Unbelief As A Belief System: Core Tenet For Christians’ Fight For Religious Rights

Dec 22, 2015

Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

By Tom Gjelten

Christian conservatives who are battling for the right to promote their faith in public or official settings see themselves locked in an epic contest with a rival religion. But that rival isn’t Islam. It’s secularism.

“Secularism and Christianity are distinct, immutable religions,” writes David Lane, founder of the American Renewal Project, a group he organized to promote more political participation by conservative pastors. “Secularism advances the fundamental goodness of human nature, where historic Christianity sets forth a pessimistic view of human nature.”

The notion that secularism can be seen as a religion is ridiculed by many nonreligious people, but Lane and other Christian conservatives have their own Supreme Court hero to back them up: the late Justice Potter Stewart, who served on the court from 1958 to 1981.

The lone dissenter in School District of Abington Township v. Schempp, a 1963 Supreme Court decision that banned Bible readings in public schools, Stewart argued that prohibiting such religious exercises put religion in “an artificial and state-created disadvantage.” Such a ban, Stewart said, “is seen, not as the realization of state neutrality, but rather as the establishment of a religion of secularism.”

Defining Secularism And Its Relation To The State

That view of secularism as a religion has since become a key part of the conservative argument against a strict separation of church and state. It suggests that when government authorities ban prayers or Bible readings or Nativity scenes on public property or in official settings, it isn’t avoiding the appearance of state support for religion, it’s unfairly favoring one faith tradition over another.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan cited Stewart’s dissent in arguing for a constitutional amendment authorizing school prayer.

A secular viewpoint is normally understood as one that excludes religious references, so Stewart’s claim is controversial, even among some people of faith.

“Secularism is a way you look at the relation between government and religion,” says Barry Lynn, a Christian minister who also directs Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “If you say religion should keep its hands off government and government should keep its hands off religion, that to me is what a secularist is. You can have any or no theological beliefs backing that up.”

Some scholars nevertheless say some advocates of secularism do have their own worldview and belief system. Among them is Robert George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and a leading lay Catholic intellectual.

“I don’t think there really can be any question that there are forms of secularism, including some that are very prominent today in universities and other elite sectors of our society — belief systems that are comprehensive views — that function in people’s lives the way that religions function in the lives of traditional religious believers,” George says.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission at the Southern Baptist Convention, goes further.

“In some virulent forms of secularism, you have a moral code that is being imposed [that] often comes with the force of penalty of law,” he says. “It acts as a religion in terms of demanding conformity and seeking out heretics.”

Recent polling by the Pew Research Center suggests that secular attitudes are gaining strength in the United States, with fewer Americans saying they pray daily or attend church regularly.

But can secularism really be considered a religion?

No way, says sociology professor Phil Zuckerman of Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. He specializes in the study of “nonreligious” people.

“To me, what makes religion religion is the supernatural beliefs,” he says. “So a scientist who is gazing out at the universe and trying to make sense of it by looking at facts, physical properties, material reality, is not engaging in religion. The person who looks out at the universe and thinks there’s a magic deity behind it is engaging in religion.”


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33 comments on “Unbelief As A Belief System: Core Tenet For Christians’ Fight For Religious Rights

  • Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission at the Southern Baptist Convention, goes further.

    “In some virulent forms of secularism, you have a moral code that is being imposed [that] often comes with the force of penalty of law,” he says.

    This is just projecting theist addled thinking on to other people.
    Just because these pastors don’t understand there are no default gods, and other people are capable of thinking WITHOUT religious preconceptions, there is no reason to believe everyone else has a similar lack of scientific objectivity or non-circular mental reasoning capabilities.

    Laws holding civil law above theist dogmas, are only “virulent” in the minds of those who think THEY have a default right to impose their views on everyone else.

    “It acts as a religion in terms of demanding conformity and seeking out heretics.”

    This is the standard mental dichotomy of the god-deluded! (My view and the other ONE which opposes it).
    They are just too bigoted and ignorant to recognise the diversity of secular views, or the diversity of religious views other than their own!

    Religious “liberty” is the one-way liberty for them to impose their dogmas on other people.



