Secularism Quotes


Being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead.

How dismal it is to see present day Americans yearning for the very orthodoxy that their country was founded to escape.

My people are going to learn the principles of democracy the dictates of truth and the teachings of science. Superstition must go. Let them worship as they will, every man can follow his own conscience provided it does not interfere with sane reason or bid him act against the liberty of his fellow men.

If I were a dictator, religion and state would be separate. I swear by my religion. I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The state has nothing to do with it. The state would look after your secular welfare, health, communications, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not your or my religion. That is everybody's personal concern!

Those who use religion for their own benefit are detestable. We are against such a situation and will not allow it. Those who use religion in such a manner have fooled our people; it is against just such people that we have fought and will continue to fight.

Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?

The person with a secular mentality feels himself to be the center of the universe. Yet he is likely to suffer from a sense of meaninglessness and insignificance because he knows he’s but one human among five billion others - all feeling themselves to be the center of things - scratching out an existence on the surface of a medium-sized planet circling a small star among countless stars in a galaxy lost among countless galaxies. The person with the sacred mentality, on the other hand, does not feel herself to be the center of the universe. She considers the Center to be elsewhere and other. Yet she is unlikely to feel lost or insignificant precisely because she draws her significance and meaning from her relationship, her connection, with that center, that Other.

What Hitler did not believe and what Stalin did not believe and what Mao did not believe and what the SS did not believe and what the Gestapo did not believe and what the NKVD did not believe and what the commissars, functionaries, swaggering executioners, Nazi doctors, Communist Party theoreticians, intellectuals, Brown Shirts, Black Shirts, gauleiters, and a thousand party hacks did not believe was that God was watching what they were doing. And as far as we can tell, very few of those carrying out the horrors of the twentieth century worried overmuch that God was watching what they were doing either. That is, after all, the meaning of a secular society.

The real question is how much suffering we've caused our womenfolk by turning headscarves into symbols - and using women as pawns in a political game.

Snow

Orhan Pamuk

Snow

Long before it was known to me as a place where my ancestry was even remotely involved, the idea of a state for Jews (or a Jewish state; not quite the same thing, as I failed at first to see) had been 'sold' to me as an essentially secular and democratic one. The idea was a haven for the persecuted and the survivors, a democracy in a region where the idea was poorly understood, and a place where—as Philip Roth had put it in a one-handed novel that I read when I was about nineteen—even the traffic cops and soldiers were Jews. This, like the other emphases of that novel, I could grasp. Indeed, my first visit was sponsored by a group in London called the Friends of Israel. They offered to pay my expenses, that is, if on my return I would come and speak to one of their meetings.
I still haven't submitted that expenses claim. The misgivings I had were of two types, both of them ineradicable. The first and the simplest was the encounter with everyday injustice: by all means the traffic cops were Jews but so, it turned out, were the colonists and ethnic cleansers and even the torturers. It was Jewish leftist friends who insisted that I go and see towns and villages under occupation, and sit down with Palestinian Arabs who were living under house arrest—if they were lucky—or who were squatting in the ruins of their demolished homes if they were less fortunate. In Ramallah I spent the day with the beguiling Raimonda Tawil, confined to her home for committing no known crime save that of expressing her opinions. (For some reason, what I most remember is a sudden exclamation from her very restrained and respectable husband, a manager of the local bank: 'I would prefer living under a Bedouin
muktar
to another day of Israeli rule!' He had obviously spent some time thinking about the most revolting possible Arab alternative.) In Jerusalem I visited the Tutungi family, who could produce title deeds going back generations but who were being evicted from their apartment in the old city to make way for an expansion of the Jewish quarter. Jerusalem: that place of blood since remote antiquity. Jerusalem, over which the British and French and Russians had fought a foul war in the Crimea,
and in the mid-nineteenth century
, on the matter of which Christian Church could command the keys to some 'holy sepulcher.' Jerusalem, where the anti-Semite Balfour had tried to bribe the Jews with the territory of another people in order to seduce them from Bolshevism and continue the diplomacy of the Great War. Jerusalem: that pest-house in whose environs all zealots hope that an even greater and final war can be provoked. It certainly made a warped appeal to my sense of history.

In our secular society, school has become the replacement for church, and like church it requires that its teachings must be taken on faith.

