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Monday, February 06, 2006

The Secular Commandments? 


[FIRST REVISION - I MISSED A SECULAR COMMANDMENT]

In a previous post I made a reference to "secular dogma" and characterized secularism as a religion.


Note that we're not only talking about blasphemy against a particular religion, but that the secular state of the French state is also a topic of discussion. So the secularists argue that you can make fun of any religion - except, of course, secularism itself....

So in essence it's real easy to offend religious people. But, as I noted earlier, secularism is a religion also. And it's apparently real easy to offend adherents to THAT religion....

I'm mulling over the question - if "no religious dogma can impose itself on a democratic and secular society," does it also stand to - uh - reason that no secular dogma can impose itself on a democratic and religious society? And what does that mean to the extra-Constitutional phrase "separation of church and state"?



So if secularism is (as I claim) a religion, does it have a creed? Rather than look at the Humanist Manifesto or some such, I'm going to take a look at the Jewish Ten Commandments (in the Lutheran division) and see if Secularism has any equivalents. Original Jewish commandments are italicized.


THE FIRST COMMANDMENT
You shall have no other gods.



This is clearly also a commandment in Secularism, which seeks to remove all gods from the public sphere (excepting, of course, the god of Secularism itself).


THE SECOND COMMANDMENT
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.



You know how Islam prevents iconic depiction of God's Prophet, and Judaism refrain's from speaking God's name? Well, Secularism takes these religions one step further by not even allowing adherents to acknowledge the existence of the Secularist god.


THE THIRD COMMANDMENT
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.



This the first of the cases in which we need to distinguish between Secularism and modern Liberalism. Secular liberals have their holy days (e.g. Cesar Chavez's birthday), and secular conservatives have their holy days (e.g. U.S. Independence Day), but Secularism itself has no Sabbath day per se.

Off topic - It's interesting to note that Jewish and Christian practices have diverged on this matter, with Jews considering Christians as violators of the Sabbath, and Christians (excepting the Seventh Day ones) arguing that Christ has redefined the Sabbath.


THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT
Honor your father and your mother.



Again, Secularism has no universal position on this matter. It could be argued that secular liberals' disagreement with parental notification indicates a dishonor of parents, but that view is not universal to Secularism per se.

Perhaps, however, there is another commandment that Secularist would place here - "Honor your government," or the secular church. Thus French Muslims should honor the government of France, and U.S. Christians should honor Roe v. Wade. If Secularism has such a commandment, then it's interesting to note that Secularists have the same struggle as Christians with this topic. Do you honor an evil government? Should Christians honor a government that makes Christianity a capital offense? Should Secularists honor a government with a theistic state religion?


THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT
You shall not kill.



I might be going out on a limb, but I think this is one of the Secularist commandments also. One could argue that this is just a liberal Secularist view (Tookie don't deserve to die), but remember that we Americans are one of the few countries with such a barbaric practice. And if the Secularists define life as beginning at birth and ending when quality of life is diminished, all other arguments against this commandment are interpreted away.


THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT
You shall not commit adultery.



Secularists don't really care about this commandment.


THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT
You shall not steal.



Again, this could be interpreted in such a way that this could be a Secularist commandment. Note that a Secularist government (or even a theistic government) doesn't "steal," it just redistributes to the poor or to the businesses or whoever.


THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.



Interpret this one in also by saying that you're not "bearing false witness against your neighbor" if you are supporting a universal truth. Calling Bush a fascist or accusing Clinton of treason is OK in this case.


THE NINTH COMMANDMENT
You shall not covet your neighbor's house.



See my comments on the seventh commandment.


THE TENTH COMMANDMENT
You shall not covet your neighbor's spouse, or their manservant, or their maidservant, or their cattle or anything that is your neighbor's.



Secularists could argue that the Jewish Seventh and Ninth Commandments cover the essentials here, without introducing any problematic issues. For example, the first part of the Tenth Commandment makes a moral judgement about monogamy that is not essential in the enlightened secular age. And the whole concept of a manservant or maidservant is abhorrent in this enlightened age. And mention of cattle would just anger the vegetarians.

So, after this analysis, I have ended up with the Secularist Seven Commandments:


You shall have no other gods.

You shall not acknowledge the existence of the Lord your God.

Honor your government.

You shall not kill.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor's house.



Seven commandments. Perfect.

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