Secularism And Atheism

While it is not the end of the world if we do not use words about philosophy in exactly the way someone else does, these two words have some importance in our arguments about religion.  I am guilty of not using the words precisely.

One of the funniest things Newt Gingrich said during his bungled campaign for the Presidency is that his grandchildren may have to live in a secular, atheist country dominated by Islam.   How one could have an secular, atheist country that was Islamic is a mystery to me.

Technically, secularism has nothing to do with either being religious or being not religious.  It is about a government that is not religious.  Thus, the very successful organization, Americans for the Separation of Church and State, is headed up by a minister.  As I recall, it was founded by people who belonged to churches, not atheists.

It seems to be in the interests of some clergy and politicians like Gingrich to confuse people about the meaning of secularism.  They do this by mixing it together with atheism, and even with the religion of Islam.

Some atheists mix them together also.  There are unbelievers who do not want religion to be available to anyone.  If this were the case, they say, we would have a “secular” country.  It would be more accurate to call it an atheist country.

Thus, a secular country could be dominated by either religious and not religious people.  The founding fathers, in fact, seemed to have this in mind.

17 Responses

  1. Mark

    Praise God for the God driven and motived founding fathers of this great nation. Atheist or creationist have the same desire absolute truth set us free.

  2. It would seem that by definition, there can’t be a theocracy that fits the description of “secular”, so it’s difficult to envision a secular nation that bases its governing values on a faith. I think the distinction lies nearer to where the citizens are allowed the freedom to practice any faith they wish, or none at all, but that the government is self-prohibited from officially acknowledging any faith (or none) as preferable, or even as truth. In defiance of these and other tenets of our constitution, the christian movement is attempting to blur the lines between fact and fiction. discredit science, renounce and/or criminalize some of our rights & freedoms as immoral or outright criminal, and provide us with nothing more than a faith-based environment where once again heresy is punishable by death. I’m by no means a conspiracy theorist or even a radical, but my humble observations over the past six decades have given me in recent times much cause for concern.This is a truly disturbing trend.

  3. Some day humans may evolve to a point that they will slough off the smothering skins of politic and religion. Those two have exacted death, torture and angst for centuries, but still our habit is to include them in our lives.

      1. Some people would say we are living in troubled times. The parody industry, however, is booming (A Face Book page):

        Justice for Anthony Scaramucci
        July 31 at 9:47pm ·
        We Demand:
        1. Immediate reinstatement of Anthony Scaramucci’s job as White House Communications Director
        2. Retroactive back-pay for Anthony Scaramucci, covering the gap between his firing and reinstatement
        3. Public apology from President Donald J. Trump
        4. Public apology from former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus
        5. Public apology from White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly
        6. Immediate cessation of any and all comedy skits related to Anthony Scaramucci and/or impersonations of Anthony Scaramucci that might be planned for “Saturday Night Live”

  4. Gingrich was quoting the Islamists and their sympathizers themselves! They claim Islam is their culture, not their religion. That’s why they are allowed to have prayer rooms in public schools and government office buildings–because their “culture” is protected as a civil right. Jon, I find you to be disingenuous and not really very smart. You try really hard, but you box yourself in at every turn.

  5. I’ve never heard of cultural Muslims, particularly none who are not religious Muslims. There is very little humanistic content to Islam and hence not much culture.

    I have heard of cultural Jews who are not religious Jews. There is much humanism in Judaism and hence this is possible.

    I’ve never heard of Jon’s understanding of “secular” as being limited to secular government. Sure, a “secular government” would not be a theocracy; but “secular” can be applied to non-governmental matters.

    “Secular” simply means, not religious; while “humanistic” means, pertaining to human achievements like the humanities, implying a more positive meaning.

    I particularly like Jon’s comments about Scaramucci. I happen to run the Facebook page, “Libertarians for Trump” and I often post there, stuff that is favorable to him.

    I once took a course at Concordia College, about atheism,. I was the only one who signed up so I got to do independent study. My studies revealed that Ayn Rand did not invent the core of the philosophy she promoted, that she was more of a promoter and dramatist. Rational empiricism was the previous name, though Aristotle proposed similar using different terms (we don’t really know what he said as most of the writings attributed to him are notes of his students).

    1. kevinbj 3:08 Thank you for an excellent post.

      About “secular Muslims”, I know many Muslims. A few I, myself, would classify as secular Muslims but others might not agree. Some of these believe in the tenets of the faith but do not attend any ceremonies. Others grew up in the faith, have family and friends in the faith, but do not believe in its tenets. They do not, in my opinion, seem “tuned in” to any culture except their Muslim origin.

      As to my use of the word “secular”, your observation is correct. I do not use the word exactly right. Often I use words here in ways that are technically incorrect. I tend to use terms in the way I think they are used in street language, ie, in conversation.

      As to libertarians for Trump, that strikes me as contradiction in terms. He wants to reduce the free enterprise marque principle, free trade (although he also says he is for free trade), he wants to further restrict abortion (although he says he is for less regulation) and I could go on.

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