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Secularism

The dictionary defines the the word secularism as (sek ´yoo ler iz´m)
"1.secularism: worldly spirit views esp., a system of belief and practices that rejects any form of religious faith.

2.the belief that religion should be strictly separated from the state or government esp., from education."

Religion assumes the existence of a supernatural power to explain fundamental philosophical questions. Religion was the predominant form of philosophical thought in Indian history. And religion becomes thus, the sole guardian of ethics and morality. And religion is the only the beginning of philosophical thought in man, for since it religion were to, convincingly, offer answers to all questions asked by man, then man wouldn't have needed such a thing as philosophy.

No government/order can survive without a code of ethics, every political party has to be based on a code of ethics. The governments whose code of ethics are based on the codes of ethics of a particular religion are called theocracies. Theocracies are 'defective' in two important ways. Firstly, the status of people of different religions in a theocratic state was a constant source of conflict.

The greatest defect of them all

But the greatest defect of all religion is the second one — the dependence on faith [of its followers] to explain things. The fundamental conflict in the mind of an individual who faces and solves many problems in everyday life using logic and reason as his tools (consciously or subconsciously) and is asked to solve 'philosophical' problems using faith (an abandonment of reason) is obvious. The same conflict exists at a grander and vaster scale in the case of government trying to administer a state using religion as its guide. Dogmatically propounded religious beliefs aren't simply enough to run a state.

These defects in regards to religion as a ruling force was recognized in the later periods of history. Thus entailed a separation of the state from religion. As theories of economics, logic and science grew, men found it less and less necessary to deal with reality using the dictates of religious philosophy. The fact that the human mind, in itself, is efficacious enough to comprehend facts and abstractions, and that it wasn't necessary to recourse to a supernatural God or any such idea to explain reality was realized slowly and painfully. Ethics, which was purely a domain under religion wasn't considered to be so anymore.

The essence of secularism

The release of ethics from the 'iron-grip' of religion has been the greatest victory for man's reason. And 'secularism' is the term summating that victory of man's reason. That ethics —the standards by which the moral values of a group of individuals, unto each individual, and in relation with each other are decided; should not be according to the decrees of a religion is the statement of a secular philosophy. Secularism delivers ethics from religion. Secularism is analogous to atheism; if atheism is the rejection of the concept of God, secularism is the rejection of religious faith.

Secular politics

Now the question arises, what is the nature of a secular government? This question can be answered after a consideration of another term-politics. Politics is the science which deals with the principles of a proper social system derived from a system of ethics, for e.g., a theocracy is the political end-result of a religious system of ethics. A secular government is the political form of a government which is based on a non-religious system of ethics. So by freeing ethics from the confines of religious beliefs, politics is freed of religious controls.

But the ultimate achievement of secularism is the freeing of religion from state.A secular system of politics is one which contends that concerns of religion fall outside its principles of a social system. In other words, religion is excluded from those set of variables of a society which the government (a political party) has rights to control. Religion is thus delivered out of politics into the hands of those, to whom it rightly belongs — the individuals.

How does secularism 'achieve' this? By the assertion that religion is an personal matter, to be left at the discretion of the individual. Secularism is the limiting of the state's powers over an individual's religion. To secularize is to "...deprive of religious character and influence". The state, under secularism, is thus deprived of any license or 'authority' over the religious beliefs of its citizens.

The net result

So, the two important and interdependent contentions of secularism are:

  1. the freedom of politics, from religion
  2. the freedom of religion from politics,
A secular government will neither allow itself to be led by a religious code of ethics nor will it dictate to its citizens on matters of religion. It doesn't sanction religion any authority over matters of governance and does not claim to any authority over the religion of its people.

A secular government will neither listen to men of God nor talk to men about God. A secular political party will have a secular ethics i.e. a system of ethics which can be understood without recourse to religion.

This, is the essence and the true meaning of the word — secularism.

Secularism in the 'Indian Context'

Secularism doesn't have special and separate meanings under different circumstances. Secularism is not giving 'equal respect' or 'due recognition or 'protection' to people of all religion. Secularism is religion-blindness.

But what have previous Governments done? The letters "Government's work is God's work" is blazoned over the front panel of the roof of the Karnataka State Assembly building—a blatant violation of our Constitution.This is not the only example; declaring national holidays on religious festivals, photographs of various Gods on the walls of Government Offices, singing Saraswati Vandanas in conferences...the list is long. "Justice for all, appeasement of none" is not a secular statement, secularism has nothing to do with justice. Secularism is not about minorities and majorities, it is about religion.

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1. Culture
2. Environment
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