A copy of a rumination on secularism, one of my better attempts I think, in response to an article here and BenK of the Slate Fray's post here.
What is Religion if not Faith? What is secul
Feb 17 2005 1:26PM
What is religion if not faith? What is secularism, properly practiced, but based on verifiable facts such that a community can function with different faiths?
M-W defines secularism as "not overtly religious", which actually quite well describes our system, as it is obviously Christian, but only at times overtly so.
Maybe you wrote in full what you call secularism and I missed it, but one of your comments I did see is that it is dogmatic and divorced from science.
Two questions: what are the secularist dogmas you perceive? (Please don't say that one of the dogmas is Christianity is bad, I'll be really disappointed.)
Second question: since you say... let's find the quote... "It is tied up with and preoccupied by science, although the sciences are not themselves tied to it." I suppose this needs clarification -- do you mean it concerns itself with science, but that it doesn't follow the true tenets of science, or that in your opinion science can in no way logically be connected to secularism?
Whatever the case, you and others maintain that no choice is a choice. In a way, you're right, but in a different, more important way, you're wrong. To say that you do not know the conclusions and would not presume to make them with the present amount of information is, yes, a choice -- but is it a belief, that is, dogmatic faith? I take the approach that it is beyond the reach of science to determine the existence of a God or Gods that are above the laws of science. As such, a proper scientific question cannot be posed or answered. (The intelligent-design type arguments, that God can be proved by essentially finding hints in Her work, or finding questions that are unanswerable, are flawed in a similar way: science has often had questions that seemed intractable, unanswerable, or accorded to one pattern or another -- to conclude it is beyond science, or is an intential act from beyond science, is a leap of faith -- which is fine, but not science. Only in the long term, ~infinity, can it be determined that some scientific questions have absolutely no answers.)
To say, as (I believe... is this faith?) that secularism properly practiced refrains from making a conclusion is not a religion. It can be called fuzzy-headed or persecutory or what have you, but it is not a faith -- it is an independent evaluation of the evidence, i.e. self-directed critical thinking, which is acclaimed even in religions (i.e. the oft practiced part of Bar Mitzvah where the young man/boy must read and discuss sections of the Torah... even to the extent of doubting their interpretation, or even validity), and is certainly an acclaimed and necessary part of democracy. Your (kind of) correct point about the simplest government is a government of one holds (given that one leaves out the real-life problems of being a one-person government, from rebellions to betrayal to satire to growing old), but a democracy where people do not evaluate the facts for themselves is no better, in the end, than one run by one man or woman who dictates what the facts are.
This, in the end, is I think the positive and vital part of secularism (properly practiced) in our system: only by questioning (the news, your parents, the Bible, the Qu'ran, the Torah, your president, yourself, your coach, etc.) can you arrive at intelligent decisions about how to participate in your democracy. You may determine, after questioning, that the Bible's law is above "(hu)man's law", and then you have to deal with living in a government of, by, and for (humans). But if you assume it true, just as if you assume Rush, Randi, Brit, Jon, or Dan, you cannot deal with, much less contribute to, a strong and just government.
The point of secularism (esp. as practiced in the gov't and schools) should be: there are some questions science can't answer. What is blue, really? (Try describing it without referencing other objects as in "the sky is blue".) What is beyond the universe? What happens when you faster than the speed of light? What would the world have been like if (I, you, the President, Churchill, whomever) had never lived? IS THERE A GOD? What are His/Her teachings? Are they true literally or as allegory? For someone to say, "This is math class, I don't know if God exists in infinity because that questioni goes beyond what math can do," "this is biology, we can't make a determined conclusion of how evolutions fits with the Bible because we can test evolutionary theory and we can't test the Bible: the Bible may be true, it may not, but that is an answer you find outside of school, just because this subject cannot tell you the Truth on it", "this is politcal science; while many laws are based on religion, they were also enacted by men and women -- we can suss out their reasoning, even if we cannot determine the metaphysical truth, and we can discuss whether or not a given law serves different interests -- including religious interests -- but we cannot differentiate between which religion is right or wrong or if none are."
How are these dogmatic beliefs? I see how they threaten people who feel religion should be in every part of life, but I believe a secularist state of people who can discuss issues in canonical terms AS WELL AS terms of secular morals, where the ultimate goal is how to provide the best quality of life for the most people for the most time. The facets that make up this quality of life may include religion -- but it's not a faith to say that the government should not dictate that quality of life depends on religion within the school or government. Practice what you wish; practice as you want or may or have to in non-instruction time in school; but we cannot tell you which to practice just as we can't tell you why Mom loves Dad, why bad things happen to good people and vice versa, if you will live after death, or why Donald Trump thinks his hair looks "natural".