Friday, 11 November 2016

SECULARISM; a peep into its origin, and present distortions

If we look at the inception-history of Secularism,all confusions about its real sense will end; it was a stand adopted by the political 'Nation-States', to show-down their arch enemy, the Church ! These Nation states wanted to create a new image of man, a new identity,other than as a church member or a citizen in God's empire. Only this kind of an image of man could have plucked out church followers and believers to the new empire of State !

The printing technology enabled every Christian to possess a Bible, and thus establish his direct relation with God. The pull of the Church was thus already bit down. Here, exceptionally smart heads of Nation-States, quoting the famous Biblical verses;  "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God, the things that are God's", insisted on the legitimacy of States, separated and independent of God/Church !

Minds of people were under the hegemony of Church, for many centuries.The Secular man was induced to liberate the mind from this hegemony, and think free and independent. What was demanded by the Nation states was a total separation of the realms of Church and State,or even a totally liberated human community from the catch of Church. They knew clearly that,for establishing State hegemony over human communities,every hold of the old masters needed to end.

In short,secularism was only a ploy of the Nation states,to keep away citizens from the Church's fold. It was not introduced with any genuine intention to groom man and his mind, in the true Renaissance spirit of open inquiry,scientific spirit etc. What was their gain in liberating human minds this way? It is foolishness to assume that, those Nation-States would have ever wanted mankind to take such an intellectual direction forever! Citizens and slaves might have had undergone such sacrifices for the King and masters,but never heard an opposite story ever in history, ie,a state sacrificing herself for the citizens !

Author Karen Armstrong, in her 'The Guardian' article, stated;( 25th Sept,2014) " When the new word “secularization” was coined in the late 16th century, it originally referred to “the transfer of goods from the possession of the church into that of the world”. This was a wholly new experiment. It was not a question of the west discovering a natural law; rather, secularization was a contingent development. It took root in Europe in large part because it mirrored the new structures of power that were pushing the churches out of government."

Yes, that was the crux; secularism 'mirrored the new structure of power' !

But secularism had its root meaning, related to 'values' of science

The chief reason why the Princes of the time stood in favor of secularism was, that it had a powerful appeal for freeing the minds of men from orthodox-tendency of Church. This was basically a VALUE,contemporary science had introduced. It was her ways and values that directly clashed with that of Science of the time.

 Mind was bound by the beliefs of Church.She did not mind even to persecute those who defied her beliefs and ways,in thought or deed. So, when Princes spoke about secularism, they meant allowing the minds to go free,without bounds,the way Science had wanted it.

We know, this unprecedented freeing of the mind of men was responsible for all the  scientific discoveries of that time period. Nation-States stood as patrons of this intellectual transition,while thoroughly enjoying the gradual fall of Church on this account!

Thus, the central VALUE that secularism stood for was that of an individual with a free mind,independent of all external influences or coercion for his its unbound journey,its free-will and open conclusions. It was the birth of a new model of the man in the world,totally different from the model when he was a slave of the Church dogmas.

As American revolutionists claimed, this new man was 'free to pursue his own happiness' the way he desired. State was the machinery constituted by the community of men, with the exclusive responsibility towards overseeing and ensuring that, this freedom of man was always protected.

Thus, secularism was not exclusively about matters of State absolutely  separated from that of Church or religion; it was more about, as said earlier, the model of a new man of Science. Liberal State, a ready patron for the Science,was only happy to promote all her Values, as it served their purpose very well, to show Church in the bad light.

How this central fact about secularism ( around the new model of free and liberated man) had got defined differently in due course ?

The new  power structure ( that under the new State) had got set in society very soon. Industry, that got a big boost under new discoveries like rail and steam engine,had readily partnered with the new masters in Society, the princely states, for achieving the new mantra of''economic' development. Both State, as well as private players, took part in the enterprise of Colonization, that boosted the wealth of State,as well as that of industry.