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  • The approach makes sense when one considers that faith is nothing more than belief in myth and thus is indefensible by normal debate. So when challenged by reason — secularism / non-faith — the best approach is to define it as another form of faith and thus convince the army of the faithful that they are under attack. That scares politicians (who are already forced to pretend to have strong faith just to get elected in the USA) into protecting faith at all costs to avoid getting unelected and having their turn at the trough cut short.

    I.e. there is no confusion here among the elite of the faithful … it is calculated cynicism and outright lying to keep the flow of tax-free wealth intact.



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  • Surely the scientific approach to refuting such claims is to start with a clear definition of terms.

    For example, I would propose a simple definition of ‘religion’ to be

    A philosophy backed by superstition

    In most cases, the superstition is used to justify imposition of the philosophy on others.

    If you accept that definition, then taking the first definitions that come up in a google search for the key terms in that seems to me to make the answer fairly clear:

    Philosophy is the study of the general and fundamental nature of
    reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language

    .

    Superstition is the belief in supernatural causality—that one event
    causes another without any natural process linking the two events—such
    as astrology and certain aspects linked to religion, like omens,
    witchcraft and prophecies, that contradict natural science.

    On the other hand, if you take the weaker definition of religion that comes up on a google search:

    A religion is a cultural system of behaviors and practices, world views, ethics, and social organisation that relate humanity to an order of existence.

    then one could argue that secularism is a religion. But I think that definition fails to distinguish between religion and philosophy.

    To quote from Douglas Adams:

    “I checked it very thoroughly,” said the computer, “and that quite
    definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with
    you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.”

    DigbyT



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  • Digby R.S. Tarvin
    Dec 23, 2015 at 10:15 am

    If you accept that definition, then taking the first definitions that come up in a google search for the key terms in that seems to me to make the answer fairly clear:

    Philosophy is the study of the general and fundamental nature of
    reality, existence,
    knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language

    That definition pretty well describes science, and rules out all of religions supernatural claims, but no doubt the delusional, will kid themselves that they are philosophers, in the same way they kid themselves circularity from preconceptions is “reasoning” or “evidence”!

    Still! I suppose science started out as Natural Philosophy anyway!



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  • I think we should concede that religions qualify as philosophies according to that definition. It makes no mention of evidence, and deducing the age of the Earth from the old testament is a form a reason (though not one I would defend). It just defines an area of interest that applies to most religions as well as to science.

    I see the main difference between science and religion as the way the questions are addressed. If you think superstition (or as adherents would call it, faith) is the way to go, then I think you have a religion. If you prefer evidence and theories tested by experiment (what adherents call ‘the scientific method’), then I would call it Science.

    That definition of science doesn’t rule out the existence of other secular philosophies which are neither religion nor science. Secular just means not religious. I don’t think it necessarily implies scientific reason. If you want something which covers all secular belief systems, then ‘Natural Philosophy’ is probably a good name for it. Contrasting with ‘Supernatural Philosophy’ for the religious.



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  • Digby R.S. Tarvin
    Dec 23, 2015 at 11:35 am

    I think we should concede that religions qualify as philosophies according to that definition.

    I think once claims are made about the fundamental nature of
    reality and existence
    , we are talking about the material universe, rather than whimsical notions.

    It makes no mention of evidence, and deducing the age of the Earth from the old testament is a form a reason (though not one I would defend).

    Genuine logical deductions and mathematics can be used in such processes, but their detachment from material evidence, makes them whimsical castles in the air, based on presuppositions in flawed sources.

    It just defines an area of interest that applies to most religions as well as to science.

    I think it helps to blur the boundaries between reality and whimsical myth.

    If you think superstition (or as adherents would call it, faith) is the way to go, then I think you have a religion. If you prefer evidence and theories tested by experiment (what adherents call ‘the scientific method’), then I would call it Science.

    It is not really simply a matter od personal preference. Nature does not give a damn what some human opinions are! Scientific methodology objectively observes, tests , and by deduction and induction, establishes the best matches the most accurate models of the physical universe to the underlying facts.

    That definition of science doesn’t rule out the existence of other secular philosophies which are neither religion nor science.

    True, but it does refute those which are ideologies resting faith-based pseudoscience, and flawed thinking processes which have shown consistent failure when tested.

