Friday, January 27, 2012

What is this secularism every one is on about?


What does this so often spoken word mean?
Aside from 'diversity' and 'equality', it is
one of the biggest political buzz words of our time. We know those words are misused and abused all the time, what about this 'secular'?
What do all these talking heads mean when they use it?
We all know it supposedly has something to do with religion or faith, but it is used in so many contexts and as a justification for so many things that seem counter to common sense...
It must mean more than non-religious.
What does it mean?
Does it simply mean,
"1not connected with religious or spiritual matters:
secular buildingssecular attitudes to deathContrasted with sacred",

as the Oxford dictionary tells us?
It cannot be, as it is used for all sorts of things that are OBVIOUSLY not religious or necessarily anything to do with faith or belief, but are moral in nature.
History teaches us that secularism has it's roots in a very original Christian teaching regarding corporal authority versus divine or objective morality. 'Render unto Caesar.....' With that teaching the Christian Corpus, and eventually the Holy Church and it's modern offshoots would institute the first concept of 'compartmentalizing' of spiritual and earthly matters.
Just as Christ had taught, people could hold loyalty's to their king and the law, but the true spiritual loyalty must be to God (and his laws) above ALL others. This idea was extended to the powers of  political leaders and religious leaders.

For centuries 'Secular' stood for the compartmentalization of spiritual and material considerations.
An example?
With this original use , a friar who has dedicated his life to a monastic existence translating books by hand is 'regular', and a priest who preaches and says Mass in a Church is 'secular'.
A Convent in rural Quebec is 'regular',  the barracks in Quebec City's Citadel is 'secular.'
A bible is 'regular', a drivers handbook is 'secular' etc etc etc
Today the language has altered so that 'regular' has been replaced in this contrast with the word 'sacred', which actually has another meaning entirely. But such is the reductive nature of modern thought and language. In order to make room for all the useless fancy, we eliminate basic concepts.
A good basis to an argument for devolution, and perhaps linguistic teleology?
Secularism, in the modern reality,  is more or less a political realization of subjectivism or relativism.
It is sold as 'live and let live', but it is actually more like the Sir Paul McCartney song : Live and let die.
Much like everything since the 'Enlightenment' (such Hubris) secularism has taken on the aspects of the new religion of 'Me'.
Secularism was meant to prevent theocracy and hinder those who would usurp Bishoprics and even the Papacy and Patriarchy. Such situations now resolved and in the past, secularism today serves another function.
A quick dip into the pool of research and one finds the library and even the internet well stocked with people and groups using 'secularism' to justify all sorts of abnormal and immoral behaviours. Magazines, newspapers, websites... all chock full of lines like 'in a progressive secular society like Canada' , or 'in modern secular Europe of 2010' or 'secular laws values of the the state of ....'
In 2011 groups of men ran the streets of a major North American city exposing their genitals at passers by - including families. While they ran they pulled along a huge inflatable penis that spewed faux semen. The police stood by and did nothing. This perverse Nero-esque event, or near identical ones, is not unique to a single city or even the North American Continent.
But I will write of one event.
It was in Toronto. It was part of a 'pride festival', that is supposed to be a serious march for gay rights, but has become this Bacchanalian promotional for promiscuity and raw sexual hedonism.
A public promotion of a destructive and unhealthy lifestyle, not a rational defence of individual choice.  We have seen gay rights morph from a serious political expression into a circus
The justification? Among the other buzz words like tolerance, and diversity we once again 'secularism.'
A 'progressive' view combined with some sort of 'secular' values apparently somehow FORCE us to tolerate gangs of leather clad, greying, and flabby (woefully endowed) flashers on Church St, just a few blocks from Queen's Park and City Hall and up to the very steps of St James Cathedral.
Tastelessness or tolerance?
Next door, in the United States several cases have been brought before state and federal courts to ban various displays of Santa - while allowing for corpse-like and a 'skeleton Santa' to be displayed by 'atheists' - at Christmas time, and to ban  prayers from school rooms and hallways, and religious reference of any sort from grad and victory speeches. In one case peoples jobs and accreditation where threatened if they should utter specific words.
In a more serious move various adoption agencies have been denied their proud charity status of decades because of their stance on abortion and gay adoption - and their connection to faith groups.
These legal suits and 'actions' have met with varied success, but seem to be gaining steam.
The point is they are directed attacks at a specific religious/faith group at the justifications are all based on a 'progressive' stance on the 'secular' values apparently enshrined in the US constitutions 'enlightenment' era constitution. The strange part is the 'constitutionalists' all seem to find any such Federal level interference abhorrent.  'Secular' values?
Over the pond, in the motherland guided by our gracious and most Christian Monarch - the 'secular' rule of the land is so obviously slanted against the indigenous Christian culture that there is an entire industry dedicated to exposing the double standards, and an entire populist political movement to counter it. They, in fairness, are the seat of the Anglican church and the Crown (same) and have that vast organ to help....when it does.
Unfortunately the CofE is currently overrun with 'progressive' and 'secular' minds and the Royal family is currently under the thumb of parliament, and they in turn under the courts. Their is a tripartite imbalance.
We can only hope that changes.
But as for specifics, one case that jumps to mind is that of the stewardess being told her job was at risk because she wore a cross. She was to hide it, or be fired. She refused and was let go. Sacked for wearing the cross. In Great Britain.
She has since won a suit against the offending airline, and not only got her 'wings' back but a nice sum to boot. Again, 'progressive' attitudes were said to be lacking in that decision. The defence was that she could have 'offended' someone with her 'overt' religious beliefs.
A call for a more 'secular' approach was made. Such items should face a universal ban!
Luckily the Justice in this case seemed to be more or less conscious and self aware.

