Secularism is not atheism!

Published: October 3, 2012

Thus, secularism may be understood as a concept which gives breathing space to all beliefs. DESIGN: ERUM SHAIKH

It is interesting to note how shifts in the political landscape are a regular source of new vocabulary. A breeze through comments on this newspaper’s website show the frequent usage of the word ‘secularism’ which was never a part of the average news reader’s vocabulary fifteen years ago.

The word is now generously splashed around by commentators as they opine over news stories.

Quite worryingly, secularism is often referred to as a political system which is both atheistic and un-Islamic – a misjudgement which causes one to choke with laughter and cry in despair at the same time. Painting secularism with a brush of cynicism is unpardonable in times when religious intolerance runs wild. A conscious effort must be made to dissuade these extremely popular but outrageously ill researched notions regarding secularism.

It is important to understand that secularism and atheism have little in common. In coarsely basic terms, atheism is a belief system which encompasses a whole range of subdivisions – all of which underscore the non-existence of a Creator or God by claiming that science provides all necessary explanations of reality.

Most historical narratives suggest that atheism was largely fuelled by the western schism of the 14th century and Europe’s intellectual experiences during the Renaissance. This historical link is difficult to discount; the former movement saw religious faith dwindle owing to corrupt clergy men, while the latter saw an increased emphasis on scientific rationality.

Thomas Holyoake, who coined the term ‘secularism’ in 1846 , writes in ‘Principles of Secularism’ that,

“Secularism is that which seeks the development of the physical, moral, and intellectual nature of man to the highest possible point, as the immediate duty of life — which inculcates the practical sufficiency of natural morality apart from atheism, theism or the Bible…”

Holyoake’s work goes on to explain that while religion might be an essential source of morality for some, there must be a wider morality which ensures tolerance and coexistence for all these different religious moralities. For instance, a Christian’s use of alcohol must be tolerated and respected by Muslim sects whose religious edicts declare alcohol unlawful under most circumstances.

Thus, secularism may be understood as a concept which gives breathing space to all beliefs.

A state which claims to be truly secular will frown upon the domination of one kind of belief (or religion) over other kinds. Secularism is far away from being any kind of an ‘evangelist’ movement run by atheists.

Secondly, it must be understood that the religious identity within a secular state is given respect – but tolerance for all religious identities is more important than preserving or protecting just one of them. By this logic, secularism can hardly champion the cause of atheism.

It is important to repudiate another popular notion; that secularism is un-Islamic.

It is true that the term originated in the West, but it must be remembered that the concept has been cradled by Islam for whole centuries. History might show that most Islamic rulers have failed to realise secularism in its unsullied form, but this observation does little to contradict the fact that Islam does provide for a wider morality which transcends hostility between belief-systems. Just because history has few examples of secularism flourishing within ‘Islamic’ empires does little to prove that Islam does not allow for such a morality. The plight of secularism is similar to that of a clause which is scripted in religious books, but has either been ignored or implemented poorly by followers.

Statements like ‘an Islamic state cannot be secular’ or that ‘secularism favours atheism’ are both laughably oxymoronic.

However, there is little one can do to dissuade whole paradigms of thought which have been artfully contrived and imposed through years and years of systematic indoctrination. The demonising of secularism by religious fanatics is just as baleful as the demonising of Islam by the misguided and under-read. Both these positions are uncompromising, illogical, and a source of religious hatred.

Hence, secularism must be embraced not as a concept which alienates different religions, but as one which acknowledges each to an equal measure.

Read more by Faiza here.

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faiza.rehman

Faiza Rahman

A sub-editor on the National Desk at The Express Tribune who has a bachelor's degree in political science from LUMS.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Repatriated

    If atheism is a belief system, then “not believing in Santa Claus” is also a belief system. Now do you realize what an absurd classification that is? I know you’re trying to make secularism more palatable by distancing it from atheism, but there’s no need to be disingenuous about atheism.Recommend

  • Jordan

    Athieism is maintaing the dis-belief of any kind of super-natural being. No more, no less.

    You should not try to portray it as some kind of science obsessed cult. I know many athiests who couldn’t tell you the first thing about ‘scientific process’ or have any idea of the latest thories of how we came into being, they just simply do not believe in a God.

    Recommend

  • Waiting

    You have explained to a certain extend (note: not completely) what secularism is not, you havent elaborated what in your opinion secularism is and how it should not be mentioned in the same breath as atheismRecommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    It’s perfectly true that secularism has nothing to do with atheism. But I think you botched the description of atheism.

    While atheists do seem to have a predilection for science, “claiming that science provides all necessary explanations to reality” is not a criterion for atheism. That’s called “scientism”.

    If you don’t believe in God, you’re atheist. That’s it. Much the same way as simply not playing golf makes you a non-golfer. There’s no other requirement like, “You must not play golf AND and refuse to eat meat before you become a non-golfer.”

    And if atheism is a belief system, then “off” is a TV-channel. It’s the absence of belief, not belief itself.Recommend

  • Haq

    It is annoying indeed that people in Pakistan don’t seem to know what secular means but it’s not because of what you are getting at. The word has assumed a negative connotation because it is championed by the Indian government as something that makes India a progressive and democratic society where diversity is embraced. Since Pakistan’s foundation is based in the ideology that we absolutely could not have coexisted in India, all shows of diversity in India absolutely must be shoddy. Secularism is bad because India is secular and we are not. If we were so secular why make Pakistan at all. You see it’s defending our Pakistani separatism more than embracing all people.Recommend

  • Haris

    Atheist are more secular generally because their belief is mostly circling around the fact that they believe they are the Gods or in other words there is no God for them or they are just to critical to take the leap of faith or are willing to follow theism blindly like theist do, now there are different beliefs among them however their are not bound to any book or personality as generally most of theist are, Theists have to follow orders and mostly in their books orders come in a lot of variety from extremism to very tolerant laws..