    If you want something which covers all secular belief systems, then ‘Natural Philosophy’ is probably a good name for it.

    ‘Natural Philosophy’ has a specific meaning and is simply science in its earlier stages of development, before the evidence-based rational parts were hived off into science departments.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_philosophy
    Natural philosophy or the philosophy of nature (from Latin philosophia naturalis) was the philosophical study of nature and the physical universe that was dominant before the development of modern science. It is considered to be the precursor of natural sciences.

    Contrasting with ‘Supernatural Philosophy’ for the religious.

    The problem is that when science separated from “Natural Philosophy”, that left the irrational, fallacious, long refuted notions, and flawed rump-end of theology and faith thinking, which Bible colleges now teach as “philosophy”.

    I think that that is more accurately described as theology.

    Science already teaches the history of the confirmed hypotheses and theories.



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  • It would be interesting to see how many of these religious institutions would last if they were treated like any other “taxable” business. Washington treats Wall Street bankers and religious institutions with the same biased privileges: Above the law and very little scrutiny. All at the expense of the American tax payers.



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  • Digby R.S. Tarvin
    Dec 23, 2015 at 11:47 am

    I am using the dictionary.com definition of ‘reason’:

    a basis or cause, as for some belief, action, fact, event,

    Some dictionaries give clearer and more accurate definitions than others, so are preferred in academic circles.
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reason

    Simple Definition of reason

    a statement or fact that explains why something is the way it is, why someone does, thinks, or says something, or why someone behaves a certain way

    a fact, condition, or situation that makes it proper or appropriate to do something, feel something, etc.

    the power of the mind to think and understand in a logical way

    A factual basis and logic seem to feature prominently if we avoid archaic usages.



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  • @OP – Christian conservatives who are battling for the right to promote their faith in public or official settings see themselves locked in an epic contest with a rival religion. But that rival isn’t Islam. It’s secularism.

    That kind of depends which country you are in!

    There is a “war on Xmas” and guess what? It is not secularists who are fighting it!
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-35167726
    Somalia’s government has banned the celebration of Christmas, warning that such Christian festivities could threaten the nation’s Muslim faith.

    “Those celebrations are not in any way related to Islam,” an official at the religious affairs ministry said.

    Security agencies have been directed to stay alert to stop any gatherings.

    Foreigners are free to mark the Christian holiday in their own homes, but hotels and other public places have been prohibited from marking the day.



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  • But can secularism really be considered a religion?

    To even consider that secularism is another another religion is an abomination. That kind of consideration must be either ignored or condemned to the fullest extent. I will NEVER accept any notion or explanation without evidence from the natural universe. I do NOT “believe” in any thing. Faith is an absurdity, a flaw in human thinking.



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  • I don’t disagree with any of your criticisms of religious dogma. However, at the risk of sounding like I support the idea of secularism being a religion, I suspect your are largely preaching to the converted.. 🙂

    In fact, I think you are being over generous in calling anything faith based a ‘pseudo-science’. I don’t see any science in it at all. Natural Science does have an accepted meaning which I think aligns quite well with what I meant. It was a precursor of modern science evolving out of philosophy involving reasoning without reference to divine influences

    My point is that in order to argue against secularism being a religion, we need to agree on what a ‘religion’ is. I have proposed a simple definition. I would welcome any improvements or better alternatives.. You would probably have to substitute ‘faith’ for ‘superstition’ to get the definition accepted by non-atheists. It doesn’t help an argument to have a definition that only one side accepts.

    You can’t sensibly argue a proposition without defining your terms.

    The other definitions which I quoted are just examples which I think are consistent with my interpretation, but I make no claim that they are the best or even particularly good. Feel free to offer better ones..



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  • Digby R.S. Tarvin
    Dec 23, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    I don’t disagree with any of your criticisms of religious dogma. However, at the risk of sounding like I support the idea of secularism being a religion, I suspect your are largely preaching to the converted.

    I should also have said welcome to this forum, where we take reason and science seriously, so work hard at reaching clarity of view.

    Secularism is very clearly a position which gives no preference or bias to any religion, ideology or philosophy, so the view that it is a religion, is simply a projection of the limited thinking of those making such claims. It is the mentality of “default religions” or default gods”, of a religious “in-group” where all other views are lumped together and branded as the enemy “religion” opposing that group!

