Secularism, promoted by secularists, is the belief that religion should be a private, personal, voluntary affair that does not impose upon other people. Public spaces and officialdom should therefore be religion-neutral. Secularism ensures that religions are treated fairly and that no bias exists for a particular religion, and also that non-religious folk such as Humanists are treated with equal respect. It is the only democratic way to proceed in a globalized world where populations are free to choose their own, varied, religions.
The following is the content of my main pages on secularism and secularisation:
In a democratic country, people are free to belong to any religion (or none) as they wish - this is the human right of freedom of belief1. To remain just and fair, governments should be neutral when it comes to religion - secular. In liberal democracies, rules should apply to all people fairly and equally regardless of religion2 as much as possible. History has shown us that if the state encourages, officially represents or enforces just-one-religion then it always creates enduring social inequalities and infringes upon the basic human right of being able to choose religion and beliefs freely1, which over time is destabilizing. Therefore, for both ethical and practical reasons, politicians and government officials should not be under the control of religious institutions either formally, informally or symbolically2. This preserves equality and fairness to the maximum extent, except for those who want to impose their beliefs or practices on others, allowing for a reasonable, fair and tolerant society.
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There is a balance to be had between freedom of belief and religion (a fundamental human right) and good democratic governance, where religions are treated fairly, but also prevented from harming others. When religious ideas of morality and blasphemy are institutionalized by government, inequality is inevitable as other religions and beliefs are overlooked or even indirectly proscribed. When it comes to actions that cause suffering, the basis of the person's justification doesn't matter - all we are interested in is making it clear the action is not acceptable. Adam Smith argued that the way to achieve harmony between religious believers and others is for government not to interfere, except to oblige them not to persecute others3 - and this means that a neutral, central state must enforce an overall set of minimal independent values. Human Rights are of course the clearest way to enforce a fair playing field so that a multiplicity of religious groups can exist together.
“Religious beliefs... deserve protection [but] religious conduct, on the other hand, may sometimes require limitation.”
Kressel lists "the enshrinement of religion in the fundamental rules of the state" as one of religion's most dangerous attributes (out of three)5. Many countries grant that laws that protect religious belief also protect non-belief - the UK has had such secularist law since 20066, and in late 2016 the USA also adopted this stance7. "Secularism" is the idea that in order to treat people fairly, all special religious rights should be abolished as democracies should not legislate on beliefs, but on actions (regardless of religion). The government passes laws because it is necessary and because it is for the greater good. The more exceptions there are to those laws, the more democracy is weakened. Legislating for special religious rights are a travesty of justice and undermine democracy and the common good. It is rarely required to mention specific religions in law, or to exempt them from law. Things are better than they've ever been, but few countries so far have managed to achieve complete impartiality and fairness towards religions
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