Saturday, April 15, 2006

Secularism one religious viewpoint? (Off topic)

This post originated when I called atheism a "religious" viewpoint in a comment and caused another commenter to laugh. I am trying to explain why atheism is best viewed as a "religion" in the sense of a "world and life view" and that secularism is merely a comfortable wrapper for an atheistic state... a pretended religious neutrality... a secular platform upon which religions dances and generally make themselves look silly:

Another way of looking at it is that secularism is the "political wing" of the atheistic fundamentalists who are seeking to bring an end to any religious influence on the state.

On a level playing field there should be no default assumption of secularity:

13 Comments:

Blogger Mike Godfrey said...

Pop art?

12:57 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

We may be using different definitions of the word "secularism" here. I've been thinking of it as being religious libertarianism - the idea that religious beliefs are none of the government's business, and hence that it should avoid commenting on them or promoting any religious viewpoint (including atheism) over another.

Is this version of secularism something that you would be happy with? If not, how could it be modified to avoid promoting atheism without actually promoting theism?

2:21 pm  
Blogger Tim Hague said...

Andrew, are you aware that - unlike the USA - the UK has a state religion?

Are you also aware that atheism is not a religion? Atheism is merely a lack of belief in any gods.

Most atheists do not 'deny' the Christian God or any other gods, they merely don't believe in them. This is called 'weak' or 'implicit' atheism.

There are of course some atheists who do explicitly deny the existence of any gods. This is called 'strong' or 'explicit' atheism, and constitutes the minority of atheists. Many theists imagine that all atheists fit this most narrow, limited form of the concept of atheism. This is not the case.

Atheism should also not be confused with agnosticism, which is a statement about knowledge, not about belief.

3:34 pm  
Blogger Tim Hague said...

A nice quote I found somewhere that nicely encapsulates atheism:

"If religions were hair colours, then atheism would be bald."

3:38 pm  
Blogger Stephen E. Jones said...

Andrew

Does your blog have an RSS feed? If so, what is it?

If not, and you wish to enable it, just go to Settings, Site Feed and select "Yes" to "Publish Site Feed".

Sorry for using comments, but I could not find your email address.

Stephen E. Jones
http://creationevolutiondesign.blogspot.com/

2:00 am  
Blogger Kizzzmet said...

Atheism isn't really a religious belief although it does replace religious belief in a person's ontological perceptions if they do not believe in a god.

Secularism in the U.S was written into the founding of the republic by people who all believed in some form of God. They were not atheists yet wanted the government to take a secular position due to the understanding that religious involvement by government leads to civil unrest. England by that time had undergone the battles between catholic and protestant nobility and commoners for control over the country. All throughout european history into the 20th century (croatia in WW2) there has been unrest and war and atrocities commited by governments when they become entangled in religion. In the U.S. the founders were fairly well educated in history and wanted to create a secular government so as to avoid religious unrest and plots for revolution.

So it's not that secularism is only supported by atheists. All governments ideally should be secular. Of course the government should not take that mandate too far and actually take a position antagonistic to religion or religious belief. In the U.S. there is the interpretation of the law that a secular government must enforce the removal of any reference to God in any institution under their stewardship. The government is not meant to keep God out of peoples vision or thought, it is supposed to not be involved in religion. By taking the role as the enforcer of keeping religious ideas completely out of periphally controlled institutions (schools) the government is overstepping it's role as peacekeeper and into the role of thought police. A free society that disallows ideas because some people don't like them, is not a free society.

I don't see secularism as a political party for atheists, I see it as a common sense approach to running a government. Atheists are fearful of religious belief taking control over government, and they should be fearful. Look at islamic countries, look at european history, religious strife was and is the norm. The shia and sunni at each others throats, the hindus and muslims at each others throats, muslims against jews, catholic against protestant etc. Government must remain aloof but not take a position against religious belief in general.

9:08 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Stephen,

Yes it is enabled and the address is http://idintheuk.blogspot.com/atom.xml

9:48 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Kizzzmet,

Thank you for your thoughtful and balanced approach. I am not sure how many secularists take the view that you do of secular government and law making.

