Secular humanism and secularization
March 24, 2016
#1 Taner Edis (Guest) on Thursday March 24, 2016 at 9:37am
Just as a clarification: “dismisses the Ataturk-Nehru sort of secularization as a concept that Western imperialism imposed on members of unrepresentative local elites.” does not reflect what I say. Imperialists imposed no such thing on either Atatürk or Nehru—they were westernizers who were also anti-imperialists. On the other hand, they certainly led unrepresentative factions of local elites, and their secularism has in large part been undone by more populist factions.
#2 Stephen Law (Guest) on Thursday March 24, 2016 at 10:38am
Hi Tom By (2) do you mean that religious observance etc. should be conducted our of public sight, should be behind closed doors, that religious opinion should not be voiced in public earshot, etc. Or do you mean only that it should not be State-performed, State-supported, State-funded, State-platformed, etc.? I would happily endorse the latter. Not so keen on the former!
#3 Stephen Law (Guest) on Thursday March 24, 2016 at 10:44am
ouT of public sight, I meant….! I mean, I’d prefer it if people weren’t religious, but I don’t want to stuff socks in their mouths when they express religious views in public.
#4 Tom Flynn on Thursday March 24, 2016 at 11:15am
By “relegating religion to the private sphere” I meant barring religious ceremonies, symbols, etc. from state-owned spaces. That still leaves plenty of places for believers to express their faiths in the earshot of others. That said, there was an American ethic, more prevalent in the 1960s, that gently discouraged many public expressions of sectarian religiosity, sort of along the lines of “Never talk religion and politics at parties” I think this was (so long as it was enforced solely informally) a useful ethic. It strengthened the role of all public spaces (not just the state-controlled ones) as buffer zones where Anericans of different religions could come together somewhat insulated from the strife of sects.
#5 Tom Flynn on Thursday March 24, 2016 at 11:16am
Taner, you may have found your concerns addressed by my most recent edits.
#6 Stephen Law (Guest) on Thursday March 24, 2016 at 12:04pm
We’re on the same page Tom. My worry is that many of our critics say we want to ‘push religion out of the public sphere’ by which *they* mean we want to get authoritarian, gag them, push them behind closed doors, etc. It’s bullshit, of course - as political secularists we defend their right to publicly express a religious opinion as our own right to publicly criticise one. I don’t want to give those guys any ammunition in the form of words they might then twist and use against us.
#7 Philip Rand (Guest) on Friday March 25, 2016 at 6:09am
Enoch Powell was a prophet… a prophet that secular humanism ignored and classed as a racist (so much for free-speech)...
I suppose in Secular Humanism, free-speech is enshrined for all… except some free-speech is more free…
Now, look what problem both secular humanism and Secular humanism has created for the West…
A case that Secular Humanism has caused this fiasco for the West could easily be made…
Accept I don’t want to give you “guys any ammunition.” (Nice turn of a phrase Dr Law…ammunition? weird…)
You are really getting very stale Dr Law… Wittgenstein said this could happen…
#8 Oisin (Guest) on Friday March 25, 2016 at 3:47pm
Don’t you think that your view of Humanism is maybe too political, and not social enough? Shouldn’t we work on developing secular communities and spreading secular moral values over focusing on restricting the public religiosity of others?
#9 Tom Flynn (Guest) on Saturday March 26, 2016 at 1:08pm
Oisin, I have a short answer and a longer answer.
The short answer is, No.
As for the longer answer. keep in mind that I write as a secular humanist, not a congregational humanist or religious Humanist. To me, one very powerful way of spreading secular moral values is *precisely* to restrict the public religiosity of others, specifically members of the majority religion and only in public (government-owned or -controlled) places. In that way we help to preserve those public places as welcoming spaces for citizens of all religions and of none.
Left to their own devices, majority Christians will invariably give public spaces a strong enough Christian flavor to project the message that non-Christians are second class citizens. Most Christians don’t do this purposely, but when your religion makes exclusive truth claims, that’s what you do. (Sorry for sounding like a GEICO ad there.) The remedy to this is for religious minorities to push back, consistently and vigorously. Secular humanist don’t seek public spaces that salute each religion or worldview in turn, but rather for public spaces that leave religion strictly alone. Only majority Christians will perceive this as discrimination, because only they are accustomed to regarding public spaces with a strongly Christian flavor as the norm. Only they perceive actual fairness as taking something away from them (which it does—their unfair privilege.)
Treating each religion fairly in public spaces is hard. Treating each with benign neglect by operating public spaces insofar as possible as “religion free zones” achieves the same objective—fairness—more reliably.
As a secular humanist, I think humanist community is of some limited value. Yes, it’s good for humanists to have local groups and national organizations. But to me as a secular humanist it’s bad if we start building a walled garden where humanists can lead most aspects of their lives in the sole company of other humanists. To the degree we’re truly secular, we don’t want to live our whole lives in a humanist community, the way many mid-20th century Catholics and contemporary evangelicals lead their whole lives in church. As seculars we want our humanist identity to be respected, but we don’t want a walled garden, we want to spend most of our time plugged in *as free individuals* to the larger culture, rubbing elbows with fellow citizens without regard to religion.