The Necessity of Secularism, pg 13

“We’re living in the midst of a revolution in human attitudes and belief. In much of Europe and North America and other areas of the developed world, such as Australia and Japan, large portions of the population are now nonreligious, that is, they reject belief in God and transcendent spiritual entities of any sort. This is an unprecedented moment in the history of humanity. As far as we can tell, belief in gods and spirits was nearly universal until the late eighteenth century; widespread religious skepticism, such as we are now experiencing, is a phenomenon of just the last few decades.
The consequences of this dramatic shift in beliefs are still unknown, because we are living through this change. All we can say with certainty at the present is that we’re in unfamiliar territory. Humanity has never been in this situation before.”

–Ronald Linday, The Necessity of Secularism, pg 13


Discuss!!

8 COMMENTS

  1. @OP – As far as we can tell, belief in gods and spirits was nearly universal until the late eighteenth century; widespread religious skepticism, such as we are now experiencing, is a phenomenon of just the last few decades.

    I think the key issues are the channels of communication, and the access to education.
    Religions can no longer monopolise, writing, communication, and education in many better educated parts of the world.

    It started in Europe with the printing press – with fierce religious resistance to both the printed word, more general literacy, and to the use of native languages rather than Latin.
    This exposed the false claims of priests to be founts of useful knowledge – or in some cases, even founts of religious knowledge!

    The supernatural mumbo-jumbo promoters, are also way out of their depth, when it comes to mathematical and scientific communication.

    While televangelists etc. can parasitise communications technologies while in denial of the the science they are using, pseudo-science cannot actually build such communication systems!

    Secular welfare systems, secular inheritance laws, and civil facilities for civil marriage, etc, have also broken previous dominating religious monopolies.

  2. I would say that the existential-planet-based understanding of existence was doing exceptionally well, that the universe was unfolding as it should, in the post-WWII period, though we had radical Christians in the US, right up to 9/11 2001. After that, US and UK did a religious alliance and an arm wrestle with Islam increased, disappointingly so, the religiosity of the human governance conversation. During this time both Russia and China has shown some tolerance to religious practices. Such that, disappointingly, we are far from a shared understanding that we’re living on the planet the same as plants and animals.

  3. Ah, the power of readily available information in the hands of a literate population is a beautiful thing.

  4. Religious traditions are neither good nor bad. In Christendom, they are usually the kind “training wheels” leading to cultural maturity and social identity, which in some cases may result in an atheistic world view. I believe we cannot throw away the “training wheels” and only replace them with hard, cold logical systems. Historically, this seems to have already been tried in France and Germany with some catastrophic results.

  5. Robert Madeo #5
    Jan 2, 2017 at 1:02 am

    Religious traditions are neither good nor bad.

    I don’t think we can generalise.
    Each religion, sect, or cult, needs to be evaluated on individual basis.

    In Christendom, they are usually the kind “training wheels” leading to cultural maturity and social identity, which in some cases may result in an atheistic world view.

    In some of it’s modern milder forms, Christianity gives experience, which allows children to build up an immunity to the more destructive irrationality and the stronger indoctrination, of the more fundamentalist religions.
    There are plenty of examples from the past of religious bigotry, persecution of other sects or other thinkers, murderous activities, and religious wars, based on tribalist religious divisions.

    I believe we cannot throw away the “training wheels” and only replace them with hard, cold logical systems.

    Religious indoctrination, offers no useful training in ethical citizenship or competent rational thinking, but it does persistently inculcate the delusional self-deception that it does so, along with a “No True Scotsman fallacy” to shrug off its members’ failures.
    You are right that we also need ethical cultural traditions, but those built on science, reciprocal altruisms, and rational thinking, provide sympathetic human cultures.
    Religions are a very poor, and usually a fake source of these, – acting in the interests of propagating the religion, rather than looking after the interests of the people!

    Training wheels which bring the individual into conflict with science and reasoning, are no “training” at all for competent and responsible citizenship in the modern world.
    For the most part they are indoctrination in education-resistance, inhibiting objective investigation and learning!
    Those who are satisfied they have assured answers based on “faith”, feel no need for further enquiry or learning – and frequently resist all attempts to enlighten them!
    “God-did-it-by-mysterious-magic”, is the mind closing answer to all profound questions in the indoctrinated theist brain!

    Historically, this seems to have already been tried in France and Germany with some catastrophic results.

    If you are referring to the 1930s, the catastrophic results were derived from a widespread combination of religious and ideological fervour, which had nothing to do with secular reasoning.

    In modern Europe the least religious states have the best social support systems for citizens, and probably the best life-styles.

  6. Thank you for your wonderful comments and clarifications! More dialogue to come soon. I was referring to the French Revolution and the Third Reich which, to me, both appear to have succumb to a ‘mean spirited’ selfishness driven by unbridled egoistic conceit, blind obedience to dictatorial powers based on ‘logical’ necessities, and by ‘scientifically’ supported ideologies that required the elimination and collapse of traditional useful divisions of society. Seems like all closed systems of ideology, (i.e., religion, materialism, etc.) fail to account for the ‘mean spirited’ that take pleasure in destruction and a sense of power from watching others suffer.

  7. Robert Madeo #7
    Jan 2, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    I was referring to the French Revolution

    The French revolution (like the Russian revolution) was a rebellion against the Royalist aristocratic establishment of which churches were an integral part.

    and the Third Reich which, to me, both appear to have succumb to a ‘mean spirited’ selfishness driven by unbridled egoistic conceit, blind obedience to dictatorial powers

    They certainly included Nazi obedience to ideological creeds which had Christianity sown into them.
    Hitler was a baptised a Catholic, was brought up by acatholic family, was a Catholic Altar Boy, and was never excommunicated, but he worked with the anti-Semitic Protestant Churches, and had visions of a unified NAZI Reich Church.
    Mussolini was probably an atheist, but was in close cahoots with the Vatican – setting them up as a state in Italy [1929] with the Lateran Treaty.
    Franco in Spain, gave Catholicism a near religious monopoly in exchange for support for his fascist regime.

    based on ‘logical’ necessities, and by ‘scientifically’ supported ideologies

    While Hitler valued the science behind weapons technologies, both he and Stalin were noted for imposing ideological pseudo-science on scientific research establishments which produced evidence contradicting their policies.

    that required the elimination and collapse of traditional useful divisions of society

    They certainly overturned many social customs and ethical constraints, but these actions had nothing to do with secularism or reputable science.

    We had a discussion on the Third Reich and Hitler’s religious upbringing in 2015.

    https://richarddawkins.net/2015/01/refuting-the-atheist-hitler-myth/

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