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Why “New” Secularism?

Secularism, as a socio-political notion, is in need of urgent revision and redefinition. The reason is simple: Secularism was originally conceived as a concentration on “this world” instead of the “divine one” and, thus, became synonymous with an effort to bar the interference of religion in the day to day life of societies. This resulted in the notion of “Separation of Church and State.” But, in a strange but now comprehendible way, one major aspect of religion was never considered in depth and detail. Such “ignored aspect” is the fact that no divine entity can interfere in the affairs of the state, before it is mutated into an “ideology” and organized into a social institution.

Faith is a general, pluralistic, tolerant and personal phenomenon, whereas religion is specific, monolithic, intolerant and social. From this point of view, religion is seen as the transformation of Faith into Religion(s). Thus, what Secularism is fighting against and resisting to is not the Faith, any faith; it indeed is fighting against the penetration of ideology in general and pseudo-divine ideologies disguised as religions into the socio-political life.

Religions are the embodiments of social institutions and entities, with their independent hierarchies, administrations and bureaucracies. All these clues point to the ideological structure of religions. Today, religions have openly come out to claim political authority and drive societies towards the annihilation of their freedoms, plurality, and enveloping them with intolerance towards any kind of thinking that is not in line with the pronounced aims, values and programs of their politico-religious organizations. In fact, the present world condition is acting as a catalyst that helps the hidden similarity of ideology and organized religion to come to the surface and be disclosed.

One should not be fooled by the claims of 20th century ideologies, such as Fascism, Nazism and Communism, to be “Secular.” No ideology can be secular even it is firmly based on the rejection of the divine. All ideologies and all organized religions are anti-secular and, thus, the new definition of Secularism should change its focus from religion to ideology through understanding the unity of the two from a “functional” point of view.

New Secularism serves this very purpose: To separate the affairs of society and state from that of Ideology, a major part of which is called “religion.” The experience of 20th century with the workings of ideologies has shown us that by falling of the reins of power into the hands of the representatives of ideologies societies suffer in many respects. In 21th century we are witnessing the same thing with the advent of theocracies. The way they attain the power and manipulate it to “engineer” the process of social life, deploring it of its vigor and strength that is created by plurality of social groups and freedom of individuals, is almost identical with what humanity witnessed with “ideological political system.”

The New Secularism should be the main defense line of the civilized world, fending off the will of politico-religious entities to gain the political apparatus and put an end to the colorfulness of our lives.

Esmail Nooriala



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