    Every theist out there will tell you their way is the right way others are wrong but the same doesn’t apply to atheist people because they are not ordered by anyone to shove their belief down someone else’s throat.. and in Islam it has been made clear that no one will enter heaven(the highest salvation), Theist are mostly bound by the negative aspects of their belief they don’t care if Santa Claus exists or not.. that’s why they never can be secular..

    To be secular by definition means the state of being separate from religion hence making a homage with atheism.Recommend

  • Haris

    A correction, I missed a few words, In Islam it is made clear no one but those that are true Muslims will enter heaven..Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/pakistani_hindu Pakistani Hindu

    Brilliant write up Ms Faiza.
    I just want to say Thank You..Recommend

  • Dee Cee

    Nice article but the author has been incorrect in some place. Atheism did not originate solely in the West. Closer home, the ancient Hindus had Samkhya and Carvaka philosophies denied any god. Also, no discussion on secularism in the subcontinent is complete without the sulh-i-kul (peace to all) policy of Akbar the Great! So powerful was the concept that decades after his death, Shivaji reasoned with Aurengzeb on the basis of sulh-i-kul policy to abolish jiziya. It is also intriguing to read Shivaji’s letter to Aurengzeb where the hindu king reminds the muslim emperor that the latter’s Lord is rab-ul-alameen and not only rab-ul-momeen! Recommend

  • Sinclair

    When atheists start looking down upon compartiates who follow religion – they are doing exactly what any religionist would do. And at that time, atheism also becomes a religion – just that it is the religion of no god. Practice it personally, and forget it communally. Thats true atheism for me, and unfortunately for the theme of this article, that is also secularism. If you are going to embrace secularism, dont do it while bashing atheism at the same time because thats hypocrisy. Recommend

  • Marty Kay Zee

    Non-theism is the default position. Anti-theism is the rational action. The feverish fabrication of fantastic, ignorance-based structures of belief and behavior is the first cause of conflict and suffering in the secular world. Atheism is to religion as abstinence is to promiscuity.Recommend

  • MonsieurCritique

    Secularism is the freedom of religion and the freedom from religion. The problem only rises when people forget one or the other.Recommend

  • Parvez

    In Pakistan today, secularims and democracy are the two most abused and misunderstood words bandied about.Recommend

  • sohaib zeshan

    a secular person is an atheist, whereas a secular state may or may not an atheist state. What i know is ‘ application of secularism or atheism in pakistan will be like inoculation of venom in pakistan’s base. As Pakistan was made in the name of Islam , the two nation theory. So plz ‘liberal ET’ stop promoting it coz it is not good for our country!Recommend

  • Raja Islam

    To keep it simple secularism deals with keeping religion out of government. Atheism is not believing in the existance of God.

    Secularism is good for the nation as it eliminates religious bias and is not necessarily at odds with religion.

    Atheists have a right to their views. Nothing is definitive, therefore I would give them a chance and state that maybe they are right.Recommend

  • Dave Davis

    Make your worldview unique to you. Don’t let anyone suggest your beliefs. Ferret them out for yourself but base them on evidence, not on myth or the supernatural.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Haris: “Atheist are more secular generally ”

    Not true believers of various faiths did ot have such a good time in Moa’s atheist China or Stalin’s atheist Russia. Like anyone else an athest maybe a good person or bad. B ut that trait is independent of them being an atheist. All atheist means is they do not believe in God/. IT does not make them better or worse than the others.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Dee Cee: ” It is also intriguing to read Shivaji’s letter to Aurengzeb where the hindu king reminds the muslim emperor that the latter’s Lord is rab-ul-alameen and not only rab-ul-momeen!”

    Shivaji’s letter to Akbar? Shivaji was acontemporary of Aurangzeb not Akbar. Akbar died in 1605, Shivaji was born in 1630. Recommend

  • gp65

    @Haris: “Every theist out there will tell you their way is the right way others are wrong”
    Not factually correct. Hindus will not tell you that. PRoselytization is primarily restricted to Christianity and Islam. Though Jews do believe there’s is the right way, they do not proselytize and try to influence others.

    “To be secular by definition means the state of being separate from religion hence making a homage with atheism.”

    Generally speaking secular is a trait of the state not an individual. As secular state is one which does not distinguish between individuals based on their faith. But people who desire that their state should be secular can be characterized as secular individuals.Recommend

  • umer

    @Haris
    Every religion – christanity, vedism, judaism etc. has the similar concept. No one can enter heaven unless they be a good one of those earlier mentioned. Not just islamRecommend

  • umer

    @gp65:
    Actually it is factually correct both hinduism and judaism have the concept of proselytize, it depends whether they follow it completely or not.Recommend

  • Sane

    That’s true that Islam is the most secular religion. I allows to live and practice other religions in an Islamic dominant society. If somebody denies or acts otherwise does not follow what Islam teaches. Look at the history to note how various religions were living in peace and harmony in Islamic empires.Recommend

  • gp65

    @umer: “@gp65:
    Actually it is factually correct both hinduism and judaism have the concept of proselytize, it depends whether they follow it completely or not.”

