Evan Harris, a former UK member of parliament, shared his secularist manifesto on the Guardian, a response to the pope’s warning against “aggressive” secularism. It is an excellent rejoinder of what a secular society is.
Secularism is unfairly characterised and attacked by religious leaders as a way of seeking to protect their privileges.
Secularism is not atheism (lack of belief in God) and nor is it humanism (a nonreligious belief system). It is a political movement seeking specific policy end-points. Many secularists are religious and many religious people – recognising the value of keeping government and religion separate – are secular.
Secularism seeks to defend the absolute freedom of religious and other belief, seeks to maximise freedom of religious and other expression and protect the right to manifest religious belief insofar as it does not impinge disproportionately on the rights and freedoms of others. This is essentially a summary of article 9 of the European convention on human rights. In addition secularism aims to end religious privileges or persecutions and to fully separate the state from religion which is a necessary means to that end.
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Image by Inez Templeton.