Though revived doctrine of Democracy had set in by then,especially in USA, and it had flourished during her initial around 150 years in the history,soon both state and industry had aligned into an unhealthy nexus, for a new mastery over the citizenry. It was an alignment for meeting mutual needs; while industry needed State for favorable laws and licenses for free use of land,labor, and capital, States needed industry to show overall 'economic development' of people and the country! This nexus had soon set-in, under the negative phenomenon of 'neo-liberalism'.

States were compelled to twist the meaning of 'Secularism' for her special needs !

Though religion was totally separated in State matters,State found it almost impossible to present an anti-religion stand, as she needed people's support to run the state.Secularism soon developed an 'atheist' face, thanks to her rather 'rational' life-view.Science could not associate herself with any religious belief, as it was against her new 'empirical' methods, a total discarding of 'beliefs' that had no rational or empirical support of 'evidence' !

So, States, who wanted to play a neutral stand here, reinterpreted the meaning of 'secularism' as 'non-intervention' in religious opinion, or personal beliefs' of citizens! She interpreted it as part of new 'freedom' of citizens ! Citizens were free to believe or not to believe in religions and their beliefs, but States, in her policies and laws, will not consider these beliefs or practices for any special treatment or discrimination.

Take the present great and interesting disputes over religious freedom in the world, to understand State's difficulties vs her special interest, about in keeping citizens freedom. While USA,UK etc allow citizens to keep their religious beliefs and practices as a sign of their SECULAR policy, France stick on with her original 'secular' stand, that State can not and will not permit any sign of religious practice or belief  in public, especially in the way they dress, or carry themselves in public. Muslim women in France face the ire of the State in wearing 'hijab' like dresses in public, and men, for keeping 'beard' like personal grooming style !

In India, where dozens of major religions and its followers co-exist,her present Hinduism's ideology following Govt who rules at the center, face serious difficulties with 'secular' principles in the constitution.She finds it extremely uncomfortable,that the original, 'freely inquiring,open and modern' image of 'secular citizen' is remaining popular in the country; she earnestly want a majoritarian-hegemony State, in the style of Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan,but the secular constitution of the country stand on her way to implement it.So, she is now engaged in an exercise of re-writing history,educational books etc, to make, at least th future generation go for a full-Hindu Nation. She now think,that previous history books were written by either British stooges, or the Leftist intellectuals,showing India's contributions to Science,literature poor light. Now she wants her future generations to grow up with proud sentiments about their father land's rich heritages,scientific and other achievements. 

Once the entire nation,(read the 80% Hindus)  give support to end the 'pseudo-secularism*' now under practice, this government might show the audacity to declare the country, a 'Hindu' nation !
( *present regime alleges that, in the name of secularism, what previous regimes of other political parties were actually engaged in was  'appeasing' minorities like Muslims, Christians etc for vote bank benefits !) 

Present Indian, Hinduism-lenient political party ruled govt have succeeded in implementing citizen sentiments over practices like 'cow-protection', ban on eating cow-meat etc, defeating the secularism principles. She claims, that secularism should mean 'right' of each religion to practice their beliefs, myths, food and other practices. Being in majority ( almost 80%), the entire country should respect these Hindu ways, or the ways of the majority religion, by following the same 'democratic' principles, ie, 'ruling' by the whims of the 'majority'!

She also claim, that Hindu ways are just 'culture' of the land, hence typical secular principle that applies  only to 'religion' should not apply here; each citizen is obliged to follow diligently, the ways of the 'father-land', while keeping the 'glory' of such 'culture' by the entire nation!

Just observe the wild directions the 'secular' principles have traveled, at different parts of the globe !

The ideal of free and open minded,rational man,without any prejudice was indeed an extremely imitable one ! 