It is clear that law makers make laws in accordance with their world view. In this respect atheism and secularism function in precisely the same way as a religion. If you exclude a revelation from a god as the basis of your legislation then it is simply groups of people fighting for control. I do not believe that secularism provides an inherently more stable state than any other worldview.

5:16 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

It is necessary that lawmakers deal in "consensual reality" - dealing with things, such as guns and theft, where the same data apply to all of us. Otherwise

If you ask 5 people to ask their God what to do in a situation, you're likely to get 5 different answers (possibly more if they're polytheistic). One of them may indeed be divinely inspired. However, until anyone figures out a way to tell which one is actual revelation, it's not really justifiable for the government to accept any of them as evidence. On average it won't help the government to come to more accurate conclusions, and support for any one answer over the others is likely to be societally divisive.

Thus, even if members of government have religious beliefs, it's in the interests of the nation for them to keep their beliefs out of their work. They should instead stick to the data that everyone can agree on and the conclusions that can be drawn from them. This is the essence of secularism.

1:08 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Lifewish,

I agree that it is pointless making laws that you cannot enforce and such activity acts to bring the law into disrepute.

The point I am trying to make is that you either make laws that you believe come from your god or you argue for laws that you want to make with yourself and your friends as your authority... with or without a majority of the population of the state.

Law making is inherantly an activity that expresses in law a persons worldview whether that of an established religion or of the view that there is no revelation of an absolute set of standards for all people.

A secular worldview will influence lawmaking just as much as a nonsecular one and is proving to be just as divisive as another religious view.

Modern secularists are not averse to imposing their own views of morality on a majority who disagree.. eg. the abortion laws in the US.

If you only make laws that everyone can agree on all the time you will have anarchy.

7:40 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

OK, I think I just found the ideal definition of secularism, taken from this page:

"The secularists reject the authority of God."

No, they reject your claim to know what God demands and reject your authority to impose those alleged demands on others.


Right, moving on to your comment...

The point I am trying to make is that you either make laws that you believe come from your god or you argue for laws that you want to make with yourself and your friends as your authority... with or without a majority of the population of the state.

A secular worldview will influence lawmaking just as much as a nonsecular one and is proving to be just as divisive as another religious view.

According to the Census, there are 6 major religions in the UK, plus a host of minor religions (go Jedi!). Which particular religious view were you planning on using?

Secularism just says that none of these different religous positions should be given special treatment (and that includes atheism). The laws we come up with have to be ones that we can all live with. The Golden Rule applies here - how would you like being stuck in a country where a belief that you found bizarre and possibly offensive dictated the law of the land? I doubt most Christians would be happy with this, and anecdotal evidence seems to support that.

So, if you're not allowed to use "my God said it, therefore it should be enshrined in law" as an argument, what are you left with? Well, actually what you're left with is pretty much what we have now in most Western countries. And it's actually shown itself to be far less damaging than giving members of one sect the power of life and death over members of all the others.

Modern secularists are not averse to imposing their own views of morality on a majority who disagree.. eg. the abortion laws in the US.

I'd note that they're not actually imposing their own views of morality on anyone. They're merely refraining from imposing their views of morality on the pregnant woman in question. No-one's saying "you must have an abortion", they're just saying "you can if you want to".

The only imposition they're involved in is preventing other people from forcibly influencing the woman's decision. Whether that's the most valid option is a matter of opinion*, but saying they're "imposing their views" is a bit odd.

* In the interests of disclosure, I'll note that I'd classify abortion as immoral but not unethical - I wouldn't want to be involved in it but I can see how it might be the more appropriate choice for someone else.

10:02 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Lifewish said:

"The secularists reject the authority of God."

No, they reject your claim to know what God demands and reject your authority to impose those alleged demands on others.

I reply:
OK the secularists reject any claim for human beings to know what is right to impose on others…however they then often end up being an elite minority who do impose their views on others.

If secularism is just democracy expressed in law then it should not end up making laws that a majority are convinced are wrong.

