Poll
A secularist is:
Some who believes in separation of religion and government but may be religious as long as they don’t impose on others 4
Someone who is simply not religious, but has no alternative philosophy thought out 0
Someone who promotes anti-religous thinking 0
Total Votes: 4
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What is Secularism ?
Posted: 14 April 2008 06:40 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I just joined the forum and started a controversy on the new member section concerning secularism.  Established self-declared secularist members began to disagree with each other on whether I was entitled to considered a secularist. [Not that I need in the club, but it is an interesting conversation].  Please offer a short one or two sentence definition.

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Posted: 14 April 2008 06:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The danger of relying on dictionary definitions is 1) they frequently do not reflect contemporary or colloquial usage and 2) you can find one to support almost any interpretation.
FWIW, American Heritage Dictionary lists the following definitions for “secularism.”

1. Religious skepticism or indifference.
2. The view that religious considerations should be excluded from civil affairs or public education.

And the following is fromt the Wikipedia article on secularism:
“In one sense, secularism may assert the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, and freedom from the government imposition of religion upon the people, within a state that is neutral on matters of belief, and gives no state privileges or subsidies to religions. (See also Separation of church and state and Laïcité.) In another sense, it refers to a belief that human activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be based on evidence and fact rather than religious influence.”

What I prefer is an understanding of meaning derived from the usage of a term. In American political usage, secularism predominantly refers to the second definition given above, so I tend to use the term in that sense, though of course using it to refer to a non-religious philosophy is not incorrect.

As I said above, I believe secularism is predominantly used in the US to refer to the principle that religion should have no formal role in politics and government, but that the usage refer only to someone being non-religious is also current and accepted.

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Posted: 14 April 2008 07:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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What do you mean, Shay?

Someone who is simply not religious, but has no alternative philosophy thought out.

What kind of an alternative philosophy?

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Posted: 14 April 2008 07:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Religious systems offer a world-view—a position on ethics, meaning of life, etc.
Many non-religious people don’t think out their ethics or meaning of life but simply buy and aspire to whatever the TV tells them.

I guess that is what I meant.  smile
For this reason, I am often far more attracted to religious people than that type of secularist.
So, I am asking, do you want your definition of secularist to include a non-religious person who also has no reflective worldview?
That was the import of that option.  Or do you want your secularist club to have a fuller meaning of secularist.
Boy, it is tough to make Survey questions.  So far, I have two written notes, but no bites on the survey. 
Alas confused

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Shay
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“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”—the Dalai Lama

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Posted: 14 April 2008 07:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Then it seems to me you forgot to include a category for those who are simply secularists. Until then, I won’t be able to participate in your survey.

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Posted: 14 April 2008 07:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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None of the above. To me, a secularist is exclusively concerned with reality as we are able to know it, and is not concerned with making stuff up and calling it true. Secularism permits many religious attitudes, but not supernatural theisms.

In secularism, religion is the human attempt to bring all things together into a coherent whole. In a secular religion, there is no conflict with science and no separation between religion and life.

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Posted: 16 April 2008 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I think that the term “secularist” is commonly used in all three of the ways that you mentioned, the ways that others have suggested in this thread, and in countless other ways as well.  The common thread to these different definitions is point of something being “not religious.”  But the fact of common semantic disagreement that is illustrated by this thread demonstrates that it can often lack a certain concision necessary to facilitate clear communication.  Unless, of course, all members of the discussion are in agreement about the manner in which they are using the term, it could very easily lead to straw man arguments.

I generally prefer using other words that are more specific.  I say that I am non-religious or not religious.  And, as a separate point, I say that I support the separation of church and state or that I oppose the intrusion of religion in government.

[ Edited: 16 April 2008 01:17 PM by erasmusinfinity ]
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Posted: 16 April 2008 09:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I have always thought that “secularism” simply refered to the idea that although people may have religious motivations, government should be as nearly neutral as possible on matters of religion.  You could be the most devout Christian in the world and still be a secularist as far as public policy were concerned.

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Posted: 17 April 2008 05:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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PLaClair - 14 April 2008 07:39 PM

None of the above. To me, a secularist is exclusively concerned with reality as we are able to know it, and is not concerned with making stuff up and calling it true. Secularism permits many religious attitudes, but not supernatural theisms.

I don’t always agree with PLaClair but this is very close to my own thinking.

A secularist tries to be a realist, tries not to be superstitious. A secularist views themselves as somewhat impartial and fair. A secular society is in some sense attempting to be ‘fair’.

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Posted: 17 April 2008 11:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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After the Habermas thread, I assume it is clear that for me secularism means separation of state and religion. People should be free to practice their religion, as long as they do not disturb or offend others by it. This is of course reciprocal, the freedom to practice one’s religion has the freedom from the religion of others as logical counterpart. The corollary of this is that the state cannot be based on religion: it would imprint religious ideas on people who possibly not share these.

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Posted: 18 April 2008 05:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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GdB,

This directs us toward another interesting point, which is that “freedom of religion” would be better worded as “freedom of conscience.”  Freedom of conscience protects all of the sorts of private and personal rights that we are referring to, for both religious and non-religious persons.  On the other hand, “religious freedom” often becomes a bastion of special religious privilege.  Worse, it can serve to mask the intolerance of particular religious persons and groups as relativistically legitimate.

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Posted: 18 April 2008 06:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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GdB - 17 April 2008 11:19 PM

People should be free to practice their religion, as long as they do not disturb or offend others by it.

So should the young children in the polygamy case be returned to their mothers even though they have not yet been offended?

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Posted: 18 April 2008 07:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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OK ... I’ve changed my mind on this and agree that secularism is not specifically anti-religious but is applied to mean a non religious version of, in other words a secular government would be a government run along non-religious principles rather than, say, a given religions laws, secular education would imply that a school or educational organisation is run along non-religious lines.

So, Shay, I assume it means you can believe what you wish as long as you don’t apply those beliefs to something else that affects others. Er … I guess smile

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