And an equation is the same whether it's written in red or green ink

A Suitable Boy

Vikram Seth

A Suitable Boy

So here we have found a means of a) alienating even the most flexible and patient Palestinians; while b) frustrating the efforts of the more principled and compromising Israelis; while c) empowering and financing some of the creepiest forces in American and Israeli society; and d) heaping ordure on our own secular founding documents. When will the Justice Department and the Congress and the Supreme Court become aware of this huge and rank offense, which is designed to bring us ever nearer to holy war?

I received your letter of June 10th. I have never talked to a Jesuit priest in my life and I am astonished by the audacity to tell such lies about me. From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist.

I am a Christian…so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’ — though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.

The process of secularisation arises not from the loss of faith but from the loss of social interest in the world of faith. It begins the moment men feel that religion is irrelevant to the common way of life and that society as such has nothing to do with the truths of faith.

It will be found that every attack upon religion, or upon characteristic ideas inherited from religion, when its assumptions are laid bare, turns out to be an attack upon mind.

A truly free society protects all faiths, and true faith protects a free society.

Some people believe the alternative to bad religion is secularism, but that's wrong . . . . The answer to bad religion is better religion--prophetic rather than partisan, broad and deep instead of narrow, and based on values as opposed to ideology.

In a secularising world, art has replaced religion as a touchstone of our reverence and devotion.

Religions and states and classes and tribes and nations do not have to work or argue for their adherents and subjects. They more or less inherit them. Against this unearned patrimony there have always been speakers and writers who embody Einstein's injunction to 'remember your humanity and forget the rest.' It would be immodest to claim membership in this fraternity/sorority, but I hope not to have done anything to outrage it. Despite the idiotic sneer that such principles are 'fashionable,' it is always the ideas of secularism, libertarianism, internationalism, and solidarity that stand in need of reaffirmation.

We do not admire, we hardly excuse, the fanatic who wrecks this world for love of the other. But what are we to say of the fanatic who wrecks this world out of hatred of the other? He sacrifices the very existence of humanity to the non-existence of God. He offers his victims not to the altar, but merely to assert the idleness of the altar and the emptiness of the throne. He is ready to ruin even that primary ethic by which all things live, for his strange and eternal vengeance upon some one who never lived at all.

Orthodoxy

G.K. Chesterton

Orthodoxy

As to the 'Left' I'll say briefly why this was the finish for me. Here is American society, attacked under open skies in broad daylight by the most reactionary and vicious force in the contemporary world, a force which treats Afghans and Algerians and Egyptians far worse than it has yet been able to treat us. The vaunted CIA and FBI are asleep, at best. The working-class heroes move, without orders and at risk to their lives, to fill the moral and political vacuum. The moral idiots, meanwhile, like Falwell and Robertson and Rabbi Lapin, announce that this clerical aggression is a punishment for our secularism. And the governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, hitherto considered allies on our 'national security' calculus, prove to be the most friendly to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Here was a time for the Left to demand a top-to-bottom house-cleaning of the state and of our covert alliances, a full inquiry into the origins of the defeat, and a resolute declaration in favor of a fight to the end for secular and humanist values: a fight which would make friends of the democratic and secular forces in the Muslim world. And instead, the near-majority of 'Left' intellectuals started sounding like Falwell, and bleating that the main problem was Bush's legitimacy. So I don't even muster a hollow laugh when this pathetic faction says that I, and not they, are in bed with the forces of reaction.

I believe that secularism is not the enemy of spirituality. Our spirits are in fact secular and free. But the enemy of your spirit is materialism which produces legalism. People scramble for the "perfect law" in order fix everything, while failing to see that law only points towards what is material. And so, people find themselves going around in a circle that will never end. The key is to break away from that circle. You have to begin focusing your attention onto what is inside you and what is inside everybody else. This will in turn produce common sense, intuition, and understanding. Then comes strength.

Better for them to deny the mind--and with it rationality, truth, and science itself--than to admit the soul. Once again, the secularist manifests the very dogmatism of which he accuses the religious believer, and in rationalizing it is willing to contemplate absurdities of which no religious believer has ever dreamed.

But the philosophical and scientific process which I call 'secularization' necessarily involves the divesting of spiritual meaning from the world of nature; the desacralization of politics from human affairs; and the deconsecration of values from the human mind and conduct.

Truly barren is a secular education. It is always in labor, but never gives birth.

Misstraue jedem Politiker, jedem Regierungs- oder Staatschef, der seine Religion zum Instrument macht. Halte Abstand von solchen Politikern, die ihre auf das Jenseits orientierte Religion und ihre diesseitige Politik miteinander vermischen.

