Secularism, what is that really?

Okay, let me put it upfront that the article I'll be referring to is old news, really old news, like 2009 old news. Unfortunately, the nonsense in the article is not unnecessarily old. It does seem that Christians in Singapore are importing American Evangelical nonsense. I will use this opportunity to clarify what secularism is and is not.

There seems to be few sources that have the interview of Thio Li-Ann archived. So I'll be using this one archived by AWARE. It should be sufficient for my purposes since I'm not going to be deconstructing the whole interview. If you want that, then I would recommend this other blog's post - it's quite well done I think.

Historically, ‘secularism’ originates from the Latin ‘saeculum’, meaning ‘temporal’, worldly affairs, rather than ‘spiritual’, other-worldly matters. The word ‘secular’ is an emblem of intense historical conflict.

Today, in some circles, ‘secularism’ connotes systematic hostility towards religion, as a synonym for a politicised form of ideological atheism whose creed is that humanity is destined to wholly shed religious conviction. The atheistic word was made flesh in the atheistic state produced by the Russian Revolution of 1917, devoted to Marx’s assumption that religion stupefies the masses and must be eradicated to bring forth the new Communist Man.


In 1989, Foreign Minister George Yeo observed the Government was ‘secular but it is certainly not atheistic’. This evinces a rejection of a thick, atheistic version of secularism.

Here is a truncated quote from the interview. Notice the attempt to confuse and conflate atheism and secularism?

Guess what? Secularism and atheism are two completely different things. This attempt to confuse the issue is a dishonest ploy to evoke feelings of opposition to secularism from religious folks.

For the record, if the state/government endorses atheism or antitheism, it is by definition, NOT secular. As such, there is NO such thing as an "atheistic version of secularism". Secularity of the government only means that the government just remain neutral in matters pertaining to the religious beliefs of its citizens.

Secular humanism, which posits a morality independent of God, is a comprehensive anti-theistic world view. Some courts recognise it as a religion. It dogmatically asserts the absence of God, without any empirical evidence. We know from elementary logic that it is impossible to prove a universal negative. Whether God exists or not cannot be proved or disproved by evidence or logic.

It takes faith to believe or not to believe in God or gods. A lot of faith is needed to believe there is no divine. As Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol wrote: ‘It is the atheist’s opium to regard that unsubstantiated faith as established fact.’ Thick secularism is thus an anti-religion religion.

Again, an attempt to conflate secularism with atheism, this time, as well as Secular Humanism.

It's important to go through this point by point to clarify the confusion about Secular Humanism.

Secular humanism, which posits a morality independent of God, is a comprehensive anti-theistic world view.

Secular Humanism is atheistic in nature though not necessarily antitheistic.

Here is the Minimum Statement on Humanism:

Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.

Secular Humanists themselves may be antitheistic but it is not a dogmatic requirement of the stance. In fact, Secular Humanism rejects dogmas.

Some courts recognise it as a religion.

The recognition of Secular Humanism as a "religion" is for functional reasons in the eyes of the law.

It dogmatically asserts the absence of God, without any empirical evidence.

No, it doesn't. That has it ass backwards.

Precisely because there is no empirical evidence FOR the existence of god(s), Secular Humanists do not believe there is/are god(s). The distinction between "do not believe in the existence of god" and "believe there are no gods" is subtle but still important! We simply do not pretend there is one (or more gods) - instead we believe only we, humans, can help ourselves (hence the humanist aspect).

We know from elementary logic that it is impossible to prove a universal negative. Whether God exists or not cannot be proved or disproved by evidence or logic.

Gee, except that's not what we're claiming - we haven't disproved god nor can we.

While we can't prove (in correct usage of the word) the existence of god(s), we should be able to demonstrate IF he/she/it exist. But we haven't; Still waiting for those people with the burden of proof to bring in the evidence.

And now we'll move onto the rest of the nonsense.

Secular democracies should be neutral not only between traditional religions but also regarding modern religions with atheistic foundations.

What in the world is "modern religions with atheistic foundations"? Some forms of Buddhism is atheistic but that sure isn't modern.

Again, it seems that this is yet another attempt to claim that atheism somehow constitutes a religion. Well, it isn't. Being an atheist effectively means having no religion. Lacking belief in god makes you an atheist; No rational atheist asserts that god(s) do not exist and even those who do make that assertion are not organising a religion!

But let's move straight to most important part, the biggest "misunderstanding",

Thus, Singapore secularism is 'agnostic' and 'thin'. The Government does not favour or disfavour any particular religion. We practise 'accommodative secularism' described by the Court of Appeal as removing restrictions to one's choice of religious belief. Religious values do have a role in public debate.

Agnostic secularism of this sort is a virtue; it is a 'framework' which facilitates the peaceful co-existence of religions.

Conversely, militant secularism is an illiberal and undemocratic vice in seeking to gag religious views in the public square and so to privilege its atheistic values, as in communist states.

Secular fundamentalists are oppressive where they seek to mute religiously informed convictions in public debate, by demonising a view as religious.

The distinction between "accommodative" and "millitant" secularism is fucking nonsense.

Okay, I won't be quoting anymore. Here on is my explanation for secularism.

Secularism is one of the constitutional devices that sought to protect the people from the state (government) and vice versa, in this case, from religious discrimination. It means that the state must remain neutral towards religion, that is, the state cannot endorse any religions (no preferential treatment, no favorite or state religion) and cannot discriminate against any religion. This guarantees freedom of religion (as well as from religion).

Maybe it would be clearer if I used hypothetical examples.

It means the government cannot come out tomorrow and announce that Buddhism is the state religion of Singapore and its temples will now enjoy tax free status that other religions are not entitled.

It means the state cannot proclaim that we have amended the Singapore Pledge and it will now read:

We, the citizens of Singapore,
accept our Lord Jesus Christ as our one and only savior,
regardless of race, language or gender,

It means we cannot write into our law that all pork and pig related products shall be banned and no non-halal stalls will ever be permitted.

It means the Prime Minister cannot proclaim that we will now endorse state atheism and will now print "One Nation under No Gods" on our dollar bills.

Clearer now?

Secularism also means that members of the government cannot inject their religion into our constitution, our laws or anything endorsed by the government.

We may not inject Creationism into our national Science curriculum at our public schools.

We may not criminalized abortion on the basis of any religious doctrine.

We may not discriminate against homosexuals on the basis of any holy text.

We may not allow state-led prayer in our Parliament or public schools.

And yes, those examples come from America where religious nuts are trying to destroy the secularity of the USA.

To put it simply, secularism means you cannot impose your religious views on others via the government but neither can the government tell you what you can or cannot believe/do because of someone else's religion.

I hope you can see that that's a good thing, otherwise, you might be a bigot or possibly a theocrat... just guessing...