that there is in fact a strong difference between secularism and atheism....etc"

I agree that your distinctions are valid and important here Lifewish...but...I think that secularism, agnosticism and atheism are pretty friendly bed fellows and a lot closer to each other than is commonly appreciated.

I would see secularism as simply a brilliant trojan horse of atheism.

11:14 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Brian,
"The concept of a deity is not scary, but the prospect of having to swear allegiance to one is. "

A God who allows me to be his equal is ok...but a God who interferes... can go and find another universe!

11:17 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Brian,
"Maybe parliament isn't religiously neutral but in order to achieve harmony in a multi-faith society it has to be religiously balanced. I would argue that this is achieved by removing religion from the equation. Introduce it and you move from a democracy to a theocracy."

"Religious neutrality" or being "Religiously balanced" really means giving in to the most persistently violent of all the religious groups usually.

Removing religion from the equation is simply the establishment of an atheistic state using other words.

11:20 am  
Anonymous Brian said...

"Removing religion from the equation is simply the establishment of an atheistic state using other words."

Hence, atheism=non-religion (not another religion by default).

11:37 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Brian,

That was sneaky and clever and a little underhand!

I was using the word "religion" in the sense that you were using the word... ie established world religions... rather than in the sense in which I think it can also be used...world and life views.. or which atheism is just one of many.

Are you happy with the idea that the word religion can be used to mean "world and life view" and that when used in that sense atheism is a "religion."

12:41 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

I agree that your distinctions are valid and important here Lifewish...but...I think that secularism, agnosticism and atheism are pretty friendly bed fellows and a lot closer to each other than is commonly appreciated.

Well, I'd note that that's possibly because, historically speaking, Christianity has been no friend of either secularism or agnosticism. In fact, for the vast majority of Christianity's existence, it has been actively involved in persecuting anyone with different beliefs. The same goes for Islam.

Atheism, on the other hand, has generally been very pro-secularism because, historically, it's only been in extremely secular societies that atheists have "got away with it". My experience has been that there's a surprisingly large number of religious people who have no problem with other religions but are horrified by atheism.

I don't think atheists try to promote secularism because it encourages atheism; they try to promote secularism because otherwise they probably wouldn't survive. It's an alliance of mutual necessity, not an indicator of philosophical similarity. You'd probably find that, for example, Christians living in fundamentalist Muslim states are very pro-secularism as well.

2:07 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Lifewish,
"Well, I'd note that that's possibly because, historically speaking, Christianity has been no friend of either secularism or agnosticism. In fact, for the vast majority of Christianity's existence, it has been actively involved in persecuting anyone with different beliefs. The same goes for Islam."

...the same goes for atheism when it gets power.

Which and when would you say was the first truly secular state?

Which states have the best record in terms of not persecuting atheists?

2:31 pm  
Anonymous Brian said...

I didn't mean to be underhand - it just worked out that way!! Seriously though, it does go to show that on a logical basis religon can be a circular argument. I guess that it is why it is best referred to as a 'faith' and also why it is should remain a personal belief, not one for governance.

To me, religion is an all-encompassing world-view that involves the belief in a higher authority. There are obviously various degrees of interpretation of this which is the basis for different categories of religion; atheist don't accept the possibility of a deity, agnostics need proof etc, etc. Somewhere in there there has to be the opposite view that mankind is all that there is. This is my viewpoint - I suppose that makes me a humanist but I don't feel the need to carry any label.

3:32 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

This is off-topic now, but I've finally found the quote I was frantically searching for a couple of comments back:

Lastly, those are not all to be tolerated who deny the being of God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all; besides also, those that by their atheism undermine and destroy all religion, can have no pretence of religion whereupon to challenge the privilege of toleration.
(John Locke, Treatise of Civil Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration)


Locke apparently felt that atheism was the only religious viewpoint that was completely unacceptable. That's the atmosphere that atheism has been stuck in for centuries, and that's why atheists tend on average to be far more secularist than their religious counterparts. The situation holds today - my sister's currently on a gap year in Mauritania, and apparently you're supposed to tell the (Muslim) locals that you're a Christian even if you're an atheist. They can accept the former, but the latter apparently causes much freaking out.

You said:
...the same goes for atheism when it gets power.

Exactly. Secularism isn't so consistently supported by atheists because they're atheists; it's consistently supported by them because they're the underdog. I just hope that if atheism ever got serious power its adherents would have the integrity to maintain secularism.

Which and when would you say was the first truly secular state?

I couldn't honestly tell you. Athens had a good stab at it back in the day, it probably sprang up in a few other places worldwide (China, possibly). I'd say that secularism was first considered to be an ideal in and of itself in the US, though.

Which states have the best record in terms of not persecuting atheists?

Most recently? Generally, the ones without too much fire and brimstone floating around (the US is a notable exception here, although I can't imagine an atheist ever becoming President). Europe in particular has been fairly atheist-friendly since the Enlightenment.

4:00 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Lifewish,
"I'd say that secularism was first considered to be an ideal in and of itself in the US, though."

When would you say that the US became a secular state?