The secularizing 'values' and events that have been predicted would happen in the Muslim world have now begun to unfold with increasing momentum and persistence due still to the Muslims' lack of understanding of the true nature and implications of secularization as a philosophical program.

One of the questions asked by al-Balkhi, and often repeated to this day, is this: Why do the children of Israel continue to suffer? My grandmother Dodo thought it was because the
goyim
were jealous. The seder for Passover (which is a shame-faced simulacrum of a Hellenic question-and-answer session, even including the wine) tells the children that it's one of those things that happens to every Jewish generation. After the
Shoah
or
Endlösung
or Holocaust, many rabbis tried to tell the survivors that the immolation had been a punishment for 'exile,' or for insufficient attention to the Covenant. This explanation was something of a flop with those whose parents or children had been the raw material for the 'proof,' so for a time the professional interpreters of god's will went decently quiet. This interval of ambivalence lasted until the war of 1967, when it was announced that the divine purpose could be discerned after all. How wrong, how foolish, to have announced its discovery prematurely! The exile and the Shoah could now both be understood, as part of a heavenly if somewhat roundabout scheme to recover the Western Wall in Jerusalem and other pieces of biblically mandated real estate.
I regard it as a matter of self-respect to spit in public on rationalizations of this kind. (They are almost as repellent, in their combination of arrogance, masochism, and affected false modesty, as Edith Stein's 'offer' of her life to expiate the regrettable unbelief in Jesus of her former fellow Jews.) The sage Jews are those who have put religion behind them and become in so many societies the leaven of the secular and the atheist.

Secular humanists of every type may ridicule the Bible, but they cannot escape it; and in their obsession with change, calls for reform, doomsday warnings, and utopian visions, they continue to steal from it.

But in the 17th century Russian Orthodoxy was gravely weakened by an internal schism. In the 18th, the country was shaken by Peter's forcibly imposed transformations, which favored the economy, the state, and the military at the expense of the religious spirit and national life. And along with this lopsided Petrine enlightenment, Russia felt the first whiff of secularism; its subtle poisons permeated the educated classes in the course of the 19th century and opened the path to Marxism. By the time of the Revolution, faith had virtually disappeared in Russian educated circles; and amongst the uneducated, its health was threatened.

The common understanding among Muslims, no doubt indoctrinated by Western notions, is that a secular state is a state that is not governed by the 'ulama', or whose legal system is not established upon the revealed law. In other words it is not a theocratic state. But this setting in contrast the secular state with the theocratic state is not really an Islamic way of understanding the matter, for since Islam does not involve itself in the dichotomy between the sacred and the profane, how then can it set in contrast the theocratic state with the secular state?

Shrouded as he was for a decade in an apparent cloak of anonymity and obscurity, Osama bin Laden was by no means an invisible man. He was ubiquitous and palpable, both in a physical and a cyber-spectral form, to the extent that his death took on something of the feel of an exorcism. It is satisfying to know that, before the end came, he had begun at least to guess at the magnitude of his 9/11 mistake. It is essential to remember that his most fanatical and militant deputy, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, did not just leave his corpse in Iraq but was isolated and repudiated even by the minority Sunnis on whose presumed behalf he spilled so much blood and wrought such hectic destruction. It is even more gratifying that bin Laden himself was exposed as an excrescence on the putrid body of a bankrupt and brutish state machine, and that he found himself quite unable to make any coherent comment on the tide—one hopes that it is a tide, rather than a mere wave—of demand for an accountable and secular form of civil society. There could not have been a finer affirmation of the force of life, so warmly and authentically counterposed to the hysterical celebration of death, and of that death-in-life that is experienced in the stultifications of theocracy, where womanhood and music and literature are stifled and young men mutated into robotic slaughterers.

Conservatives and those on the right are usually willing to settle for thinking themselves correct on political issues; those on the left have always needed to feel not so much that they are correct but that they are also good. Disagree with someone on the right and he is likely to think you obtuse, wrong, sentimental, foolish, a dope; disagree with someone one the left and he is more likely to think you selfish, cold-hearted, a sellout, evil-in league with the devil, he might say, if he didn't think religious terminology too coarse for our secular age. To this day one will hear of people who fell for Communism in a big way let off the hook because they were sincere; if one's heart is in the right place, nothing else matters, even if one's naive opinions made it easier for tyrants to murder millions.

