There are a few cases in the U.S that’s sparked the secularism debate. The first is the much debated 40 feet tall cross in Maryland. The justices voted a 7-2 position to allow the cross to remain on public land. The American Humanist society decided that the ‘peace cross‘ erected in 1925 in Bladensburg violated the first amendment, which prohibits the government from establishing an official religion, or favouring one religion over others. The issue here was not all of the soldiers were of a Christian faith, so the peace cross should be replaced by something neutral.
Whilst I agree with the sentiment, the cross symbolises the fallen in World War I and to take it down would surely be disrespectful to them and their families? The second case to come up is the 92 year old Ten Commandments plaque that was situated at the Joseph Welty Middle School in Ohio. The freedom from religion foundation (FFRF) said it was a ‘flagrant violation‘ of the first amendment and it made children of other faiths, or non–believers uncomfortable and makes them feel like outsiders.
The (FFRF) said.
”We applaud the district for taking action to remedy this violation, students in our public schools are free to practice any religion they choose — or none at all. In America, we live under the First Amendment, not the Ten Commandments.”
I’ve read many Christians claim that it’s a sin, it’s persecution against Christianity , and America was founded with God in mind. All this is completely disregarding the first amendment which is essentially stating that the U.S is a secularist state and no laws, or priorities shall be given to any one religion. We all know that there are plenty of states that don’t adhere to this, and the removal of the plaque will set the motion for many more future cases.
The meaning behind secularism is often misinterpreted, and the religious seem to think it’s against them, but little do they realise that it also protects their religious freedom. When states are not secular, like Saudi Arabia for example, they obviously value Islam over any other faith. This means that Christians have few rights, if any. This is why secularism is important to all, as it guarantees the freedom of all religions.
Humanists U.K. say this:
”The communal institutions that we share (and together pay for) should provide a neutral public space where we can all meet on equal terms.”
Many religious people claim that giving the LBGT community rights and focus is destroying religious values that they believe their country is based upon, but in essence it’s all about equality and everyone has the right to express themselves. Despite this and other attempts to make the U.K. a secularist society, religion still has a firm grip on some areas. Assisted dying, religious state funded schools or Humanist weddings are a few key areas that need working on.
Below are the areas where Humanism U.K. are campaigning to promote secularism:
- an extension of section 6 of the Human Rights Act to treat religious organisations providing public services on behalf of the state as public authorities
- an end to the exemptions from the Equality Act for religious groups which allow much egregious discrimination on grounds of religion or belief and of sexual orientation to continue lawfully
- no weakening in the UK’s existing human rights settlement, for example as a result of proposals to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 with a ‘British Bill of Rights’, or pulling out of the European Convention on Human Rights
- the realisation of a single equality act in Northern Ireland, as is the case in the rest of the UK, as well as the proposed Northern Ireland ‘Bill of Rights’ to supplement the Human Rights Act
- incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into UK law
- a fair and just balance between the right of one person to express or manifest a religion or belief and the rights of others not to suffer discrimination, where the two may conflict
- defending freedom of speech and expression, including internationally, on campus, and in advertising, while having appropriate limits on harassment and incitement to violence, and the right balance in law on conscientious objection
- Promoting socio-economic rights, for example through our affiliate Humanists for a Better World
- an end to irrelevant religious discrimination in publicly funded postssuch as non-teaching jobs in religious schools or general pastoral support jobs in hospitals and prisons, which are often unfairly reserved only for religious people or people of particular religions
- equal treatment of the non-religious according to need in the limited number of roles that are legitimately reserved to meet a specific and specialist need such as belief-specific pastoral support for patients and staff in healthcare, prisons, or other institutional settings. In these settings, specific non-religious support is often lacking
- an end to the exemption from equality law for non-denominational organisations whose rules exclude non-religious people, as used to be the case for the Scouts and the Guides
- an end to religious privilege in marriage laws, through the legalisation of humanist and same-sex marriage across the UK
- fair and equal treatment of religious and non-religious perspectives in public broadcasting, including, for example, opening up Thought for the Day to humanist perspectives.
Have you, or someone you know ever been in a situation where something could have been prevented if you lived in a secularist society?