Lifewish said:
According to the Census, there are 6 major religions in the UK, plus a host of minor religions (go Jedi!). Which particular religious view were you planning on using?

Secularism just says that none of these different religous positions should be given special treatment (and that includes atheism). The laws we come up with have to be ones that we can all live with. The Golden Rule applies here - how would you like being stuck in a country where a belief that you found bizarre and possibly offensive dictated the law of the land? I doubt most Christians would be happy with this, and anecdotal evidence seems to support that.

So, if you're not allowed to use "my God said it, therefore it should be enshrined in law" as an argument, what are you left with? Well, actually what you're left with is pretty much what we have now in most Western countries. And it's actually shown itself to be far less damaging than giving members of one sect the power of life and death over members of all the others.

I reply:
Secularism goes further than saying that none of the six major religions should be given special treatment. Secularism states that none of them should have any influence.

I am not planning on using any one of the six I am merely attacking the claims of secularism to entirely exclude all six and have a free reign at government and law making as if atheism were actually true. There should be a balance and the position of that balance should reflect the proportions of each religion, the nations cultural and religious history as well as careful consideration of the effects of legislation on minorities. The point I am making is that the exclusion of all religious influence on law making is impossible and impractical and the desire to do so is really seeking to establish state atheism under a change of terminology.



I said:
Modern secularists are not averse to imposing their own views of morality on a majority who disagree.. eg. the abortion laws in the US.

Lifewish replied:
I'd note that they're not actually imposing their own views of morality on anyone. They're merely refraining from imposing their views of morality on the pregnant woman in question. No-one's saying "you must have an abortion", they're just saying "you can if you want to".

I reply:
The secularists are saying that they know the correct definition of the crime of murder. They are saying that the majority of the US are actually wrong on this. Thus secularism is claiming some other authority to make law than a simple majority.

The “you can do it if you want” argument could be applied to any other area of ending life.

7:12 am  
Blogger Lifewish said...

OK the secularists reject any claim for human beings to know what is right to impose on others…

The secularists only reject any claim for human beings to know which God exists, and what His opinions are, with sufficient accuracy as to justify imposing those opinions on others.

If secularism is just democracy expressed in law then it should not end up making laws that a majority are convinced are wrong.

People (especially in groups) can give different answers depending on what question you ask them. For example, in the US, many ID-related groups are attempting to get rules introduced that would enable teachers to teach more or less what they liked about the origins of life without repercussions (with the implication that they'd then be cleared to teach ID). However, if you asked these people whether they thought it was OK to teach that God definitely had nothing to do with OOL, they'd probably say no.

Secularism goes further than saying that none of the six major religions should be given special treatment. Secularism states that none of them should have any influence.

Depends what you mean by influence. My understanding is that they're generally allowed to proffer their opinions (for example in the case of abortion), and even to suggest that their adherents follow those opinions. The only thing that's not allowed is for the government to make decisions on the basis that that's what a given God wants.

I should note that I have a personal interest in ensuring that this doesn't become a valid approach to legislation. All of the Abrahamic religions, and a high proportion of the others, impose the death penalty on people of other religions (see, for example, Exodus 22:20). Atheists such as myself are going to be on the receiving end of all these decrees...

The secularists are saying that they know the correct definition of the crime of murder. They are saying that the majority of the US are actually wrong on this. Thus secularism is claiming some other authority to make law than a simple majority.

In the case of abortion, pretty much everyone with a strong opinion on the subject is claiming to know the correct definition of "murder". There are secularists on both sides of the debate, and some, such as myself, are sat firmly in the middle. The only common ground for all the secularists involved in the discussion is that they do not think "God says X therefore we must legislate Y" to be a desirable approach.

Be careful not to confuse secularism with the Left. There are right-wing secularists as well.

The “you can do it if you want” argument could be applied to any other area of ending life.

Yeah, that was a dodgy argument, sorry. I suspect that there's a way to make it rigorous, but that'll require more brains than I can muster at the moment.

7:14 pm  

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