I sometimes think that people don’t understand that secularism and atheism are two different concepts.
If you’re an atheist, you probably already know the difference but I find it interesting that there seem to be a number of people that can’t see the distinction.
We all know that atheism is simply a non-belief in god(s). That’s it. As I’ve written about many times before, it has nothing to do with anything else. You can be an atheist and a humanist or not. You can be an atheist and a social justice advocate. Or not.
I going to go out on a limb and say that I think that atheists, in general are secularists. I believe I can say with certainty though that not all secularists are atheists. Find that interesting?
I’ve borrowed this definition from Wikipedia to help us all understand:
Secularism is the principle of the separation of government institutions and persons mandated to represent the state from religious institutions and religious dignitaries. One manifestation of secularism is asserting the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, or, in a state declared to be neutral on matters of belief, from the imposition by government of religion or religious practices upon its people. Another manifestation of secularism is the view that public activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be uninfluenced by religious beliefs and/or practices.
Look at the second sentence: it cuts both ways. The state should not only not be influenced by religion, but the state also shouldn’t impose religion on it’s people. It’s okay, in my mind for people to hold religious beliefs. Just don’t try to impose your beliefs on the rest of us, no matter the religion. Keep it out of my kids’ school. Hey, after that, we can start working together to improve our society.
This is where we’ve gone wrong in America. I believe the founders wanted a secular state and everything I’ve ever read about the founding of this country tells me that’s true.
In the last 40 years though, We, The People have allowed that to go astray. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from a now deceased Republican Senator from my home state of Arizona, Barry Goldwater.
Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.
We need to get back to basics.