    In fact, I think you are being over generous in calling anything faith based a ‘pseudo-science’. I don’t see any science in it at all.

    I think you misunderstand the term “pseudo-science”.
    Pseudo science does not contain any science at all. It is faked claims tarted up with a few (wilfully?) misunderstood scientific terms, dressed up as science and pretending to be science.

    Like other scientists, I take the view, that only studies which are based on scientific methodology are science!

    You would probably have to substitute ‘faith’ for ‘superstition’ to get the definition accepted by non-atheists.

    The problem with that is that there are all sorts of bendy semantic definitions accommodating religious obfuscation in the use of the term “faith”. These detract from the primary definition!

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/faith
    faith – 1. strong or unshakeable belief in something, esp without proof or evidence

    It doesn’t help an argument to have a definition that only one side accepts.

    It is worth debating the term “faith” and its rigorous meaning, if the argument is not going to degenerate into rambling semantic shufflings about non-objective “ways of knowing” and ambiguous meanings or words!



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  • Christian conservatives… see themselves locked in an
    epic contest with a rival religion. But that rival isn’t Islam. It’s
    secularism.

    Then they are incapable of rational thought. Secularists have no wish or imperative to wage jihad
    ‘until all worship is for Allah’, nor do they seek to kill or enslave those who disagree.

    Is “secularism” now the PC word for atheism??



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  • The term “reason” should include the general notion that we must “question authority.” If that becomes accepted as a normality, then the entire christian Bible falls like a house of cards (as does other religious documents).



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  • I think the concern should be: do many secular individuals, Christians — or other religious persons — who have disavowed their belief in a god, continue to believe in the specific tenants of religion?

    I’ve seen many views posited by atheists who use their own emotional, personal views on an issue, as if driven by the same emotional based epistemology of (for example) Christianity.

    Becoming an atheist is only a starting reference point, at which one establishes one’s fundamental view of existence. A view in which, hopefully, reason, logic, and ultimately a rational philosophy is formed. Unfortunately, many “reborn atheists,” in rejecting the existence of a god, still follow many of the altruism based tenants of religion.

    All forms of collectivism/statism are based on the irrational premise of altruism, or self sacrifice, where the concept of individual rights are eliminated or reduced, and replaced with the concept of collective rights, or the priority of the group over the individual. Religion is simply a “spiritual” form of collectivist ideals, and shares the same basis in philosophy, as secular forms of collectivism. The only difference is in the source of authority — the state, or a god.



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  • I should also have said welcome to this forum, where we take reason
    and science seriously, so work hard at reaching clarity of view.

    Thank you. That sounds like the sort of forum I am happy to be a part of.

    The problem with that is that there are all sorts of bendy semantic
    definitions accommodating religious obfuscation in the use of the term
    “faith”. These detract from the primary definition!

    Quite agree. I suspect there would be resistance to the term ‘superstition’ by those who call themselves religious, and ‘faith’ is, as you say, allows too much wiggle room (when a religion asks for faith, they mean blind, unquestioning belief, which is less benign that the actual word meaning). Perhaps ‘divine’ is a term they would accept, which still implies the essence of what distinguishes a religiously based philosophy.



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  • JimJFox
    Dec 23, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    Is “secularism” now the PC word for atheism??

    We know that it isn’t, but you can’t expect fundamentalist Xtians to to understand such niceties!
    They see things in: them and us – black and white!

    They think everyone uses the same (flawed) thought processes they do, because it is the only one they know!



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  • Digby R.S. Tarvin
    Dec 23, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Perhaps ‘divine’ is a term they would accept, which still implies the essence of what distinguishes a religiously based philosophy.

    In any debate with the religious, it is necessary to be aware of the religion or denomination in question, and the level of debating or reasoning skills of those being engaged.

    If you click on, and look at the WBPF SOURCE link on this discussion, and the comments below the linked article, you will see that reason and evidence are wasted on some “know nothing believers”, who deny science because they know everything by “faith” and have god-did-it-by-magic gap-fillers, all over their ignorance!