What is attractive about a secular state is that it does not persecute.

Can we imagine a secular state which persecutes and a non-secular state which does not.

All states need to persecute some people ...the difficult bit is choosing the right people.

6:38 pm  
Blogger Jeffahn said...

“Atheism is a world and life view for the people who reject superhuman intelligence as part of reality.”

Reality just is. By “superhuman“ I assume that you meant supernatural. We all agree that reality exists. People have proposed supernatural explanations for certain things. The onus is on them to provide positive evidence for their claims BEFORE accusing others of rejecting them. Atheism is label that exists merely to act as a counter to the unsupported claims of supernatural explanations. I could, by the same token, label you an atufiinskimovist for refusing to believe that my erstwhile pet cat is the supreme creator of the universe (he told me so, and we are all to drink for the toilet in his honour).

“In many ways it operates in exactly the same way as a religion. It influences thinking regarding origins and destinies it affects views of morality and law and history and influences the important "rites of passage" in a persons life and family.”

You really need to do some some research on the definition and history of religion. According to your premise, almost anything could be labelled a religion. 'dog-walking', 'steam-cooking', 'tinfoil hat-wearing' etc. etc. Your list of what-not is also pretty meaningless. Many religions don't say anything about those things, and others have commentary on many more issues.

“I use religion in the sence of a "world and life view" because it is quicker! Are you happier with "world and life view"?”

No. Because I know that you will do whatever you can to convert me to your religion and destroy Tuffinskimovism before we even have the chance to air out first paid-for fund-raising advertisement on daytime television. You aren't interested in “teaching the controversy” between religions -you only want to impose yours on everyone else.

The solution? Secularism, rationality & bounded religious freedom.

10:32 pm  
Anonymous Farshad said...

Kinda offtopic but there is something about atheism that we should have a closer look at it and that is the way they try to establish a bridge between their belief system (religion) and science.

For me atheism is just another belief system. It's based on a fundamental presumption that there is no supernatural. Well, anyone is free to believe this way.

However, the problem starts when the atheistic view tries to adhere itself to the science and their claim that atheism is totally supported by scientific evideneces. At this point science becomes their trojan horse.

We can observe fruits of science all around us. Cell phones, DVDs ,Computers, space shuttles and etc. So when a scientist like Dawkins (is he?) talks with greate authrity that science proves us there is no God/supernatural, there are plenty of people who will likely buy this statement. In this case the average layman is open to make absurd analogies like: "my cellphone is working, it is science, so whatever Dawkins says also must be true"

However the reality is totally different. Whatever makes your cellphone work is concrete science; a practical, testable and %100 documented field that we call electronics.

Whatever Dawkins bases his own belief system is not practical science. It's an unfalsifiable, non-testable philosophy based on materialistic precommitments, encapsulating a faulty logic that gains %90 of its power from authority and (atheistic)pluralism.

So by spreading a distorted view of science among the public, they try to shift a secular state to an atheistic one.

10:52 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

When would you say that the US became a secular state?

Again, hard to say - mostly because it's been a bit on and off. I'd say that at the time of the Bill of Rights the US was more or less secular. It went through a phase in the 1800s where it was most emphatically not secular. Not sure quite where that ended.

What is attractive about a secular state is that it does not persecute.

Can we imagine a secular state which persecutes and a non-secular state which does not.


By my definition, a secular state that persecuted peple for their religious beliefs would be an oxymoron. Anything else, such as actions, would technnically be fair game for a secular state to persecute, as long as they didn't actively choose to persecute the characteristics of a religion.

All states need to persecute some people ...the difficult bit is choosing the right people.

But of course. Not being a lawyer, I'm not really qualified to speak here - as long as they're not persecuting me, anyway :P

12:26 am  
Blogger Lifewish said...

So when a scientist like Dawkins (is he?) talks with greate authrity that science proves us there is no God/supernatural, there are plenty of people who will likely buy this statement.

I don't recall Dawkins ever saying this, although I'm aware of situations where he's been misquoted to this effect. What Dawkins says is that science, by providing naturalistic explanations for certain phenomena, removes the need to seek supernatural explanations - for example, knowledge of electricity means that you don't need to blame lightning strikes on Thor. Science is a necessary (but not a sufficient) condition for atheism.

The other thing that Dawkins says is that, if you apply scientific precepts across the board, the worldview you'll end up with is atheistic. This is not a controversial issue - I doubt anyone here would say that there is incontrovertible scientific evidence for God's existence, in the same way there is for gravity. Whether you want to take this approach is a philosophical issue - there are many situations where the scientific approach is not appropriate (for one reason or another), and you're well within your rights to decide that God's existence is one of them.

I believe that Dawkins would say: why not apply those precepts across the board? We know that they're very successful in a wide range of contexts; what makes religion any different? Obviously science can't prove that there's no God, but it's been extremely successful at proving that there's not necessarily a God. And if there's no scientific need for a God, how on Earth can you justify invoking one?

As I said, however, this is a philosophical question not a scientific one, and if Dawkins were demonstrated to be conflating the two he certainly wouldn't be doing science any favours.

12:41 am  

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