Saturday, January 17, 2015

Secularism continued

Excellent article by Nick Cohen in The Guardian to support my previous post. The following sums it up nicely:

Do I need to remind you that insulting the gods, the pope or the synagogue were the charges the faithful levelled against Socrates, Galileo and Spinoza? Or that insulting religion is everywhere the favourite charge of fanatics?

Sadly, what is happening at the moment makes me wonder whether we haven't been overestimating the extent to which the mentality of the West has actually been shaped by spirit of these (and other) thinkers. The whole debate post-Charlie Hebdo has confirmed a nagging hunch of mine, namely that the secularisation of the West has never been as complete and all-encompassing as some of us seem to have believed. Most people have not understood what secularism means or fully embraced the values that this term denotes, or abandoned latent beliefs in the Christian roots of our ways of thinking, morality and sense of justice. How many of my friends and colleagues whom I had thought to be intelligent rationalists have puzzled me with abrupt und unmotivated references to the Sermon on the Mount as the dominant precept of Western Thought (well, the "liberal" Pontifex's recent endorsement of the principle of honour and lex talionis should have vaporised that fallacy) or even described the Ten Commandments as the basis of our justice system.

This means, in turn, that these are not "post-secular times", nor that religion is "returning". At this very moment I'm actually wondering whether we might not still be in a pre-secular stage of history and that this is a crucial moment for us to prove that we want to - and are able to - live in world that is as free as possible from ignorance, prejudice and fanaticism as it can be.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Thank you, Pope Francis: This settles the matter, then, whether Islamist terror is a religious issue. Because - as you have made so perfectly clear with your tasteless intervention - it is (though it has to be emphasised, of course, that all religious orthodoxies have committed heinous crimes).

And while we're at it, Angela Merkel: Papa's candor puts paid to the claim, reiterated ad nauseam all over the place, that "our" values are Christian. No: Our values are the values of secular reason. They are what must be defended.

UPDATE: And here another reason why free speech must be defended at all cost.