• Paulm12
    115
    I was thinking about secular morality and of course, religious involvement in political matters. Now we can define secularism as
    denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis
    or in some cases
    not overtly or specifically religious
    .
    However it can be hard to see where religion or religious influence ends and secularism begins. Wasn't the whole idea of having secularism (and the separation of church and state) directly from religious values and religious persecution?

    For instance, would the argument over pro-choice vs pro-life really be seen as a secular matter (I'm in no way arguing it is only a religious thing)? My argument goes like this
    1. We expect our government to make decisions based on our moral values
    2. Moral values are often shaped both implicitly and explicitly by one's religious values (or lack of)
    3. Thus the government's decisions are shaped by religious values

    It seems to me that the separation of church and state is a myth. While there is no explicit religious connections, people who vote in a democratic system will use their religious values to select candidates who have policies that agree with their values that were shaped by religious ideas. And of course, if you live in the West, there's virtually no way your ethical framework or values haven't been shaped by Christianity. Of course, I don't mean to argue this is a bad thing at all. And many (maybe even most) religious people in the USA are against the teaching of religious ideas in public schools, etc. What do you think?
  • Possibility
    2.7k
    I think we tend to forget that the democratic system is not just about who we vote in t represent us, but also the process of discussion, debate and decision-making that follows from that. For that reason, the idea of secularism - that we can exclude religious values from this process, which includes discussions of morality to develop an inclusive ethical framework - is naive at best.
  • Hillary
    1.9k
    For that reason, the idea of secularism - that we can exclude religious values from this process, which includes discussions of morality to develop an inclusive ethical framework - is naive at best.Possibility

    :up:
  • Paulm12
    115
    Excellent, well said. I think there can be a good balance between allowing the discussion of religious ideas (even explicitly) without having a theocracy. Of course, living in the US, which was founded in part from colonists who wanted religious freedom and wanted to escape religious persecution probably shapes my own idea of why church and state should be separated (or at least given enough distance to allow religious freedom and keep the government from intervening in religious matters). But I also wonder if I grew up in a theocracy if that would be the system of government I support.
  • T Clark
    9.5k
    For that reason, the idea of secularism - that we can exclude religious values from this process, which includes discussions of morality to develop an inclusive ethical framework - is naive at best.Possibility

    Separation of church and state doesn't mean we exclude religious values, it means we exclude religious institutions from government.
  • Paine
    542

    The first amendment in the U.S. constitution says that people can decide for themselves what to believe. The secular is about having a choice rather than living within a theocracy. In that respect, it is not a declaration of anything other than agreeing to not kill each other on the basis of what we think.

    It is an experiment. Some of the results are not encouraging.
  • Hillary
    1.9k
    Separation of church and state doesn't mean we exclude religious values, it means we exclude religious institutions from government.T Clark

    And it means we include secular institutions, devoid of religious values. So non-religious values are given the power.
  • T Clark
    9.5k
    And it means we include secular institutions, devoid of religious values. So non-religious values are given the power.Hillary

    The people who originally set the rules made the government a secular institution because of the problems they saw with religions intimate involvement with government. For better or worse, that's what we have now. I think the separation is important.
  • Jackson
    1.8k
    1. We expect our government to make decisions based on our moral values
    2. Moral values are often shaped both implicitly and explicitly by one's religious values (or lack of)
    3. Thus the government's decisions are shaped by religious values
    Paulm12

    Moral values are "often" shaped by religion, But where do religious values come from? That is the unanswered question.
  • Paulm12
    115

    The interesting thing is, the way we currently have it, some religious and non-religious people feel slighted. Some religious people are afraid that religious values are deteriorating, and see arguments like the taking of "God" out of the pledge of allegiance as evidence as such, or feel discriminated against/attacked by their beliefs. While some non-religious people feel like, despite there being separation of church and state there is still prejudice against them

    (A 2019 poll asking Americans who they were willing to vote for in a hypothetical presidential election found that 96% would vote for a candidate who is Black, 94% for a woman, 95% for a Hispanic candidate, 93% for a Jew, 76% for a gay or lesbian candidate and 66% for a Muslim – but atheists fall below all of these, down at 60%. That is a sizable chunk who would not vote for a candidate simply on the basis of their nonreligion.)
  • Tom Storm
    4.6k
    You may be forgetting that Christian organizations often exclude Christian values and bear no relationship to anything in the New Testament. For instance, religious Writer David Bentley Hart calls Evangelical Christianity, a new religion or prosperity cult.