It is a profound political reality that Christ now occupies the supreme seat of cosmic authority. The kings of this world and all secular governments may ignore this reality, but they cannot undo it. The universe is no democracy. It is a monarchy. God himself has appointed his beloved Son as the preeminent King. Jesus does not rule by referendum, but by divine right. In the future every knee will bow before him, either willingly or unwillingly. Those who refuse to do so will have their knees broken with a rod of iron.

Whether we "spiritualize" our life or "secularize" our religion, whether we invite men to a spiritual banquet or simply join them at the secular one, the real life of the world, for which we are told God gave his only begotten Son, remains hopelessly beyond our religious grasp.

No man is such a legalist as the good Secularist.

From the Renaissance until today, Christianity, and also to some extent Judaism, in the West have had to carry out a constant battle against ideologies, philosophies, institutions and practices which are secular in nature and which challenge the authority of religion and in fact its very validity and legitimacy. These challenges to religion have varied from political ideas which are based on secularism to the denial of the religious foundation of morality and the philosophical denial of the reality of God and of the after life or of revelation and sacred scripture. The history of the West has been marked during the last few centuries by a constant battle between the forces of religion and secularism and in fact the gaining of the upper hand by secularism and consequently the denial of the reality of religion and its pertinence to various domains of life.

...The existence or non-existence of an undefined 'god' are quite pointless.
[
From 'Why I am a Secular Humanist'
]

A historic transition is occurring, barely noticed. Slowly, quietly, imperceptibly, religion is shriveling in America, as it has done in Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and other advanced societies. Supernatural faith increasingly belongs to the Third World. The First World is entering the long-predicted Secular Age, when science and knowledge dominate. The change promises to be another shift of civilization, like past departures of the era of kings, the time of slavery, the Agricultural Age, the epoch of colonialism, and the like. Such cultural transformations are partly invisible to contemporary people, but become obvious in retrospect.

America    Australia    Canada    Civilization    Epoch    Europe    Faith    Historic    Japan    Knowledge    Religion    Science    Secularism    Superstition    Transformation    Transition

Nothing—not even the US Army—more threatens the future of a democratic, pluralistic and (dare we wish, secular) Iraq than the political ascendancy of Islamic fascists like Al Sadr.

Secularization—that is, the gradual conformity of our thinking, beliefs, commitments, and practices to the pattern of this fading age—is not just something that happens to the church; it is something that happens in the church. In fact, it’s difficult to think of secularism as anything other than a Christian heresy.

Nobody ever wanted to go to war, but if a war came your way, it might as well be the right war, about the most important things in the world, and you might as well, if you were going to fight it, be called "Rushdie," and stand where your father had placed you, in the tradition of the grand Aristotelian, Averroës, Abul Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Rushd.

Aristotle    Averroës    Fatwa    Free speech    History    Ibn rushd    Literary    Memoir    Religion    Secularism    Terrorism    War

Admittedly, I do have several bones, whole war fields full of bones, in fact to pick with organised religion of whatever stripe. This should be seen as a critique of purely temporal agencies who have, to my mind, erected more obstacles between whatever notion of spirituality and Godhead one subscribes to than they have opened doors. To me, the difference between Godhead and the Church is the difference between Elvis and Colonel Parker... although that conjures images of God dying on the toilet, which is not what I meant at all.

we can't be secular till there is politics because it is a religion that hates every other religion...

The author compares rationalism and much of organized religion do a dictator who paves over natural springs in order to dispense water in a more organized fashion. The pushback of the world hungry for wonder may be compared to the break out of those springs from their constraints. Not everything they produce is healthy, but the overreaction of eliminating them is worse.

It is my opinion that education is a key component to peace and progress. Despite their arrogant claims to have all the answers, world religions cannot account for recent insights and discoveries about the natural world and human history. In this, the most tantalizing argument against religious faith comes forth in the way of science and reason. An ever-growing scientific consensus has resulted in the ever-shrinking populous of religious relevance.

The attempt made in recent decades by secularist thinkers to disengage the moral principles of western civilization from their scripturally based religious context, in the assurance that they could live a life of their own as "humanistic" ethics, has resulted in our "cut flower culture." Cut flowers retain their original beauty and fragrance, but only so long as they retain the vitality that they have drawn from their now-severed roots; after that is exhausted, they wither and die. So with freedom, brotherhood, justice, and personal dignity — the values that form the moral foundation of our civilization. Without the life-giving power of the faith out of which they have sprung, they possess neither meaning nor vitality.

They (theological liberals)seemed to know what the answer was supposed to be and weren’t much concerned with how to get there. They knew only that whatever answers the Fundamentalists came up with must be wrong.

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