We know, how the Catholics and Protestants fought each other in history and persecuted each other for their different beliefs, loyalties, and world-view. There were also many,many wars between Christians and Muslims, called 'crusades' in history. Within the Church also, there was severe punishment, including torture, for defying various laws, beliefs, and practices. We know,Galileo was asked to refute his discovery, that Earth was not at the center of the Universe, as taught by the Church till his time. 

Unlike in science, there was no means or method in religions,to decide, whose side was correct or truthful. So, mutual fight till the elimination of the opposite religious sect was the only possible way. 

So, the ideal of man that Science indirectly proposed was that of an ever-inquiring man, without settling for any theory or belief, till adequate evidence available to support it. He was a rational man, open to receive anything when presented with evidence. He did not have any prejudice, as he believed in collecting evidence, and then believe. He was always open to new ideas, always curious to find new knowledge, new places, new animals and people.

American revolutionists enhanced this vision, adding to the idea that, such a man is destined by Nature to have the 'inalienable liberty' to pursue his ways of finding happiness!

The notion of 'secular' man that our Princely States guaranteed to protect and upkeep was the above model, and she, its proud patron!

Present reality about 'secular' man 

Can any modern State, though it be Democratic that is based on equal rights to all, and the govt run by people themselves, or the  industry, who make life-saving medicines and equipment, to rockets that travels across distant planets, accept such a model of freemen, and their community ?The plain answer is, a big NO !

While modern governments,democratic or non-democratic,in essence, are POWER -STATES. Their laws on 'sedition' etc.are similar. They expect citizens to be loyal to the state,her ideologies,especially to that of the leadership. If she finds,someone or some group go too independent,and too criticizing her leaders and policies, she will have no hesitation to get them booked,charging them as 'enemy' of the establishment.
Many of these modern states are,even if democratic, ruled by special interest by economic or religious group. Citizens who find it difficult to abide by the beliefs or world-view of such States will always find themselves at the receiving end of the laws. So, liberal and secular mind-set is not appreciated in any of the modern state. It is looked at, rather as a threat to the security and sovereignty of the State.

Same is the case with the modern partners of the States, the Industry . Industry management finds no benefit in having their employees 'liberal or secular' in their worldview. They simply want the employees, fit for the position or work they have been assigned, keeping loyalty to the management. Here too, someone who is fussy about principles of liberal or secular ethos will find themselves in trouble,as it might send wrong signals into the mind of the management .

Here, liberal and secular values need to be taken in the same old meaning that Science had spelled it out;a man with open and unprejudiced disposition, very tolerant about other persons' ways and beliefs. When he believes in his absolute freedom, he will expect the other also enjoying it similarly ! Not a fanatic follower of any religion or culture. Believe only in leading happy and successful life !

So, the conclusion this deliberation has tried to arrive at is here; 

Though the ideal of the free,liberal,secular and independent man was an absolutely imitable one, none of our existing collective institution finds such an 'ideal' individual worth to be groomed!! He is nothing but a burden, or botheration for these modern institutions, though they are compelled by the existing collective morals and principles, to be 'pretentious' patrons and champions of such ideal!!

So, modern States, industry etc are playing a double-game with regard to secularism, and liberated human being; while they dislike such individuals, they are bound by their respective State constitution and its clauses to 'show-off', that they stand with such ideal!!

But, without any doubt and hesitation, every right thinking man would agree, that having all men secular,liberal,rational and independent is the need of the world and her future. Such men and women are found keeping compassion and understanding of the other person and their neighbors, as their Reason is exercised by themselves,NOT by any external agency like Church or State. 

He is usually unorthodox in his beliefs. He has no issue in living in a pluralistic and multicultural society, though such societies were basically devised to serve the ends of industrialists, to find Global markets for their products,

Till man find a set of different truth to live a life of depth and meaning,this SECULAR model is the best bet for the world. Love to share with all, my dedicated blog-post on the necessity of such a new path, at:

Authored by: Abraham J.Palakudy,
Independent researcher and seeker in philosophy, mind, polity and related subjects
Twitter: Voice of philosophy@jopan1