    Please provide reference.Recommend

  • umer

    My view on Secularism

    I think secularism is not a pure concept. The principles of secularism are borrowed from different religions. For example – state not interfering in peoples religion, Justice, Honesty etc. Secularism is an attempt to keep biasness of religious people (not the religion) from harming others. This attempt has refined over the centuries but based on the orignal guiding principles of secularism (which are borrowed from various religions).
    Yet I think that concept of protection of religious minorities is not compatible with secularism, this concept arises when a recognized religious group is in majority and state makes it sure that rights of people in minorities are obstructed in any way, secular state does not recognize anyone one the basis of religion in the first place.
    Secularism can only be as perfect as any religion can be in theory (I can only vouch for Islam in theory and not what muslims do).Recommend

  • Sane

    This blog post opens vista to think as are we true Muslims? Do we let other religions to practice their beliefs and guard our beliefs as Muslims? If not, are we true Muslims?

    Anyways this is an excellent write and invites to peep into our acts and thinking as Muslims.Recommend

  • S

    @sohaib Zeeshan: it is absurd to think a secular person is an athiest. I promote secularism but i also strongly believe in the existance of god all mighty. What a secular system does is it protects the rights of minorities in a country. And keeping in mind the state of our own country, secularism wouldnt be such a bad thing. Our country was established on the two natioon theory which suggested that a seperate homeland be made for the minorities of india which included Muslims, christians etc. The only thing venomous in our country is the widespread ignorance and intolerance.Recommend

  • http://India Feroz

    First and foremost secularism is the basic tenet for building a liberal and progressive Nation State. Religion must live in peoples hearts and homes and a state has no business to make any rulings with even the slightest tinge of religion in them. An atheist does not believe in God, the type of Government his country has is really of no consequence to him. Most secularists are as religious as the next guy, in contrast all atheists are secular as religion does not exist for them. Sadly, Pakistan would not have faced even a quarter of its current problems if it had chosen its path wisely. Recommend

  • umer

    @gp65:
    First you provide your reference then ask mine.Recommend

  • Toba Alu

    I am not amazed that even the author is not able to grasp what atheism is. For religious people it is difficult to brake through a life-long exposure of brainwashing and in Muslim countries this Pavlov effect is stimulated five times a day. Atheism is certainly not a belief system in the sense of a religious belief system. You are playing with words. Atheists do not believe (accepting as true) in the existence of a God or Gods for the simple reason that there is, as yet, no evidence for it/them. If any one believes in a Flying Spaghetti Monster than you cannot qualify those who are not believing (accepting something as true) as having a belief system (not believing in Flying Spaghetti Monsters). It is still normally accepted in the world that the burden of proof is on those who claim that Flying Spaghetti Monsters, a God or Gods exist.

    ” …. claiming that science provides all necessary explanations of reality”.

    Sorry, this is neither claimed by atheists nor by any (real) scientist. Scientists are the first to recognize how much we still do not understand or are not able to explain. But we have made a lot of progress during the last 100 years, but admittedly we have not found any evidence for Flying Spaghetti Monsters, nor a God or Gods.

    Growing Disbelief in the Economist presents a nice discussion in the comments, (including well informed and totally misinformed commentators).

    http://www.economist.com/comment/1610544

    Enjoy!!Recommend

  • Faust

    A good article, and a again it’s worth emphasizing, secularism is not atheism. It’s just removing religion from the business of governance, education and law (never perfect in any country but that is the ideal)

    It in no way prevents any one from going to their Mosque, Church, Synagogue or Temple (sorry don’t know the specific words for Hindu, Shinto or Buddhist places of worship)Recommend

  • Dee Cee

    @gp65: Ha ha haha, that was funny. If it was earnest, then I would humbly request you to re-read the section you quoted. But I also make such mistakes if I do speed reading. No probs. :)Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    For the purpose of emphasizing the difference between secularism and atheism, the author used a stereotypical picture of atheists – as positivist, scientific cultists who are intolerant towards religious ideologies merely for the sake of being intolerant.

    Politically speaking, that is a great move, for it appeases the theists and assures them that there’s no hidden “atheist agenda” behind you promoting secularism. But the atheist community cannot help but feel a little hurt by the fact that you attempted to sell secularism as a benign force *as opposed to* atheism, which allegedly isn’t.Recommend

  • vvd

    In short it means live & let live.Do not try to persuade others to desert their religion & adopt a new fangled religion which is alien to him .Let him live in peace with his own set of beliefs .Why are others so interested to shove others in heaven via their religious door by claiming falsely that only their set of beliefs will lead people to heaven & the rest will go to hell.Totally incorrect & false perception.No God will lead his followers astray.All roads will lead to heaven.Only the deserving will enter .Your actions will decide that for you.Recommend

  • Asif

    @ Loneliberal PK

    The authors attempt at showing the benign nature of secularism compared to atheism is as relevant as comparing secularism to the dominance of one religion in particular.Recommend

  • JacksDad

    It’s amazing how few people appear to understand what being an atheist means.Recommend

