The Eight Day Adventist calendar has rotated into phase with your infidel calendar, so it is time for a sermon. Our subject today is secularism.
I noted an article about the decline in secular standards in Turkey, which of all modern societies is the one most deeply founded as a nation in secular ideals. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk wanted a society not controlled by the imams in order for Turkey to catch up to the then more secular west. But Turkey is now about to elect a Muslim leader who wants Sharia. Meanwhile, in the once-shining example of modern secularism, the United States, even the Administration and the Army is now openly run by religionists. And a few expressions of outrage by a couple of senators seem not to have much effect. I think we can safely say that the United States is lost to the world as a secular society now.
So why should it matter? A few minority religions, and all those nonbelievers, will just have to toe the majority line and submit to the religious rules of others. There’s nothing unjust about that, is there? Besides, it is the fault of those Hindus, Jews, Muslims and atheists they chose wrong, isn’t it?
Friday night, over beers (which is a religious rite in Australia), one of the students asked me why secular society should be defended. After all, he said, isn’t secularism and liberal democracy just another ideology? Why should those who are authoritarians, or socialists, be constrained by the rules of liberal democracy? It hit me this is a “frame” that is shared by most people these days. Isn’t secularism just another religious ideology?
Setting up ideas as competitors in the market place is correct in one sense, but there is a very large distinction between an idea that states “all ideologies should be given room to breath, so long as they do not impose their views on others by force or coercion”, and an idea that says “all people must adhere to our standards”. If your religion says that all believers must do X, then fine, so long as there is no coercion against leaving your religion when it suits. Secularism protects citizens against apostates being harmed or killed, as Islamists will do against ex-Muslims if they convert, and other religions will also do if allowed to.
Religions are not good ways to run a society or nation, unless you can guarantee that every single member of your nation is a believer, and not a heretical or heterodox one either. Neither Israel nor Iran has managed that feat. Why should we give in to the claim that it will work here? Shouldn’t all rational believers recognise that even if they could make America or wherever a Christian (Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Atheist) state, they had better not for their own good?
I am very sad that America is now an exclusively Christian state in fact of not in law. I am sorry that the American response to religious terrorism was to become much more like the terrorists rather than to defend the secularism of their fathers. I had such high hopes for them. But perhaps we still have a chance in Old Europe and the old colonies that inherited the European drive to pluralism and tolerance of the late 18th century. Or perhaps the first victim religious clash of civilisations will be the areligious and the tolerant. I hope not. Defend secularism no matter what your religious views are. Secularism protects your religion as much as it does my irreligion. Secularism allows religions to behave in a civilised manner. It’s not an ideology; it’s the field in which ideologies can behave properly, like a sports field and code allows teams to compete without murdering each other.