Can Secularism Save Ailing Religious Nations?

  • post Type / Young Humanists International
  • Date / 2 September 2009
Dear Readers of the YouthSpeak,
October is so close, so also is our annual international youth conference which is coming up in Nepal. As you may have known, the central focus of the conference is ‘Secularism’. But the question is: ‘Can Secularism Save Ailing Religious Nations?’.
Secularisation generally refers to the transformation to a kind of globalisation, influenced towards modernisation, education and humanism as religion loses its position of authority. Secularisation is sometimes credited both to the cultural shifts in society following the emergence of rationality and the development of science as a substitute for superstition and to the changes made by religious institutions to compensate. It can also be seen as an indication, where religious beliefs no longer play a dominant role in public life or in other aspects of decision-making.

The issue of secularisation is discussed in various religious traditions. For example, in the secular states like India, it has been argued that the need was to legislate for toleration and respect between quite different religions; whereas the secularisation of the West was a response to intra-Christian tensions between Catholicism and Protestantism. Some have therefore argued that Western secularisation is radically different in that it deals with autonomy from religious regulation and control. Considerations of both tolerance and autonomy are relevant to any secular state.

In the Western world, the separation of state and church is seen as necessary for a truly democratic state system.The churches accept the separation of state and church in general, but see a danger in secularism and their symptoms, mostly in relation to the expected loss of values. But do we have less values as a nonreligious person?

The future ability of value conceptions cannot be left to a godlike authority or one single culture or tradition, but belong to a century lasting fights related to enlightment and humanism against already exisiting and authoritarian state system. In such situations, the dignity and autonomy of each human individual and its most possible freedom are realized through democracy, constitutional state systems, a global citizenship and human rights and can be seen as a garantee of the value consence. In other words, secularisation argues that individuals increasingly look outside of religion for authoritative positions.

Nepal was marked through separations and fights along the maoistic people´s war, through boycotts during election periods and murderers. It is a fight, a way of tears and violence,of power and ups and downs between authoritian legislative power and maoistic rebellion. The first unfinished tries of 1990 for the urgent social, political and economical change seem to get realized now after a long battle. But some months later, dissatisfaction and frustration are again setting into the expectations. Again, politicians have started to follow their own traditional interests and thrown away all claims due to the survival of the society. But the civil society wont allow this to happen!

With this youth conference, IHEYO, as a civil society, wants to offer a platform for further discourse by inviting young people to strengthen their opinions about secular values while discussing possibilities and realisations in common ways. These discussions should at least lead to an integrated education of human rights and to a strict neutrality of states to religions and other orientations.

As youngsters, we are believing in our will power, in our strength to influence, to give motivation to people in Nepal working day by day for a better democratic and secular system, and finally to give support to our Asian friends.
So, back to the question I asked earlier: ‘Can Secularism Save Ailing Religious Nations?’. My answer is no, but it is a step into the right direction.

Silvana Uhlrich,
President IHEYO

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