  • Alphabet

    Maulvies denounce secularism. But they, themselves are the secular. The secualrism says that religions are free to operate in the country, but on the whole, management of the country does not deal with a particular religion.It deals with norms, acceptable to all of the residents of the country.
    Maulavies are the secular in the sense that when they perform their norms just like common people, mostly they are not superior than common people in thier ethics and routine works. Just like common man, they do decieve others, take bribes, do wrongs in their life, along with saying their prayers. This means that they keep religion out of their routine life. So they are secular, but dont admit it.Recommend

  • gp65

    @umer: You are asking me to provide a reference to something that does not exist i.e. Hinduism and Judaism do not enjoin upont their folowers to proselytize. How can I show you what does not exist. You on the other hand are stating that Hinduism and Judaism doe endorse proselytization. So if such an exhortation exists, you should have no difficulty in providing a reference.Recommend

  • gp65

    “Yet I think that concept of protection of religious minorities is not compatible with secularism, this concept arises when a recognized religious group is in majority and state makes it sure that rights of people in minorities are obstructed in any way”

    If the states obstructs the rights of the minorities for no reason other than they are minorities, that is ot a secular state by definition.

    IF however certain behaviors are forbidden to everyone regardless of their faith and group of one faith insist on the right to practice those behaviors based on what their religion tells them (e.g. burkha in France), then the issue does not relate to denying rights tominority. Issue relates to a misplaced sense of entitlement for special treatment by the minority since the requirement is based on security reasons and not religious reasons.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Dee Cee: My sincere apologies. There was Akbar listed earlier and as yuo pointed out – sometimes speed reading leads to error. My bad.Recommend

  • gp65

    @vvd: “No God will lead his followers astray.All roads will lead to heaven”

    You are assuming that people believe in heaven. Many atheists don’t and certainly Hindus don’t.Recommend

  • omaidus

    Secularism is “La Ikrah ha Fid-deen” no compulsion in the matters of religion.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    Pakistan definitely needs reforms of educational institutions. The auhor gives the titile for the article and talks about Atheism. perhaps the author should answer two questions , namely

    1, What in her views is an Islamic state?

    what is the purpose of beating the drums for secularism?

    Those states which practice secularism simply follow the principal of non interfereness of the religion clergy in the affairs of the Govt. and vice e versa.

    Rex Minor Recommend

  • ignorantways

    The views expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune

    @author ” History might show that most Islamic rulers have failed to realize secularism in its unsullied form, but this observation does little to contradict the fact that Islam does provide for a wider morality which transcends hostility between belief-systems. Just because history has few examples of secularism flourishing within ‘Islamic’ empires does little to prove that Islam does not allow for such a morality ”

    which history ? you always shouting with phrase “history is fabricated ”

    most islamic rulers . you didn’t mention the names or eras

    if someone as ruler trying to follow Quranic Laws and literally he is on right side what you think is it secularism ? is it malookiyat ? is it religious empire ?

    and the last thing you didn’t mention the history of invention of secularism with respect to regimes who followed it ?? Recommend

  • Haris

    @gp65
    I would have loved your reply to comment in a single comment so please keep to one comment..

    “Atheist are more secular generally”

    “Not true believers of various faiths did ot have such a good time in Moa’s atheist China or Stalin’s atheist Russia. Like anyone else an athest maybe a good person or bad. B ut that trait is independent of them being an atheist. All atheist means is they do not believe in God/. IT does not make them better or worse than the others.”

    let me make it more clearer this time, Atheist are likely to be more secular because they are NOT BOUND to any religion, Its tenants, claimed-God or prophet, however like any theist are less secular infact intolerant of alien belief its a fact cause its human nature, your first statement is irrelevant I can find you many sufferings because of theist among theist/atheist alike do you want me to cough up some or can you see them yourself?,

    And there are many types of atheist for your information and many believe they are the Gods, many are just not willing to believe yet on current knowledge, so does that counter their ideology? :p yeah I don’t think so and what do you except when politics is mixed with beliefs? just look at the Nazis who applied their own version of Darwinism on whole humanity.

    “Every theist out there will tell you their way is the right way others are wrong”

    Not factually correct. Hindus will not tell you that. PRoselytization is primarily restricted to Christianity and Islam. Though Jews do believe there’s is the right way, they do not proselytize and try to influence others.

    Give me a reference from their scripture about that okay? :) the Hindus, and Jews as of the moment don’t go about propagating their religion because they are a minority but logically speaking its not true what you said about them, Jews are as xenophobic as human can get, for instance just recently I read this :
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/25/rabbi-chaim-kanievsky-burn-iphonen1912814.html

    “To be secular by definition means the state of being separate from religion hence making a homage with atheism.”

    Generally speaking secular is a trait of the state not an individual. As secular state is one which does not distinguish between individuals based on their faith. But people who desire that their state should be secular can be characterized as secular individuals.

    You’re statement is biting its own tail and I have no idea what do you mean by it to my referred comment, how can a state be secular when the individuals that live in it are not secular? Big things have small beginning and a state is made of individuals, the question comes down to them.

    What the author said is correct being secular is not being atheist but our society views it that way because to them their religion is met for them to be ruled by it and it is ordered that way,

    Religion is everything to the theists generally speaking but there are theist too that don’t believe in anything but the fact that there must be a God but if anyone just gets up claims that here, Its blasphemous and it would be outright blasphemous being separate from religion..

    @Umer

    Every religion – christanity, vedism, judaism etc. has the similar concept. No one can enter heaven unless they be a good one of those earlier mentioned. Not just islam

    Of course be good get good that’s what every religion claims to preach until it gets political, Every religion is supposedly teaching you humanity but somewhere along the line contradictions come out and you find yourself not humane anymore. Do I have to elaborate on the matter?Recommend

  • Sane

    @Haris:

    Do I have to elaborate on the matter?

