The Case For Secularism
This article was first published in Secular Nation Magazine
I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists
When I first started becoming a vocal secularist and advocating anti-establishment of religion — starting small and now I have a much wider influence than before — I did it, do it and will continue to do it for exactly the same reasons why Jefferson mentioned his letter to the Danbury Baptists: protecting people, all people.
The parties that Jefferson had to deal with back then were not the same I had to deal with in Iraq or the Middle East region, but the purpose is the same: protecting religious freedom and giving equality to all citizens regardless of their religion, sect of religion, or lack of it.
The Secular movement is no different than the LGBT rights movement or the women’s rights movement. It’s all about equality under the law and it’s about peace.
It’s a proven reality that the only time in which Protestants and Catholics, Shias and Sunnis, believers and nonbelievers can have and maintain
their religious freedom is when the government is free of favoring one religion over the other or one sect over the other.
Let’s take a look at the Middle East, where I come from. Let’s start with Iraq where I was born, one of the main reasons — if not the main reason why there is a continuous civil war in that country — is because of a system that has existed for decades that is based upon favoritism.
Whether it was the Sunni favoritism of Saddam Hussein or is the Shia favoritism of Prime Minster Nouri al Maliki, when people feel they are being discriminated against for the beliefs they have — which are most of the time if not all the time a result of accident of birth of a Sunni or Shia parents — they rage and sometimes, while we are speaking about Islam and in the Middle East in particular, they use violence to achieve their means and protect their sect.
I’m not trying to defend the use of violence by some Muslims, I’m just trying to explain it and offer a better system in which this violence can be reduced.
The same can be said for Syria, a country ruled by an Alawite, a faction of Shia Islam supported by Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah (which is supported by Iran), versus a Sunni group supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.
In Lebanon where I lived for almost a year, their constitution says, as a result of a the Taif Agreement after the civil war, the prime minster of the country has to be a Sunni Muslim, the president of Lebanon has to be a Christian, not any Christian but a Maronite Christian, which is a faction of Catholicism, and the speaker of the parliament has to be a Shia Muslim.
Does anyone here think that’s a legitimate way to form a government? Or should the government be run by those who are qualified to do it regardless of their beliefs or alliances?
The same can be said about Christianity. “There was a time when religion ruled the world,” Ruth Green said when she was talking about Catholic rule in Europe. “It is known as the Dark Ages.” And it’s the logic that drove Jefferson in my opinion to make the wall of separation of church in the United States.
Secularism is not anti-religion per say. It’s about the idea that your religion is your business, not any given society’s business. If you’re a Muslim, that’s fine. Your religion tells you not to drink alcohol, and that’s fine too, and nobody is going to stop you from doing that, but you have no right to make a law banning alcohol or burn people to death for drinking some.
If you’re a Jew, you can’t eat pork. That’s fine too — healthy as well some may argue — even though nobody has yet given a specific and rational reason any where in the Torah why pork is not allowed, but that’s not the point. The point is, just because you don’t do it for your religious reasons, it doesn’t give you the right to dictate how other people should live, and I am very glad that the majority of Jews agree with me on that.
Secularism builds up the foundation for a civil society that is based upon shared values. It tells us that all men are created equal, and our beliefs. It tells us about the golden rule: “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.”
Would you like other people to enforce their religious beliefs on you? If your answer is no then don’t enforce your beliefs on others. It’s as simple as that.
The Global Secular Humanism Movement that I started was and is still here to create a secular grassroots movement to do exactly just that, and I would like to thank all those who supported me from the beginning, and I hope that we reach a day when my activism is no longer needed and people start looking at other people as Humans first before anything else.
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