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/12/boca-raton-father-son-sue-school-district-for-not-teaching-evolution/



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  • I, but its not about me, discovered whilst studying mechanical engineering in the 1970s that you cannot have an idea without someone having had the idea before you. Popper put this well in his introduction to “The Logic of Scientific Discovery”. In the last year I have been commenting on YouTube and learning a lot with the following results:

    Evolution is uninteresting because it is just history and “history is bunk”. History is bunk because if you are going to do something you can do it today or tomorrow but you cannot do it yesterday. All the arguments rolled out to support the study of history are bunk. “We are the product of history”, I’m not. We study history so avoid making the same mistakes again, no, we should just avoid making mistakes. Richard has recently stated that evolution is just a fact and that is all it is. Part of the landscape.
    I have introduced “ONE”. We can only have ONE theory of this or that. We cannot have two or more schools of thought on this or that. There is only ONE world to describe and only ONE theory that matches reality. Where there are more than ONE school of thought as it economics, politics, phycology then one or all are mistaken.
    I have introduced new rhetoric with the “epistemological arsenal” establishing epistemology as the “king of enquiries”, “sciences’ big brother”, telling every other enquiry what it can and cannot do. Epistemology deals with truth and falsity, logic (which includes maths), scientific method, the falsifiability demarcation criteria and nominalism (never asking “what is” questions).
    I have introduced the “forth position”, the only rational position wrt goddo, “NO POSITION”. Positions 1, 2 and 3 have massive weaknesses. I is believer, 2 is non-believer and 3 is the ridiculous agnostic position.
    I have introduced the perfect resolution to our moral questions. We don’t do ancient texts like bibles, the GHP (150 years old) or the categorical imperative (200 years old). We just do freedom of thought, speech and press, debate and scrutiny, repeat, repeat, stakeholder consultation, public consultation, second house review. The bottom line is that we make our moral laws on a day to day basis and are ultimately ruled by the best argument.
    We don’t do religion, opinion or belief. We only do “OBJECTIVE KNOWLEDGE”. We ignore the intellectualists (other wise known as rationalists) and empiricists. We never ask where you got your knowledge from but only “how can we test it?” And if there is no way we can test it you can keep it. Knowledge is only true if it “corresponds with the facts”.

    Comments welcome.



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  • Does the legal system have a definition of a religion? I would say there must be one in the Income Tax act.
    Atheists have long been denied income tax deductions. That should settle it.



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  • You have to specify which legal system you are referring to. In the UK, the racial and religious hatred bill
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmstand/e/st050629/pm/50629s01.htm
    states:

    ‘17B Meaning of “religious belief” For the purposes of section 17A a
    religious belief is confined to— (a) Christianity; (b) Islam; (c)
    Hinduism; (d) Judaism; (e) Buddhism; (f) Sikhism; (g)
    Rastafarianism; (h) Baha’ism; (i) Zoroastrianism; (j) Jainism.’.

    So no, nothing that would be helpful in determining what would qualify a belief system for addition to the list… There are stories of initial attempts at a legal definition of religion having proposals for amendments to specifically exclude ‘Jediism’ and ‘Satanism’ from any protections or benefits..

    I don’t know what the IRS rules are, but I would guess it just similarly provides a list of religions that are recognized for tax purposes, and not being on the list doesn’t necessarily prove that you are not a religion.



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  • David
    Dec 23, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    I, but its not about me, discovered whilst studying mechanical engineering in the 1970s that you cannot have an idea without someone having had the idea before you. Popper put this well in his introduction to “The Logic of Scientific Discovery”.

    This is simply wrong! nobody thought of the Big-bang, Quantum Physics, galaxies or relativity, prior to their recent discoveries when technologies permitted this.

    In the last year I have been commenting on YouTube and learning a lot with the following results:

    It looks like you have been picking up mistaken ideas from the some of wrong people.

    Evolution is uninteresting because it is just history and “history is bunk”.

    Evolution is the past history, present mechanism, and future development, of life on this planet.

    History is bunk because if you are going to do something you can do it today or tomorrow but you cannot do it yesterday. All the arguments rolled out to support the study of history are bunk.