    No. That’s enough.Recommend

  • zeeshan sheikh

    you can either be a muslim or a secular.Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    Asif,

    The author claims, in a not-so-subtle manner, that being intolerant towards religious communities and not allowing them equal rights is atheism’s “cause”, something that secularism wouldn’t serve.

    I was not aware of this ’cause’. It could be an objective for some Atheists (note the capital A), but it is certainly not an agenda of atheism itself. Most atheists firmly believe in secularism to allow equal rights to all regardless of their religious beliefs, or lack thereof.Recommend

  • Ahmed Ali

    @Jordan:
    Lets call them un-educated atheist?Recommend

  • Just another commenter

    You know I have a little experience to relate to this phenomenon but here is a reflection of my novice understanding.

    In Business or Social sciences whenever, you want to generate awareness about a paradox in a any population; you keep on giving frequent exposures of that message to the population. Conterminously, as a next step you instigate a dialogue generates within that population. thats a second stage to make your message profound. As a third and final step, you start recognizing and appreciating the key influential people (who are the flag bearers of that paradox) within the population for adhereing to that paradox. and this way a social drive can be instigated.

    Unfortunately this approach has been working for even most idiotic and in utile concepts mankind ever heard. Same is the case with this concept per se “As mentioned in the article: secularism may be understood as a concept which gives breathing space to all beliefs”. as the message is being communicated incessantly by those who have either little exposure to this phenomenon and NO EXPERIENCE at all or they are totally oblivious of that “Reason” for which this country was developed. Recommend

  • Kashif

    “while religion might be an essential source of morality for some, there must be a wider morality which ensures tolerance and coexistence for all these different religious moralities” You nailed it by saying this!!! Good piece! Recommend

  • Dee Cee

    @Haris: ““Every theist out there will tell you their way is the right way others are wrong”
    Not factually correct. Hindus will not tell you that. PRoselytization is primarily restricted to Christianity and Islam. Though Jews do believe there’s is the right way, they do not proselytize and try to influence others.
    Give me a reference from their scripture about that okay? :) the Hindus, and Jews as of the moment don’t go about propagating their religion because they are a minority but logically speaking its not true what you said about them,”

    I think your assertion is incorrect here. I can speak about the Hindu bit being a Hindu. Haris, you can’t ask anybody to prove the “non-existence of proselytizing” in Hinduism by quoting from Hindu scriptures. The non-existence can be proven by a command that explicitly bans proselytizing, or by checking all scriptures to identify the absence of advocacy of proselytizing. The first case does not exist to the best of my knowledge, and the second case is extremely difficult to prove, because there is no one book for Hinduism.

    Having said that, I would say that Hinduism does not function like a monotheistic religion with certain markers for its followers. It is vastly diverse with many antagonistic (some violently so in history) schools of thought. Also, its syncretic nature often creates local amalgams with other religions (Eg. assimilation of Buddha as an avatar, worship of Jesus in Hindu Missionary organizations, a hybrid Hindu-Muslim deity Satyapir in Bengal). In Vedic times the four caste system allowed assimilation of natives in the lower rungs of caste hierarchy without completely changing their religious practices. There have been converts to Hinduism, but the converts are not required to renounce the allegiance to their old gods since new gods are quite welcome in Hinduism. Beef eating has been the only time tested dividing line between Hindus and non-Hindus, but that also is a historical anomaly. I am a beef-eating Brahmin btw. So, to summarize, given the structure of Hinduism, it doesn’t need to proselytize, and historically it has been known for excluding people from its fold. Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    Kashif,

    Without religion thre can be no morality.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Rex Minor

    Miss Rehman

    You refer to Thomas Hoyoake in the article? Are you sure it was not George Jacob Holyoake, the confirmed atheist who coined the word ‘Secular’?

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • PakistaniAtheist

    You make it sound like being an atheist is a horrible thing! You dont need to degrade Atheism (or pass your personal judgements on it) just to make your case for secularism!Recommend

  • http://swagatnepal.com Swagat Nepal

    Very good presentation,
    I am from Nepal contributing as an advocate and secularist activist as well a media content presenter/producer/director. This article is useful for us in the special reference of constitution process too.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Haris:
    “Give me a reference from their scripture about that okay? :) the Hindus, and Jews as of the moment don’t go about propagating their religion because they are a minority ”
    I have responded to the exact same issue to Umer. Further Dee Cee has also provided a response to you. I hope that is helpful.

    “how can a state be secular when the individuals that live in it are not secular? Big things have small beginning and a state is made of individuals, the question comes down to them”.

    By state, I mean the constitution and law enforcement. IF the laws do not differentiate between followers of different faiths and the law enforcers follow the laws in letter and spirit, that makes for a state that is secular i.e. one where there is no institutionalized discrimination. IT also means people of all faith have the freedom to worship or not worship as they choose and there is no state religion. IT does not mean that such states cannot have highly bigoted individuals in that state. India has some highly bigoted Hindus and Muslims but is a secular state and US too despite having some right wing born again Christians is a secular state. In contrast, there is institutionalized discrimination against non-Muslims. In a secular state, minorities have a higher chance of reaching positions of influence and of getting injustice addressed.

