Secularism means a lot of things to various people, depending on what your attitude towards Life is.
If you are a Christian, acceptance of the other sects of Christianity .
For Islam it is the embracing of Islam.
For the Communists, it is bourgeois culture.
For Indian Politicians the appeasement of Muslims and Christians and the baiting of the Majority Hindus.
For Christianity and the Bible ‘Heathens’
For Islam ‘Kafirs’
Sarve janas Sukino Bhavanthu’ May Everyone be Happy’
Aakasathpaththam Thoyam yatha Gachchathi Saagaram,’
All sources of water, Rivulets, rain drops,rains,Rivers ,streams.. all lead to one ocean, so all the faiths are’
Some observations from the Guardian Readers.
suspect it doesn’t mean anything particularly original to me: I simply think of it as the separation of church(es) from the ambit of the state – which is why I consider it a desideratum. The disestablishment of the Church of England would be a welcome move, as would the removal of all bishops, rabbis, mullahs et al from the upper chamber. That the state shouldn’t be in the business of funding faith schools goes without saying.
We live in a time of faith-based everything. Economics is supposed to have no foundation in maths, or reality – we just have to believe. Political policy is based on swivel-eyed assumptions and prejudices, rather than the world, evidence, the reality of suffering, the reality of global warming. And religion – in rather too many cases – wants to be a faith-based political and economic force and to hell with all opposition.
Ours is an age of faith as a path to control on a very wide scale – something rigid, paranoid and utterly destructive. And we’ve been here before, but it would be just immensely cheering if we didn’t have to stay long, or reach this point again. It’s not OK for what you believe to hurt other people, or hurt you.
Massive disconnects between reality, behaviour and policy threaten our species in both small and apocalyptic ways and if I see secularism as anything it’s as a pathway to sanity. We probably always will believe weird shit, but it doesn’t have to harm us, or others, or the world. Our beliefs can elevate and inspire, and well-policed secularism – a version of secularism that doesn’t itself become an alternative set of rigid, aggressive beliefs – could help us to do both.
• AL Kennedy is a novelist and critic.
Secularism means the possibility of getting things wrong and being corrected as a matter of collective concern; it means not having to take orders from one particular way of thinking, but to put oneself in a position to try to understand them all. Secularism to me is a situation where reason meets empathy and compassion in the name of shared values. It means accepting that the spirit of inquiry should always be allowed to flourish and go wherever it is led, even if these are paths that continue to displace the centrality of the human or upset the usual ways of conceiving of the world.
Secularism is having the courage to question everything in such a way that no one belief system – religious or otherwise – is permitted to dominate. Secularism is tolerant, critical and open-minded. Above all, secularism means keeping open the possibility that there may not be satisfactory answers to difficult questions, be they scientific, political or existential, that humanity cannot help but ask.
Secularism for me is the house that is Southall Black Sisters, where black and minority women, of all cultures and religions and none, co-exist freely in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect. It is not about the absence of religion but the absence of religious power, a freedom from patriarchal straightjackets that might stifle our lives, dreams and aspirations.
It is a space which validates our right to choose our own identity, unlimited by culture, religion or nationality. To quote one of our users: “Tomorrow I celebrate Valentine’s Day. Islam says we shouldn’t dance. I used to get awards for dancing. I love celebrating Valentine’s Day. I will wear red clothes and red lipstick and get a red rose from my husband. I wear lots of make-up and perfume. I also love celebrating Diwali and Christmas and Easter. These are small pieces of happiness.”
Secularism for me is about the removal of religion, not just from the state, but also from power relations within the family and the community. That is why our struggle for feminism is linked inextricably to our struggle for a secular space.
• Pragna Patel is director of Southall Black Sisters.