    For instance, would the argument over pro-choice vs pro-life really be seen as a secular matter (I'm in no way arguing it is only a religious thing)? My argument goes like this
    1. We expect our government to make decisions based on our moral values
    2. Moral values are often shaped both implicitly and explicitly by one's religious values (or lack of)
    3. Thus the government's decisions are shaped by religious values
    Paulm12

    The use of 'moral values' is an almost meaningless term. Whose moral values? There are no moral values as such, there are instead a panoply of competing values that people hold as morally justifiable based on personal preference or an interpretation of law or Islam/Christianity, etc. Even within one religion moral values are all over the place.
  • Hillary
    1.9k


    I read:

    "In the United States, the Supreme Court has ruled the teaching of creationism as science in public schools to be unconstitutional, irrespective of how it may be purveyed in theological or religious instruction."

    Why is that?
  • Paulm12
    115

    That's why I said "our," as in each person's interpretation of what is right and wrong.


    The interesting thing about that that situation is it could go either way. If people think creationism is religious in nature, then teaching it in public schools would be unconstitutional as it would be advocating for a specific religion and thus violating church and state. However, ruling that you cannot teach creationism in particular could be seen as an unfair attack on creationists, thus also violating the separation of church and state.
  • Hillary
    1.9k


    Good observation!

    Why are state and religion separated in the first place? Shouldn't the state be involved in all kinds of life? I mean, watching they all get their chance? Be it science, religion, astrology, Buddha, Inuit, Hopi, Sioux, etc. So they all can live as they want to?
  • Jackson
    1.8k
    Why are state and religion separated in the first place?Hillary

    To prevent theocracy.
  • Hillary
    1.9k


    So an atheocracy is better? Why?
  • Jackson
    1.8k
    atheocracyHillary

    Because theocracy never works.
  • Hillary
    1.9k


    That depends on the theocracy. And it seems atheocracy has some problems too...
  • Jackson
    1.8k
    That depends on the theocracy.Hillary

    What theocratic government has been successful?
  • Paulm12
    115

    This is actually why I'm for teaching about religion or using religious texts in public schools. It is important for people to understand what others believe. Furthermore, the Bible in particular has had more influence on Western culture than any other book; immigrants who come to the US and are not told or encouraged to read it will be at a severe cultural disadvantage. I think reading the Quran, Confucius, Buddhist texts etc would have been really useful to me in public school.
  • Hillary
    1.9k
    . I think reading the Quran, Confucius, Buddhist texts etc would have been really useful to me in public school.Paulm12

    :up:

    Totally agree! I always felt something missing in learning at school. I loved physics though. Maybe because its somehow related to know about the reason for existence. I was intriguiged by all those strange weird theories and sub-atomic worlds. How nice it would have been if it all was mixed! Gods, music, art, astrology. In free classes, talking all languages... We should be prepaired for our role in society though...
  • Hillary
    1.9k
    What theocratic government has been successful?Jackson

    All cultures besides the western one. The whole world is western. I cant really tell the difference between people in Iran or in Europe. Same streets, same schools, same power plants, same houses, same cars, same hospitals, same airports, harbors, trains, TV programs, etc.
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    2.2k
    Because theocracy never works.Jackson

    Never ever? It works for the theocrat.

    However, ruling that you cannot teach creationism in particular could be seen as an unfair attack on creationists, thus also violating the separation of church and state.Paulm12

    It also violates the modern trend of society becoming all inclusive and catering equally to all possible identities. Eventually all identities will be included in the social program. It will only be possible to eliminate the "undesirables" (like those who identify as creationists) through iconoclastic censorship.
  • Paulm12
    115

    I'm curious what the difference between a Theocracy is and a country that has a "national church" such as Finland or Denmark. Because some of the happiest countries in the world are, interestingly, some of the most secular but also have an official church. To be fair, I think their "happiness" comes from having a good trust in their government and a pretty homogenous population.

    I think an important part of a country is having religious freedom (which of course, is often supported by religious and nonreligious people). State atheism doesn't exactly have a great history, and certainly after dudes like Mao and Stalin left a bad taste in peoples' mouths.
  • Agent Smith
    6.2k
    A coupla points:

    1. That secular ethics converges on religious ethics is testamsnt to the power of rationality: if we have the same basic values, apply logic and we'll all come to the same conclusions.

    2. Divine revelation is, to me, a case of, get this, divine fallacy. Moses, for example, couldn't believe that he was the author of the decalog; he thought, erroneously, that no human could ever pull something that great off on his/her own. Thus, Moses, concludes, again mistakenly, that there's got to be another source of morals, that source he asserts is God. Rather unfortunate.
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    2.2k


    Religious morality is faith based. It all has to do with ethical doubt. That even if we do what is considered right, there is no way to determine if that right is morally good. So in a secular society, human laws determine morality, and such morality can be imposed in various ways. Whatever the case, the law of man is exceedingly relativistic, and fleeting as the time passes.

