Thursday, February 5, 2015

Take your secularist medicine.

I am greatly surprised at the hostility to secularism, and the tolerance of theocracy on display on the ABC religion pages. Surely in a multi-faith environment, the state should give no favour to any religion, a position which is desirable for those of any faith, or none. Below is my unpublished comment from We Have Never Been Secular: Rethinking Religion and Secularity in Britain Today

My summary of this article: immigrant populations in Britain are bringing in a tiny bit of theocracy. The Christians want a piece of the action, a nostalgic revival of a little bit of their own religious tyranny, which, by the way, is a much nicer sort of religious tyranny than those nasty Muslims.

I heard the term "Iraqisation" used in a similar fashion to "Balkanisation" recently, meaning a sharpening of the cultural and religious divides at the expense of a coherent, unified nation-state. I see a form of Iraqisation being introduced in Britain if Mr Milbank's frankly bonkers idea of "legal self-government by religious groups" is instituted.

It also reminds me of Ireland, where the opposite has happened. There, we have seen the erosion of stifling and abusive Catholic power in the south, and the dilution of sectarian differences in the north ending decades of bloody conflict. It's the unfinished and continuing work of secularism and the enlightenment.

And once again, we have the old canard of secularism/atheism being a defacto religion. Here we see it combined with Christianity being "culturally constitutive". I think the truly diverse and creative culture that has thrived in a secular liberal environment, with its art, science, creativity and openness, might have confused the author. By contrast, the limiting, proscriptive, censorius nature of religion actually stifles culture.

After this comment failed to show up, I tried again with the following. Only the first paragraph appeared.

The secular approach outlined in his opening paragraphs is definitely a superior way to conduct government affairs. The arrival of immigrant populations who think differently doesn't reveal "historical particularity". Rather, it provides a framework to allow the new arrivals to enjoy the same rights and freedoms that others do. Most of the world's population lives under governments with secular principles. Greater diversity requires making more progress in applying those principles. Secularism should be seen in  a similar positive light as concepts like democracy and human rights.
Here ends my second attempt to comment on  this article, and defend our precious secularism. My first comment has disappeared in a cloud of technical smoke, or a fog of opaque moderation practices.

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