Europe is harder to read for those of us whose linguistic skills are lacking. But from what I can discern and what I am told, the larger European experience is similar to the British. 'Secular' and 'progressive'  are English terms, but their concept and usage in universal.
So, what is THIS kind of secularism. It is obviously not just a contrast of sacred.
A street with no flashers is not a 'sacred' street. A Santa on main-street does not 'Sanctify' main street or somehow force religion on main-street. Nor does a Manger display, a Menorah, or Dragon displays at Lunar New Year create a sacred shrine out of city hall. It certainly does not enforce or even promote a state religion.
So what can we detect in the language of this 'new' secularism.
Well, for one it almost always has a pal called 'progressive' along for the ride. Each term seems to qualify the other, or even act as a redundancy.
Progressive Secularism, to be precise. Progressive secularism? A 'Secular-progressive'?
What is that?!
Now the peel begins to fall away, and the fruit is revealed!
In order to understand the new use of the word 'secular' we must understand the new use of the word 'progressive'; and then, in turn we can understand the hybrid term to it's full.
Well, I could do the Oxford or Websters thing again... but this is my blog, so let's have it in my words shall we?
First things first.
Progressive in the modern political sense intones a 'forward moving' momentum based movement. Progressive thinking more generally means a faith in progress.
Progress in industry, markets, and technology is believed to be linear, to a 'progressive'. Cycles (or peaks and valleys) are not an issue to the progressive. Their faith lies in the long term advancements that will alleviate and solve problematic issues. 'Markets will generate...' , 'technology will provide...' , 'now we are entering the 21st century...'; these are the commonly heard mantras of progressivism.
We all intone them on occasion.
But these central ideas are the sacred -and decidedly non secular truths - of Progressivism.
Generally the progressive is an optimist when it comes to his long term target, some would even say pronoid. But, he is an utter cynic when it comes to competing, or what are perceived as less ambitious, or less 'realistic',  or short sighted philosophies / goals.
Progressivism is much like a politicized and personalized or customized positivism-lite.
Secularism in the modern political sense is an apparent means by which traditional systems of morality are divorced from law in order to protect the core rights of certain fringe and minority groups from somehow being oppressed. The obtuse sexual behaviour of the naked men in the above noted example are perhaps not typical, but certainly provide the contrast I am seeking to illustrate here. Consider an MLK day march, or a Remembrance Day parade for a counter example.
It stems up from the older (discussed above and elsewhere) and more principled concept of the separation of church and state powers into distinct areas, and strays into the territory of morality and law. The modern use of the term 'secular' is therefore not simply a misuse, but an abuse of the original term. It is as the media would say 'a hijacked word'.
The original secularism was a concept designed to free the common man from theocratic control, the new secular is one designed only to free the law from morality.
The  removal of Religious ritual, faith, and tradition were not always possible, and when achieved by likeminded regimes they proved never to be enough. These ideas and traditions always seep back into law.
Consider: Many of the great Western Democracies have legal systems,  even Lords, Senates, and Crowns that are steep in a Christian tradition -and thus objectively/religiously moral. So how does someone who believes that law must be utterly neutral to morality cut that beating heart of culture out?
Neo-Secularism to the rescue.
Get Santa out of the town square, and get those penises out pronto!
How to justify just dropping all that history and dumping the dreams of our ancestors for scifi? Progressivism.
The future and the mystical, oracular force that is 'Science' (PBUI) will save us!!!
But while you have a laugh at the idea and the tactics, also consider the changes that can be, and in some cases ARE being, made if we slide down this crazy slope.
What would life be like down a Secular Progressive 'Rabbit hole'?
In place of objective morality we would have laws based on relative (and ultimately selfish) reasoning: a subjective morality.
In place of spiritualism we would have hedonism and gluttony promoted by market driven mass media.
In place of God and faith we would have (really bad) science fiction, courtesy of the unquestionable priests of science - who will of course deny any power greater than their own insight; jealous gods that they are.
In place of war we would have 'humanitarian' efforts to 'help rebels' and 'change regimes'. This airbrushed warfare would be kept out of sight as much as possible, so as not to be a 'bummer' or 'buzz kill' - a great moral crime in the new subjective, progressive, secular estimation.
In place of politics and leadership we would have a horrible reality TV show that actually insults the intelligence of household pets who watch it.
I know it all sounds crazy.
It is.
So are the headlines.

So... in closing, and after a damn good blog-rant...what is my conclusion?
What is this new secular? What does it mean? It means someone is either unwittingly or deliberately distorting the language they are using to justify a behaviour.  The new secular is anything but regular. It is certainly not the old respected concept.
It is, oddly,  more about the  sacred cows of the 'secularists' than anything else.
Who are these self described 'secularists'?
Another rant for another day: The religion of Me.
Often when you hear or read it - depending on context , just like all those other buzz words - you are experiencing what we in the forces call a 'snowjob'... 'bullshit'.

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