    “Atheist are likely to be more secular because they are NOT BOUND to any religion, Its tenants, claimed-God or prophet, however like any theist are less secular infact intolerant of alien belief its a fact cause its human nature,”

    Firstly as I said in my earlier post, secularism is an attribute of a state not an individual though tolerance is a trait of an individual. I do not think not believing in God makes you any more or less. tolerant than those that believe in God. Remember also that tolerance is to be extended not just to people who practice a different religion but also those who maybe from a different nationality, race, language, sexual preference, marital status etc. In some countries diversity is actively promoted and you are more likely to meet tolerant people and in others bigotry is pushed in the name of religion (Pakistan) or race (Nazi Germany) or some other parameter. While there are likely to be tolerant people even in such countries, the proportions are likely to be lower.Recommend

  • Toba Alu

    @Loneliberal PK:

    I fully agree with your comments. I do not understand the following statement made by the author, although I mostly agree with her conclusions.

    “Statements like ‘an Islamic state cannot be secular’ is laughably oxymoronic.”.

    As far as I understand an Islamic State can by definition not be a secular State for the simple reason that the Holy Quran (or any other Holy Scripture) is part of its Constitution. Secular is just separation of State and Religion (whatever religion). Separation of State and Religion just makes sure that religious authorities or institutions are not directly setting the legal framework for the State. Though secular states may include religious or anti-religious oriented laws they cannot directly be imposed by religious authorities, though they can be introduced in a democratic manner or in a dictatorial manner.Recommend

  • http://India Feroz

    @Rex Minor: “Without Religion there can be no morality”.

    Please ponder the statement made a second time. It is sweepingly judgmental and lacks proof.
    Most of the absolutely worst individuals I have seen in terms of morals and human values put on a religious facade that can be very deceiving. The atheists I know have a much higher level of tolerance to everything around them. Human values is what we must cherish and emulate. Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    Rex,

    “Without religion thre can be no morality.”

    Yes, Rex. That’s precisely the reason why Sweden, with a striking majority of non-religious people, is fairing so well relative to most other countries. In fact, it’s the fourth most honest state in the world.

    Not to mention how just about any socially developed, prosperous nation you can name, there’s a near 100% chance of it being a secular democracy.

    But please, you don’t need facts and statistics to support any of your arguments. Let’s believe whatever compliments our ideological biases, disregarding the fact that your conscience (not to mention the law) would exist whether or not you believe in religion.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    Feroz, L liberal,

    If morality is objective and absolute, God must exist,

    Morality is objective and absolute,

    Therefore God must exist and the commandments of God are reflected in Scriptures. Hence humanity started worhipping the God, only one God.

    The religion is based on reason and morality. However it is not naturalistic in the sense that religion is based on supernatural or transcendent belief. Both Bible and Quraan should be seen as source of naturalistic morality no matter whether there was or is truth behind the supernatural factor whether one abides by the codes or not.

    Rex Minor
    PS your speculation about Sweden has no grounds. All european Counries constiturions reflect the Values of christian religion. It was Hitler and Mussolin who loosen the hold of the churh on the Govts. by the concord with the pope which is valid todate. People in Pakistan should stop the spin about secularism. Recommend

  • Dee Cee

    @Rex Minor: Morality is not objective. Some cultures think cousin marriages to be immoral, some don’t. Some cultures think homosexuality to be immoral, some don’t. Some think any killing is immoral, some don’t. Also, even if we agree for the sake of argument, the existence of objective morality is not necessarily related to the existence of a God. That could be common human nature as well.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Rex Minor: “If morality is objective and absolute, God must exist,
    Morality is objective and absolute,
    Therefore God must exist ”

    Ah the joys of circular logic!Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    De Cee,

    I recognise that nonbelievers have prolems with Religion ! Their chldren tell lies because it makes them feel happy and their parents are unable to overcome this phenomina until the children become adults.

    It is immoral to tell a lie. Marriiage between cousins is not immoral, but a possible health hazard. In Germany it is not allowed, whereas the jewish people persist in marriages among cousins.

    The DNA checks of the population of Iceland has revealed that the entire population is made up from two or three families. If such checks were to be permitted one might discover wonders in countries with large populations.

    Rex Minor Recommend

  • Shah

    @Waiting: The aim of the author was to simply bring to light the issue and they way in which people in general try and associate the two concepts… the author in no way wants to influence or mold anyones opinion which is why i believe only little detail was given in this article… if people do want to learn more on the topic at hand then I believe this the reads personal choice to research it. I think the author has done a good job bringing this issue to our attention. Recommend

  • Shah

    @Haq:
    I beg to differ here…..i believe this maybe just on aspect of why secularism has a negative connotation… isn’t this like saying that since USA claims to be the champion of democracy and capitalism …both are considered negative when seen in this framework… but this isn’t true… pakistan’s ideology also includes the concept of secularism … and it is exactly this concept of secularism which validates our demand for a separate homeland. living under Hindu raj in pre partition period served as an eye opener for Muslims as incidents like the bengal partition of 1905, the hindi urdu controversy, and the Hindu ministries all validated the muslim claim that muslims will never be allowed to practice their religion in piece or in other words the hindus of that time were NOT secular nor were they planning to be any time soon… I think ur looking at the events of the past in light of what’s happening today which may lead u to conclude things differently but then this conclusion will undermine the struggle that our forefathers went through to create this country. Recommend

