The Necessity of Secularism, pgs 54-55

Aug 9, 2016

We cannot codify into law a commitment to democratic discourse that ensures religious considerations are kept out of policy discussions- nor, because of the importance of protecting free speech, should we even think of doing so. To keep religious doctrine out of democratic discourse, we have to appeal to the believer’s prudence, self-interest, commitment to democracy, and moral sensibilities. Prudence, because in a religiously diverse society we are not going to make any progress in discussions about public policy if people allow their religious beliefs to dictate their positions. Self-interest, because if religion is permitted to influence our discussions about public policy, then the religious beliefs that attract the most adherents will prevail. When the population of the United States was overwhelmingly mainline Protestant, perhaps this did not seem much of a problem because the differences in beliefs, at least with respect to policy issues, were manageable. Increasing diversity has made consensus on some issues more difficult, however, as indicated by the sharp disagreements among religious adherents on issues such as contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage. If Islam grows in numbers in the next few decades differences based on religious dogma will likely become even more pronounced. Do believers want public policy determined by which creed can mobilize the most voters?
Cutting short meaningful discussion of public policy by reliance on one’s religious beliefs also shows a lack of respect for the equal standing of the citizens who don’t share one’s beliefs. For all practical purposes, a religiously based public policy claim can be evaluated only through the theology peculiar to the religion of the proponent of the claim. No one can assess that claim without adopting the proponent’s religious point of view and sectarian religious vocabulary. Using your religious beliefs as a basis for a policy argument is like using a private language that’s intelligible only to your coreligionists. The common language that’s accessible to everyone is, of course, language that describes all aspects of issues – the problems, the proposed solutions, our objectives and goals – in secular terms. Formulating one’s public policy arguments in secular terms is necessary to engage all of one’s fellow citizens. If all you’re doing in a discussion on public policy is preaching your own religious doctrines, you might as well shut up and just use your Bible or Qur’an as a bludgeon. Your message is: accept my religious doctrines; accept my religious doctrines; accept my religious doctrines.


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4 comments on “The Necessity of Secularism, pgs 54-55

  • The author is right on target. One step deeper and we see not only an inadvertent risk to equitable representational government, but even more insidious, the desire to eliminate representational government entirely, in favor of strict adherence to “sacred” codes. After all, the unerring holy word of God is perfect and does not need or allow for dialogue, debate or modification. The ills of political correctness aside, many Christians and most Muslims KNOW that western forms of government are corrupt and evil. In their minds, any secularism is bad and needs to be expunged. They actually go so far as to say it when asked. They do not care about justice or prudence. They care about following the code so that their souls will rise up in a triumphant epiphany on judgement day so that they may sit at the foot of the Lord (Allah) and worship him for all eternity. So reason and intelligence are perfunctory diversions at best. The separation of church and state is the only concept keeping reason and logic alive in the good old USA. This is one thing the founding fathers knew well and tried to guard against. Unfortunately their best laid plans are being subverted or ignored.



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  • @OP – Cutting short meaningful discussion of public policy by reliance on one’s religious beliefs

    Surely religious beliefs are centred on “gapology” where “god-told-us-so”, is a substitute for thinking, evidence, reason, and consideration of other people’s interests.

    also shows a lack of respect for the equal standing of the citizens who don’t share one’s beliefs”.

    I don’t think many religions do, “equal standing of the citizens who don’t share their beliefs”!

    They do:- “The superior ‘rights’ of god’s chosen people”, the dominance of Allah’s followers, the punishment of apostates, and the shunning of the excommunicated!

    The “us and them”, or the “true followers” and the immoral/evil “outsiders”, is nothing to do with, “”equal standing of the citizens”!



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  • 4
    fadeordraw says:

    You know, based on these two paragraphs, I wouldn’t read Ronald A. Lindsay’s “The Necessity of Secularism – Why God Can’t Tell Us What To Do”. Governance based upon planet living is more beneficial to the population than governance based upon fantasy or interim group emotions. Lindsay says “The common language that’s accessible to everyone is, of course, language that describes all aspects of issues – the problems, the proposed solutions, our objectives and goals – in secular terms. Formulating one’s public policy arguments in secular terms is necessary to engage all of one’s fellow citizens.” So 1stly, there isn’t always a problem to solve, there’s a future being created. Knee jerk for me the terms would be “concept, expected result and measuring and reporting on the results achieved”. Perhaps there are more correct, scientific terms, but that’s what I’d like our governance to do. It’s known to be hard for the USAers to believe there’ll ever be a time of secular governance, but virtually all other European-based countries are publically secular in their governance (to a large degree following US pragmatic practices), so you’re time will come soon enough. Supernatural belief and the stirring of that pot plays a ridiculously large, but should be diminishing, role in US elections. (no comment on the current campaign). But, always, it’s to a large part that secular governance does the here and now and day to day. Secularism is always a necessity for any long-lasting governance regime. On the subject matter, I doubt very much if Mr. Lindsay could take me where I want to be taken.



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