More information on secularism can be found at National Secularism Society
Natural law theory has been discussed throughout religions and philosophies for millennia. It’s essentially a code of ethics that humans intrinsically possess that are supplied by reason, or faith in god/a depending on one’s stance. Yet a universal moral standard cannot exist by default from human nature, or can it? Aristotle seemed to think so and claimed that it was virtue which influenced the moral actions we’ve acquired from nature, so it is a universal standard that isn’t influenced by politics, society, or faith in divinity. These natural values are governed by reason and it defines our actions. Thomas Aquinas believed it was guided by reason and virtue but these couldn’t exist without divine law as well. And that if you denied god, committed idolatry, atheism or polytheism then it was the ultimate sin and against the principles of natural law.
“Man is a product of nature, a part of the Universe. The Universe is operated under exact natural laws. Man is a product of millions of years of evolution. He adapts himself to the laws of nature or he perishes.” – James Hervey
Deism is a form of acceptance of natural law in which reason and observing the natural world gives sufficient evidence of a creator. Divine revelation and natural reason makes up a term known as ‘natural theology‘ and the start of the 1776 Declaration of Independence acknowledges this. Deism literally believes that a divine creator made everything within the universe and once it was established he never observed his creation again, so the act of miracles, or praying wasn’t taken seriously. Biblical teachings were also not observed as they not only defied reason but wasn’t knowledgeable within the emerging scientific community during the Age of Enlightenment when Deism became popular.
If it wasn’t for the existence of prominent philosophers like Francis Bacon, and René Descartes, then who knows how science would have progressed. Deism encourages reason and whilst Bacon was an Anglican he was extremely liberal for his time and actively discouraged people to claim the Bible was either a source of scientific knowledge, or be used to question scientific findings. He said that to claim god as the first cause belonged to theology, and not science, and people should never combine the two.
“The inclination to goodness is imprinted deeply in the nature of man.” – Sir Francis Bacon
Natural Law theory claims that humans have a universal standard of knowing the difference between good and bad, or wrong or right. We inherently know when something is intentionally cruel, perverse or harmful to others, or is inhumane and is a direct violation against the rights a human has to exist in harmony. Yet try telling this to theists and they simply cannot accept that you can be good without a source of morality supplied by a divine power. I’d comfortably argue that without religious influence you’re more likely to reach the correct conclusion through reason rather than through faith.
I’ve decided to write this after reading some arrogant theist claiming that he’d dubunked homosexuality as he misinterpreted what evolution is and confused it with elitist social status; but would you expect anything otherwise? They are often so ill-informed and misguided by the holy books of their faith that they simply cannot see the bigger picture and everything isn’t black and white. He attempts to mock evolution and claim that nature wouldn’t have created homosexuals because we are meant to breed. But hold on; what’s the alternative? God either created homosexuals, or he made a mistake. You know me well enough to know that I’m not suggesting you’re a mistake, but I don’t view the world through god goggles.
They act like homosexuality is a new trend, but the Romans wrote about gay orgies as it wasn’t a crime in their polytheism, but the Roman Empire embraced Christianity and it all became taboo. The biggest issue that arose from it concerning sexual activity is it’s supposed to be between a man and a woman, who are married and create a family. That’s all nice and traditional but it’s not even remotely in the real world. There are a multitude of definitions people use to describe their sexuality and homosexuality is just one of them. What gets me is the Mitzvah’s.. they each have their own command and condemn incest, and two men sleeping together, but it has no mention of two women sleeping together. Why is that? God thought two men was a sin, but he liked a bit of lesbian action so thought he’d let that command slide.
They often claim that it’s unnatural. No one is forcing you to participate, so what’s the problem? What exactly is it of your concern what two, or more consenting adults do in a private location?
“existing in or derived from nature; not made or caused by humankind.
The above quote is the Oxford dictionary’s definition of natural. Homosexuality isn’t a choice, or a lifestyle; it’s genetic. If it’s genetic then it’s natural.
“Numerous studies have established that sex is not just male or female. Rather, it is a continuum that emerges from a person’s genetic makeup. Nonetheless, misconceptions persist that same-sex attraction is a choice that warrants condemnation or conversion, and leads to discrimination and persecution.” – Source