    For the religious individual, it is different because morality is derived from a divine principle that is believed to be the law of god. For such an individual, morality is substantially extant and he is held accountable for his conduct whether or not it is seen by others.

    The problem arises when a group of individuals who derive their morality through a percieved common faith decide to impose their religious morality on others. It is especially problematic when it is enforced through theocracy as history shows. Theocratic morality is inherently flawed because of its veiled hypocrisy, that it passes its ethics off as religious morality, when it is really a secular morality that lies to itself.

    Lastly, religious morality is only for the individual, for no other reason than that it requires faith, and no other than the individual alone can have actual faith.
  • Agent Smith
    6.2k
    @Merkwurdichliebe

    As far as I know, theocracy is just the present avatar of the critical flaw with ethics viz. that it ultimately ends up being a set of impositions. Doing away with theocracy won't, in my humble opinion, solve that problem.

    Our instinct to be free (read as, in extremum, the ability to do what we want with our lives) rebels against restrictions which ethics boils down to.

    Nevertheless, my hunch is that at the heart of this conundrum lies a very powerful illusion that leads us astray.
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    2.2k
    Our instinct to be free (read as, in extremum, the ability to do what we want with our lives) rebels against restrictions which ethics boils down to.Agent Smith

    Absolutely. That is the core essence of postmodernism. Of course, as in most everything, a healthy balance of freedom and restriction is probably the optimal route.

    my hunch is that at the heart of this conundrum lies a very powerful illusion that leads us astray.Agent Smith

    I can't argue against that. Illusion is what makes the world go round, we can't escape it. At best, we can only make best out of how it all seems to be.
  • Agent Smith
    6.2k


    The aim, a noble one, is to keep us on the straight and narrow. The rationale: Maximize freedom & Minimize constraints to the extent possible i.e. not at the cost of our well-being/comfort/peace of mind/whathaveyou.

    We, paradoxically, pay considerable sums of money to be fooled (movies, books, magic shows). It perhaps keeps us sane in a world that is dukkha (unsatisfactory). Remember Gautama was looking for an exit (from samsara). He, it seems, wasn't into magic (maya). Too bad.
  • Wayfarer
    16.3k
    1. We expect our government to make decisions based on our moral valuesPaulm12

    I would question that. I think the expectation is that government acts within the bounds defined by law and political custom. The problem with moral values is that there is no objective way to define them. I don't mean that there is no real basis for them, but that the basis for them is not within the limits of objective determination. Quite why that is, is a very deep problem, but suffice to say that the grounding of morality in (for example) Judaism, Christianity, and the Indic religions is held to be the subject of revealed religion, where what has been revealed is precisely an order within which moral claims are ultimately meaningful. This is because they all, in some way or another, depict human life within the larger context of a cosmic drama as distinct from the supposedly quotidian story of fortuitous origins and random development that is typical of the secular 'creation myth'.

    For the religious individual, it is different because morality is derived from a divine principle that is believed to be the law of god. For such an individual, morality is substantially extant and he is held accountable for his conduct whether or not it is seen by othersMerkwurdichliebe

    Quite, although 'substantially extant' is a rather awkward way of describing it. Do you mean for them it is 'real, in spite of what anyone says about it'?

    Wasn't the whole idea of having secularism (and the separation of church and state) directly from religious values and religious persecution?Paulm12

    If you mean, wasn't the idea of the secular state originally intended to provide freedom of religion, then, yes, that is true. However, since the advent of the Enlightenment, there's a strain of ideology which aggressively seeks freedom from religion, depicting all religion as superstitious, backwards, and anti-scientific, personified by the evangalising atheism of for example Richard Dawkins, whose goal is the absolute destruction of religion in all its forms.

    Here's a very good (although quite difficult) essay, called Terror in the God-Shaped Hole, by contemporary Buddhist scholar, David Loy. It was published as an analysis of the Islamic terrorism that motivated the 9/11 attacks, and so is rather a heavy-hitting piece of analysis, but he has some very perceptive things to say about the underlying motivation and consequences of 'secularism' as an outlook on life, including secularism as having produced an 'identity crisis'. And it does that, precisely because it has rejected the sense of identity and belonging that animated religious culture in the first place, replacing it with a never-ending procession of artificial goods and products which can never fill the sense of 'lack' that drives it. It's rather too long and complex an argument to try and summarize, but the section in particular under the heading of 'The Spirituality of Secularity' is particularly acute, in my opinion.
  • Wayfarer
    16.3k
    Separation of church and state doesn't mean we exclude religious values, it means we exclude religious institutions from government.T Clark

    that is true, but when it comes to well-funded lobby groups taking legal action to prohibit displays of religious iconography in store windows then it amounts to rather more than that in practice.
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