  • Dee Cee

    @Rex Minor: Just to clarify, I am sort of a Hindu believer. I do not have any problem with any religion, just that I don’t think that God and religion are related to morality. For example, I do not think Hindus, Muslims, or Christians are more moral or immoral because of their religion. A believing Hindu/Muslim/Christian can be less moral than an atheist or vice versa. The point I wanted to make is that morality is not exclusively related to religion, but I do agree that religious practices affect morality. I am sure you are not going to claim that children of believers don’t lie, and, of course, I would never claim that the fear of Hell has not encouraged some men to walk the right path for quite some time. I am personally against a fear/religion-based morality (‘I shouldn’t lie or else God will punish) and I recommend a duty-based morality (‘I shouldn’t lie because as a person it is my duty). But then again, I am just another individual, what do I know! :) Recommend

  • Dee Cee

    @Shah: “this concept of secularism which validates our demand for a separate homeland. living under Hindu raj in pre partition period served as an eye opener for Muslims as incidents like the bengal partition of 1905, the hindi urdu controversy, and the Hindu ministries all validated the muslim claim that muslims will never be allowed to practice their religion in piece or in other words the hindus of that time were NOT secular nor were they planning to be any time soon…”

    Although I agree that pre-Independence Indian nationalism had acquired a distinctly Hindu tone, I would like to disagree with some of your claims.

    There was no ‘pre-partition Hindu Raj’. It was a British Raj with Indian ministries with separate electorates.

    The partition of Bengal in 1905 was done by the British to weaken Bengal by fueling Hindu-Muslim divide. That was not Hindus oppressing Muslims. In fact the protest against the partition of Bengal gave birth to the Hindu-Muslim rakhi bandhan, which was encouraged by Rabindranath Tagore.

    Hindi-Urdu, or Urdu-Bengali controversy has given way to Hindi-Tamil, Hindi-Bengali controversy. That was not a Hindu conspiracy. If you remember the Urdu-Bengali conflict in East Pakistan, you would recognize that religion had nothing to do with language issues.

    There was never any pan-Indian objections against Muslims practising their religion. There was some objection against cow slaughter, and I think still now some (not all) Indian states do not allow cow slaughter. But I don’t think cow slaughter is integral to Islamic practices.

    The pre-partition Hindu-Muslim conflict was political as evidenced in the demand for separate Muslim electorate by the Qaid. There was political bargaining hardball played by the Hindu leaders, but there was no talk about Muslims being prevented to practice Islam. That’s a huge chunk of Muslims opted to stay back despite riots.

    You assertion that a separate home land for Muslims was a secular demand is an oxymoron. Anything based on religion cannot be secular. If it was a separate homeland for Punjabis, Sindhis, or other ethnicities, it could have been secular as it ethnicity does not involve religion explicitly.

    However, I would agree that many Hindus in the pre-partition India were not secular in the true spirit of the term. But the Indian constitution prevented, at times unsuccessfully, such preferences from affecting the Muslims. Even now India is not truly secular, but it is trying, and to continue to exist as a country it has to be secular as much as it can.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    Dee Gee,

    I have no problems with your statements, except that hindus are not believers since they continue to worship clay made statues of humans and animals. This practice ceased to exist wih the dawn of civilisation and and after the appearance of Prophets of God and the avilability of scriptures. Infact in Arabia, as well as in the European and the american continents they were brutaly murdered and annhilated. This treatment in now is approved in scriptures.

    You are right that most innocent children tend to lie not for deception, but those of muslim and christian origin are discouraged by their parents with ‘fear’ of the creator. I also agree that this is not to say that in practical terms believers have higher morals than those of non believers.

    But the codex of not lying specialy under oath is established by the belevers, and not in any way by non-believers. If it was left to Ithem i dare say the world would be allowed to live a life wihout any morals and constraints as the case was before the appearance of Prophets of God.

    Rex Minor

    PS Voltair said that if there is no God, we must create one to establish a moral codex.

    Have a nice day. Recommend

  • Dee Cee

    @Rex Minor: “I have no problems with your statements, except that hindus are not believers since they continue to worship clay made statues of humans and animals. This practice ceased to exist wih the dawn of civilisation and and after the appearance of Prophets of God and the avilability of scriptures. Infact in Arabia, as well as in the European and the american continents they were brutaly murdered and annhilated.”

    Anybody who believes in any god is a believer. You may not think that Hindus believe in the “true” god, which may be consistent with your belief. A hindu may not think that you do not believe in the “true” god, which is consistent with their belief. There is no universally accepted “god” or “gods”. The practice has not ceased to exist because practices of worshiping Buddha, Krishna etc. are continuously on the rise in the West, not that I consider that as something absolutely good, but people choose to believe in different god or gods, and that fact will not go away. You think Muslims and Christians believe in the same God, but ask any Christian if they think the same. That’s the original point I wanted to make; different gods and religions will have different morality based on cultures etc. Duty-based morality is not easy to follow because of the human nature, but I think that is what separates us from animals. Even an ox walks the straight path for the fear of the stick; how different is that animal from a fearing believer?Recommend

  • vexed

    Dee Cee,
    Please do NOT waste your breath on Rex Minor. He is a muslim of european-descent who’s never been to asia or interacted with any hindus in real life. His contemptous attitude is, of course, the result of his narrow minded, islamo-fascist world view. Nothing you say can make his respect other religions or the people who follow them.
    If he says hindus are ‘not believers,’ then they are NOT believers. Haben u verstehen?Recommend

  • Sane

    @Dee Cee:
    because practices of worshiping Buddha, Krishna etc. are continuously on the rise in the West,

    Commenting on above part of your comment, I must say that worshiping of Almighty ALLAH is increasing in west. Which is also true and genuine.Recommend

  • Dee Cee

    @Sane: I agree and both can happen at the same time. It is not a zero sum game after all. :)Recommend

  • Paki Existentialist

    strong text@Dee Cee:
    because practices of worshiping Buddha, Krishna etc. are continuously on the rise in the West,

    Commenting on above part of your comment, I must say that worshiping of Almighty ALLAH is increasing in west. Which is also true and genuine.strong text

    @ Sane
    Similarly I must say that atheism is on the full rise in the west.just follow an example

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ReligioninFrance#Statistics.

