Sunday, September 23, 2012

What is Secularism? — Part I

“Creation of Secular states have neither forced Europeans and Americans to become atheists nor are all of them atheists. Neither have Churches fallen down nor any change is witnessed in Christian missionary work.” 

The word 'secularism' has taken an absurd meaning inside the Pakistani context. The word is attributed and categorized with ideas like profanity, atheism, and non-religiosity. Moreover, the urdu translation of this word as 'La Diniyat' [non-religiosity] is wage and out of context. In fact, secularism isn't just a word; it's a modern method of state craft that has its roots in pre-modern Europe. Today, in Pakistan, calling oneself secular is tantamount to call oneself an 'infidel'. 

This confusion must be solved as history empirically shows that eveery next generation has tried to progress in the forward direction rather than to stick with non-evolving ideologies. 

Following are some translated excerpts from Sabt-e-Hasan's book 'Naved Fikr'. The book gives an excellent account about the idea of secular. The author goes into history and tries to dig out facts and presents them in an apt fashion. It is important to read this book if we want to get a fair idea as to 'what is secularism'

"When Socrates drunk the hemlock, his student Kreto asked him about his funeral ceremony. Socrates answered, "My final ceremonies?!" He laughed and then said in a serious tone, "Kreto! How many times have I told you to you words in their right context, but I guess you haven't learnt anything. Kreto! Remember that using words out of context is the greatest sin of all.

In our country we are experiencing what Socrates said ages ago. Keeping the propaganda of orthodox clergy on one side, even politicians and newspaper editors use this word for spreading confusion. They present 'secularism' as ideas akin to some God send disease such as leprosy."

"Secularism and secular are jargons of pure Latin. In Latin the word 'Seculum' means 'World'. During The Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic clergy was divided into two parts. There were some bishops who lived inside the church to carry out ecclesiastical duties. On the other hand, there were bishops who lived like the commoners. It was the Bishops of this latter group who were named 'Secular bishops'. All other institutions were also called 'secular' that didn't come under the hierarchy of the church. Nowadays, Secularism means the system of government in which politics is separated from religious injunctions, and secular education is a system in which religious text books aren't a part of formal education."

"Secular ideas predate modern history, but the word 'secularism' was first coined by a British professor George J. Holyoake. In founded an association in 1851 in the city of London by the name of Central Secular Society. He summarized his ideas in the following manifesto:

1. The real guidance of man comes from science.

2. Morality predates religion and separately exists as an independent reality.

3. The only source to knowledge is rationality.

4. Everyone should be given freedom of thought and speech.

5. We should try to make this world a better place to live in."

"The objective of secularism is to create a society that believes in rational and logic. It doesn't want to transgress the societal and moral boundaries of a culture; rather it wants to free societies from the wrath of blind imitation and orthodoxy. Therefore, the preachers of secularism have always wanted to free humans from the chains of superstitions. This isn't any unique idea, Sufis also used to say that we should try to discover truth on our own, and discover our own paths to truth hood. We should strive for truth not just to gain some mundane reward; rather, truth should be sought because it ought to be sought after."

"Secularism is based on the presumption that freedom of believe and expression is an innate human right. Hence, man should have the authority to find his way in matters of politics, economics, religion and morality, philosophy and wisdom, and art and literature. To forcefully put one's idea on someone else simply means that former isn't able to give a logical answers to the later."

“To assimilate oneself with nature is called Secularism, and if humans go against the laws of nature they must reap the repercussions.”

“European historians call The Middle Ages as the Age of Darkness. According to them, the age between the 5th century and the 15th century was the period of social and cultural decline”

“English historian professor Fisher is very much amazed by the fact that Italy, which was the bastion of Christendom, was the founder of secular institution in Europe... [But looking this event in its correct historical context], the institutionalization of secularism in Italy was not a miracle; rather it was a direct result of the industrial progress in the Italian society. To cope up with the growing industrial needs of the rising banking, shipping, and textile industries, factory owners now needed a technically educated workforce. On the other hand, the Church was against scientific education. Henceforth, industry owners were forced to make their own secular school. The Church resisted these efforts, but failed to win any societal influence. Within no time, large secular universities came into existence in every part of the country. These institutions were secular, and were made to fulfil secular needs. In fact, there wasn’t any department of religious study present at the University of Bolonia. University of Padua was the most eminent centre for modern thoughts [in Europe]. There were six technical schools in Florence, where a thousand students took technical education. University of Salver was famous across Europe for education in Medicine. The students who graduated from these universities had a secular world view that mostly contradicted with the Church’s perspective.”

“The second most important reason for the rise of secularism was the creation of civil codes of justice that replace the Christian laws. Again, it was democratic Italy, where this change was first seen. The outdated Christian laws were not able to meet up with the demands of modern life; hence, around 13th century law colleges came into existence in the city of Rome, Milan, Verona, and Bolonia. Ancient Roman law was taught at these institutions. This changed the basic character of the judicial system, so much so that Father St. Bernard exclaimed, “The new [secular] judicial resonates in courts all over Europe, The law of God is not visible anywhere”. Even Prof. Fisher, who is a supporter of the Christian Church, accepted the fact that “the development that took place in the 13th century carries a deep emblem of the Roman Law. Those who graduated with education in civil laws supported the State in the internal conflict that was taking place between the Church and the State.””

“Creation of Secular states have neither forced Europeans and Americans to become atheists nor are all of them atheists. Neither have Churches fallen down nor any change is witnessed in Christian missionary work.”

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