    Nope! Those who do not study the mistakes in history, are condemned to repeat them. we should however be careful and bear in mind that many individuals and organisations (including the worst), rewrite versions history to show themselves in a favourable light!

    “We are the product of history”, I’m not. We study history so avoid making the same mistakes again, no, we should just avoid making mistakes.

    There is no way an individual can test all scenarios which have been encountered bu millions of people in the past. Nor do individuals have the time or abilities or resources, to repeat all the scientific research or real life situations, which are recorded for the benefit of posterity.

    Richard has recently stated that evolution is just a fact and that is all it is. Part of the landscape.

    No! That evolution is happening is a fact.
    How it works is covered in numerous theories. Volcanoes are “part of the landscape”. That does not mean we don’t need theories about how they work.

    I have introduced “ONE”. We can only have ONE theory of this or that.

    I evolutionary biology we can have as many theories of evolutionary development as there are organisms! Every species and individual has its own ancestral history.

    The bottom line is that we make our moral laws on a day to day basis and are ultimately ruled by the best argument.

    Without having historical records of empirical testing, and practical examples, we have no basis for evaluating “the best argument”!

    We don’t do religion, opinion or belief.

    We would need to evaluate the responses of religious groups and individuals, to make any decisions politically workable.
    We should also separate “opinion” from “evidence-based expert opinion”.
    (In engineering people don’t ask any Tom, Dick, or Harry how to design bridges, buildings, or rockets.)

    We only do “OBJECTIVE KNOWLEDGE”. We ignore the intellectualists (other wise known as rationalists) and empiricists.

    You will never acquire any significant quantity or quantity of “Objective” Knowledge”, without using the work of rationalist empiricists who have gone before or looked in places you have not.

    We never ask where you got your knowledge from but only “how can we test it?”

    While we should remain open minded to new information, and critical in our evaluation of scientific studies or historical records, unless we check out competent and reputable sources, we will be perpetually bogged down in a proliferation low-grade garbage full of errors, conspiracy theories, and whimsical pet notions.
    It is impossible to personally check or test everything.

    Science is about methodology and peer-review, to identify and reduce or eliminate mistakes. It is not perfect, but it is the best system we have.



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  • Hi Alan,

    This is just projecting theist addled thinking on to other people. [Alan4discussion]

    No, I really think this is something far more sinister.

    [There can be no] question that there are forms of secularism, including some that are very prominent today in universities and other elite sectors of our society …

    Intelligent, educated, people are killing us. Attack intelligence and education.

    I don’t think there really can be any question that there are forms of secularism … — belief systems that are comprehensive views …

    I question that conclusion. Rather than just assert it, show me the evidence and the logical argument that you believe enables you to conclude that there are such forms of secularism.

    … forms of secularism … belief systems that are comprehensive views …

    This is a use of the word secular with which I am not familiar. To me secular is the most religious-neutral word there is, as defined by the founders of modern India in articles, letters and speeches too numerous to include here.

    At this point even a neutral observer must surely conclude that these people are using classic propaganda techniques – the techniques being used are not even subtle: dysphemism, dictat, demonising the opposition, exaggeration … – to undermine the very idea of a neutral political position on religion.

    The obvious conclusion to draw from this evidence is that Religious Extremist Americans are very worried by recent signs that power is slipping through their fingers. It is no longer enough to campaign for religion, they must now aim lower and attack even the religion-neutral position in order to maintain their grip on the politicians.

    This is simply a desperate attempt to deny politicians a refuge in the Religious Extremist Americans’ war to establish a US theocracy.

    My conclusion: We’re winning. We need to work harder, just as they are, to refute this obvious move to increase partisanship by removing any middle ground.

    … forms of secularism … that function in people’s lives the way that religions function in the lives of traditional religious believers.

    Oh yes, the least-subtle propaganda technique of all comes from Robert George at the end of his diatribe; the big lie. Followed by:

    In some virulent forms of secularism, you have a moral code that is being imposed [that] often comes with the force of penalty of law. It acts as a religion in terms of demanding conformity and seeking out heretics.

    This last quote from Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission at the Southern Baptist Convention.

    Because two people telling the big lie must mean it’s true!

