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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Err, secularism is not a religion

Today, I took part in the Heaven and Earth TV Programme on BBC with Stephen Green of Christian Voice infamy. The bible-thumper (he had actually brought his bible with him) kept equating his religious belief with my demand for secularism and said basically that if one is to be imposed why not his 'world view' from the middle ages...

Err, because secularism isn't a religion. Secularism is a basic minimum for society and says you have a right to belief or superstitious mumbo jumbo as long as it is kept apart from the state and educational system. This benefits the religious as well as the non-religious though of course not the likes of him but they aren't happy unless there is a stoning taking place.

Now, this isn't rocket science. Even if someone is a Christian, she or he doesn't necessarily want to live under the system Green has in mind (now that's an understatement). Also, there are a lot of other people in society with other religions and with no religion who won't survive a second under Green's heaven on earth.

And of course there is that one small problem; even if there is historical amnesia about Christianity's inquisitions and witch burnings - there are ample current examples of religion in power – none of them very pretty I might add - to turn anyone off.


jp said...

These people can often be found arguing the merits of Creationism, too, and they'll tell you how believing in Evolution amounts to the same thing. But this is obviously a fallacious argument since religious dogma only substitutes what we hope is true for what we can quantifiably observe. As Bertrand Russell pointed out, "Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief he wll be satisfied with bad ones." Religion, then, convinces us to believe in things left over from a time when all we had were bad ones. Science--in the form of a secular education, for example--convinces us to believe we now have good ones and can, with a little courage, continue building better ones. Which, of course, benefit both the religious and the sceptics...

mostazaf said...

The argument that secularism is a religion is a none starter. It is a self-referential statement. To be a religion, there has to be a dogma, and irrational belief in such dogma.

This statement first assumes that everything is a religion to begin with, and therefore, non-belief in religion, must itself be a form of religion.

For a secular to say that he/she requires empirical evidence in order to accept something until further notice - is simple self-evident reasonableness. It is not belief in any dogma. Rather it questions the foundation of all religions. So how can it itself be a religion?

Seculars do not "believe" in anything. They don't have to. non-believing is not the same as believing in the opposite. There are 3 conditions (not 2). Belief in something, Belief that there is no such something, and not having belief in either. It is the 3rd condition that defines secularism.

This is just a lowly language game of sophistry and playing with words that Islamists have perfected in order to push their sorry religion.

Renegade Eye said...

I think you responded correctly. I don't think he learned anything from what you said, but the viewers of the show may have. It is rare to hear a secular voice on TV.

benari said...

Er... religion is not necessarily irrational. I am always amazed with the narrow-minded biases of people who are so vehementaly anti-religious. Such people can make statements that imply that all religion is "superstitious mumbo jumbo." They can pontificate by defining religion as "dogma, and irrational belief in such dogma." And they never blink an eye. We who are faith-oriented in life are often accused of being dogmatic and narrowminded. Oh, really? Why is it then that you secularists can posit such bold assertions a priori, and think that you are being openminded and fair? Have you even taken the time to examine the rational foundations of the Christian faith? Have you ever investigated for yourself the historical data that undergirds the claims of Christianity? Have you ever considered the weight of arguments that are so convincing that atheists and skeptics, such as C. S. Lewis, were compelled to accept the truth of the faith. Have you even examined the source material of that which you oppose? Have you even read the New Testament, for instance? I challenge you to quit accepting cliches and bilious platitudes and think for yourself!

Anonymous said...


what did you actually expect from the gig?

Did you expect Stephen to change his mind and make sense?

Or, did you expect him to be able to make coherent conversation?


jonz said...

Hey great speech at the demo.

Have you heard any more about Reza?

David said...

benari, if there is one area where modern-day Christians really delude themselves, it is on the quality of evidence for the historical Jesus. From the evidence we have, we can deduce vitrually nothing about the life of Jesus. Indeed, there remains a strong possibility that he did not even exist.

To base your Christian faith on the historical evidence available is highly irrational. There are zero contemporary eyewitness accounts. The gospels were penned a generation after his supposed crucifixion, and the extra-biblical evidence was either doctored (eg Josephus), or is merely evidence for the existence of Christians (which nobody doubts).

Cathal Copeland said...

Maryam Namazie writes:

“Secularism is a basic minimum for society and says you have a right to belief or superstitious mumbo jumbo as long as it is kept apart from the state and educational system.”

In open societies, ‘educational systems’ include private schools, both of religious and secular orientation.

So my question is: what is the secularist position on the education of minors? Do you think that parents should be entitled to bring up and educate their children as they deem fit, or is the secularist state entitled to prevent children from being exposed to their parents’ religious and/or political beliefs and/or moral principles?

If, say, I were a devout Catholic who believes that recreational sex is offensive to God (or even a traditionalist atheist who subscribes to Christianity’s moral principles on instrumental grounds) and if I were to live in a secularist state, would I be free to educate my children in a school which endorses my beliefs, or would such activity be criminalized?

Cathal Copeland

mostazaf said...


Rationalism is not the same as empiricism. You can be quite rationalistic about your system of thought, but you can still be asbolutely wrong. Religion can be quite rationalistic, but if you start off from the wrong assumptions that cannot be empirically observed and verified or falsified, then you are just building complex superstructures on shaky swamp ground, which then can only exist in the subjective imagination.

It is very common for religious people to confuse rationalism with reason backed by observation. They assume if ideas can be coherently related to one another in some religious logic, then that somehow makes them true and real.

Facts is that the tenets of your religion invariably goes back to subjective emotions and intuitions. You have no evidence to support your metaphysics (otherwise it would not be metaphysics). Now you can rationalize that. Makes no difference. You are still building a house of sand.

Show me one empirical evidence of any one of your divinities, and I will take this back.

So I will expand what I said before: To be a religion, there has to be a dogma not supported by empirical evidence, and irrational or rationalistic blind faith in such dogma.

Anonymous said...

I think it might be wise to take the view that secularism is a religion since
the way things are going it seems that
religions will be protected by law.

Don said...


'is the secularist state entitled to prevent children from being exposed to their parents’ religious and/or political beliefs and/or moral principles?'

In cases where the beliefs and principles are evidently harmful to the child, yes. If a parent's belief that 'recreational' sex is offensive to god extends to the belief that the child should be punished or killed (an extreme but not unknown case) then certainly the state - secular or otherwise - has a duty to intervene.

Having established the principle, the rest is deciding where to draw the line.