15th June 2013
I oppose aggressive French secularism
I chanced upon a comment by Ashish Deodhar in which he questioned my opposition to secularism on grounds that it is based on the French Revolution concept of direct opposition to religion.
I wrote some years ago on Shantanu's blog that: "the idea of “secularism” (a French notion based on atheism) is nonsensical, and not a classical liberal idea. It is a non-denominational state that we want, an umpire which permits all religious expression so long as no one is harmed."
To which Ashish Deodhar responded: "And secularism certainly doesn’t equate with, or is based on, atheism as Mr. Sabhlok seems to believe! (in fact, that’s the most outrageous definition of all!)"
I don't read comments on Shantanu's blog – impossible to cope with; and so missed this. To clarify to Ashish, and educate him, I'm publishing this short blog post with relevant references.
SHORT NOTE ON SECULARISM
The history of the separation of the state and church is very convoluted and difficult to fully unravel and properly attribute. Key among its antecedents is John Locke's Essay Concerning Tolerance (1689), a hundred years before the French Revolution.
In England, the concept of seclarism was – for long – never articulated as such. It was initially more about tolerance. "The term "secularism" was first used by the British writer George Jacob Holyoake in 1851" (Wiki). Holyoake was an atheist.
We keep making convenient interpretations of the word to suit us. But the strong form of secularism is the one practiced in the French Revolution.
During the French Revolution the Church was effectively ABOLISHED.
- confiscation of church lands, which were to be the security for the new Assignat currency
- removal of statues, plates and other iconography from places of worship
- destruction of crosses, bells and other external signs of worship
- the institution of revolutionary and civic cults, including the Cult of Reason and subsequently the Cult of the Supreme Being,
- the enactment of a law on October 21, 1793 making all nonjuring priests and all persons who harboured them liable to death on sight.
The climax was reached with the celebration of the Goddess "Reason" in Notre Dame Cathedral on 10 November 1793.
In July 1790, the National Constituent Assembly published the Civil Constitution of the Clergy that stripped clerics of their special rights — the clergy were to be made employees of the state, elected by their parish or bishopric, and the number of bishoprics was to be reduced — and required all priests and bishops to swear an oath of fidelity to the new order or face dismissal, deportation or death.
In September 1792, the Legislative Assembly legalized divorce, contrary to Catholic doctrine. At the same time, the State took control of the birth, death, and marriage registers away from the Church. An ever increasing view that the Church was a counter-revolutionary force exacerbated the social and economic grievances and violence erupted in towns and cities across France.
Anti-church laws were passed by the Legislative Assembly and its successor, the National Convention, as well as by département councils throughout the country.Anti-clerical parades were held, and the Archbishop of Paris was forced to resign his duties and made to replace his mitre with the red "Cap of Liberty." Street and place names with any sort of religious connotation were changed, such as the town of St. Tropez which became Héraclée. Religious holidays were banned and replaced with holidays to celebrate the harvest and other non-religious symbols. Robespierre and his colleagues decided to supplant both Catholicism and the rival, atheistic Cult of Reason with the Cult of the Supreme Being.
This was basically the extreme form of secularism, in which the state CONTROLS the church.
This extreme form of secularism has origins in atheism, which was promoted for the first time in Western history (outside India – which has always had a LOT of atheistic traditions). See the video below:
Even today, the French tradition does not permit ANY religious intervention in "secular" matters.
For instance: "The law of separation meant strict official neutrality in religious affairs. The French state could not allow any proselytising in public buildings – least of all schools, where the citizens of tomorrow were being taught. The insistence on schools as religion-free zones goes to the heart of the French idea of citizenship."
Do read this BBC report for some enlightenment: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3325285.stm
Basically, the concept of secularism (in the French form) is an AGRESSIVELY oppositional concept to the very idea of religion.
I do not agree with this idea in terms of the role a state must play. I believe the state must be non-denominational, and must PROTECT religious freedom, which includes the freedom to oppose other religions.
I believe in FREEDOM OF RELIGION which means people MUST be free to express their religious beliefs in any form or shape they wish SO LONG as they do not harm others.
I (personally) oppopose all religions which I see as political bodies. I believe I must have the freedom to oppose religion, even as the religious must have the freedom to oppose me – and to promote their own religion. (Through debate, of course).
Let us all be free to speak our mind. Let the truth win.
Let the state NOT interfere in any religious matter.
I don't want to be told ANYTHING about God by a bureaucrat. Keep these minions in check. Let them do our bidding, not tell us how to think.