    We are obliged, of course, to Mr. Moore. He is clearly fully qualified to give us the correct, moral and ethical description of religion:

    “In some virulent forms of [religion] you have a … code that is … imposed [that] often comes with the force of penalty of law. It acts … in terms of demanding conformity and seeking out heretics.”

    Can’t argue with that.

    Can argue with the idea of secular ideals being a religion in their own right. Looking for evidence … it seems to me that I’ve heard that expression somewhere before …

    In the minds of Religious Extremists does secular = heretic, I wonder …

    The full article is very much worth reading, if only to hear the whining of religious students who find actual thinking so much of a challenge that they dig metaphorical intellectual fox holes to cry in. Please note that I am not a triumphalist here, anyone feeling such obvious distress deserves our sympathy. Rather, I recommend it as a way to learn how defensive religious people can become, simply because they’re asked to review (and only review, not revise, not defend, not even revisit) their beliefs.

    If religious people feel so defensive in a truly secular environment (in this case a college of higher education) then it helps us to understand how strong is religion’s unearned gravitas and respect in the minds of the religious. This is probably why Religious Extremist Americans think they’re on to something when they attack secular values.

    Challenging beliefs is something we need to do less. More and more I’m drawn to the interventionist strategy of Peter Boghossian. There is a place for political rabble-rousing confrontation of religion, but winning de-conversion is the humanist response to organised religion’s lust for power.

    Peace.



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  • 29
    fadeordraw says:

    If the theory of “memes” has any credence, then secularism, or seeking understandings of the workings of mankind and the planet adhering to the natural without the recourse to the supernatural, can be considered religion-like. There is the belief that secular approaches, rather than religious ones, will offer a better life experience overall, or that irrespective of the quality of one’s experience, it will provide an more factually-based experience, as mundane as that might be. Indeed, there might be advantages in agreeing that secularism is a like a religion; including a strategic positioning for the secularism-religion battle, as well as the aforementioned tax breaks. Just saying…



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  • fadeordraw
    Dec 27, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    If the theory of “memes” has any credence, then secularism, or seeking understandings of the workings of mankind and the planet adhering to the natural without the recourse to the supernatural, can be considered religion-like.

    Not really! The theory of memes is about passing on thought habits and cultural traditions, regardless of if they are religious or not.

    There is the belief that secular approaches, rather than religious ones, will offer a better life experience overall, or that irrespective of the quality of one’s experience, it will provide an more factually-based experience, as mundane as that might be.

    This is the commonly propagated misconception of “secularist”, as the converse of religiosity. – Frequently some specific denomination of religiosity.

    Indeed, there might be advantages in agreeing that secularism is a like a religion;

    Secularism is a position of neutrality towards all religious and non-religious positions.

    including a strategic positioning for the secularism-religion battle,

    The “battle between (a specific) religion and secularism, is the battle between religious neutrality and specific religions which claim privilege and priority! If they are not allowed to dominate and dictate to everyone else, they claim they are being discriminated against!

    as well as the aforementioned tax breaks. Just saying…

    The tax issue, was one of recognising the rights of non-religious organisations to be treated equally for tax purposes.
    That people can live well without religion, is a concept that the indoctrinated find difficult to understand, because of the mental disablement which makes them dependent on religious leaders!

    It’s like those in whole communities dependent on crutches for walking, trying to understand the activities of athletes!



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  • David:

    > Evolution is uninteresting because it is just history and “history is
    bunk”.

    Again the term “evolution” is misused. Evolution simply means change. It appears that your use of “evolution” is confined to the history of life (all in the past). Evolutionary biology also includes the mechanisms of evolution, and those mechanisms are always occurring in the present as well as in the past. History of evolutionary changes is good evidence in evolutionary biology but that is not all that there is to that science.



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  • Theories are never complete, nor sufficiently all encompassing to be mutually exclusive of each other.

    David, how will morality work?

    Is it a science? Is it an engineering task? Is it a collective preference? Is it objective knowledge?



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  • What is also needed is a simple definition of “secular”, that all sides can at least understand (and hopefully agree on…)

    Something like “every-one is equal” (because at it’s core, that’s what secularism is), specifically avoiding any mention of religion at all; as it seems it is the removal of the “god-given privilege” that most religious types are afraid of.



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