    So where is the West you believers always talk about in Tableeghi Jamaat style?Recommend

  • Alex

    Secularism = you discard religion from the state
    Atheism = you discard religion on both the state and person’s individual life.

    This shows that atheists win in terms of being fair, and seculars lose for being hypocrite.

    Nice attempt !! Recommend

  • Shahid Yasin

    An individual cannot be a secular, if he applies all attributes of secularity to his life, he will become an atheist, or someone who doesn’t follow any religion. Only a state can be secular because it neither requires any religion to function nor it needs to interfere with the private matter of an individual. When I say I am secular it means I don’t want state to interfere with my religiosity
    I practice my religion and I am secular because I believe a state should not have any religion but only respect for my faith.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    Dee Cee,

    All the European constitutions reflect the values of the Ibrahimic religions. The Go of Ibrahim is the God of all three aihs, namely jews, christians and muslims. The jews did not accept the prohpecies of the christ and the christians upgrade the status of Jesus to that of the son of God and from believe in one to the trinity, God, the son and the holy Ghosts. muslimsare the followers of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), who brought the last reformed version of the scriptures which the Angel Gabriel brought to the Prophet.

    India has adopted the French constitution and it does not reflect Hindu or Buddhist faiths.

    comprendo! The above are the organised faiths on which human rights have been based. Every individual is ofcourse free to believe in the faith or the statues or nothing as they wish.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Dee Cee

    @Rex Minor: “All the European constitutions reflect the values of the Ibrahimic religions.” Okay so wherever homosexuality or gay marriage is legalized that reflects the spirit of Abrahamic religions? I hope not.

    Somehow I sense a desperate attempt in you to prove the Abrahamic religions to be superior on which universal human rights are based according to you. Abrahamic religions have been great but I cannot consider them to be greater than any others. and also universal human rights are not based on any religion. they are humanistic approaches to rectify defects (or lack of importance of certain sectors) in the existing religion-based morality. As I mentioned long ago, universal human rights fall into the humanistic category of rights and moralities and not the religion-based rights and moralities. Also, India adopted an amalgam of British, French, and American constitutions. :)Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    Dee Cee,
    Now you are going in circles. revisit and recall my earlier post, namely morality and religon, combine it with all European constitutions are based on and reflect the Ibrahimic religions and not japanes shintuism.
    .

    The universal human rights, what is this animal that you have brought out of your bag. There is only one human Rights, the standard for UNO!

    Homosexuality is a personal sextual preference and does not require permission from the Govt. for this act. The marriage between the same sex is a differen t issue but not yet a actual to my knowledge in Europe.

    Rex Minor

    PS
    Incidently the Bris do not ahve a written constitution, the Queen is the head of the Govt as well as the head of the anglican religion, a branch of christianity. nice talking to you.(End)Recommend

  • Sane

    @zeeshan sheikh:

    you can either be a muslim or a secular.

    You need to know much much more about Islam teachings. Islam is very liberal and allows all minorities to coexist and practice their religion. History proves that Muslim Caliphs, Sultans and Kings even constructed/renovated or gave lands to construct worship places for minorities. Secularism is not what you interpret. None of the minority person was never forced to embrace Islam.Recommend

  • arcane

    Belief is not a public debate, so what if Secularism is Atheism! everything is fine as long as you dont involve with another person directly, unfortunately only Muslims cross that sacred boundary and interfere in other people’s business and someone els’ private life. Muslims need to get a life of their own.Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Haris: true Muslims will enter heaven..
    Are you a true Muslim? Are talibans true Muslims because they study Islam intensively for the purpose of making other Muslims follow true Islam by making women wear burqa and men have right length of beards?

    What is you definition of a true Muslim?Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Rex Minor: “what is the purpose of beating the drums for secularism?”

    Purpose for beating drums for secularism is to educate people to treat their fellow human beings as an equal and with respect.

    Right now according to many highly qualified religious scholars in Pakistan a Sunni can go to heaven if he kills a Shia or an Ahmadi, any Muslim can go to Islamic heaven by killing a blasphemer. Purpose is to teach these people to use their common sense.Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Rex Minor: “Without religion thre can be no morality.”

    I don’t think there is any correlation between religion and morality.
    What percentage of suicide bombers do you think are atheists?

    According to you Pakistan and Afghanistan should be on top of list of moral countries, which is far from truth.

    If you have to cut limbs or kill people to show others that this could happen to them if they stray, it shows religion is not working. Same thing talibans and religious police is doing, terrorizing people.

    Do you think “halal meat” bought with haram money is considered “halal neat”?Recommend

  • Truth

    If you honestly think Islam and secularism can co-exist. Please go study Islam before you write such blogs. Recommend