Secular Means Both All Religions and No Religion

Secular Means Both All Religions and No Religion October 6, 2017

Secular Means Both All Religions and No Religion

It was eye-opening to me when I read an interview with the Dalai Lama years ago where he said that secular means all religions.

The more I thought about it, I realized that being secular actually meant both all religions and no religion.

Allow me to explain.

The First Amendment

The secular movement is related to the First Amendment of the Constitution, especially as it pertains to the freedom of religion. It simply claims that no religion should be given preferential treatment in the public sphere, that all religions should be treated equally under the law.

A secular society gives people permission to believe or not believe, as they see fit.

This should not be a novel idea. It has been embedded in the Constitution for more than two hundred years.

As apparent as that seems, I realized, as I studied the history of my adopted country in preparation to become a full-fledged citizen, that, for the longest time, freedom of religion meant the freedom to practice any form of Christianity that one wanted to practice, which meant that Christianity did get special treatment in the public sphere while other religions were viewed with suspicion.

This is changing for the better in modern society, although we still find remnants of this special treatment on all levels of government, including, but not limited to, prayer before public meetings, especially prevalent in local governing bodies, such as city councils.

When I see such disparities, I remind myself that the principles espoused by the Founding Fathers were aspirational in nature and have still not been fully realized.

Living Together in Harmony

Today, we are a country of many religions, and a growing number of people claim no religious affiliation at all, either declaring spirituality as their primary focus or outright atheism.

They have that right under the Constitution.

One of the primary principles of the interfaith movement is to affirm that, despite our many different beliefs, we should attempt to live together in harmony. Of course, this is easier said than done, which is why it requires work, but the central message is a secular one.

Being secular simply means that one wants the public sphere to remain neutral, not giving preferential treatment to one religion or group above another, allowing all citizens to practice or not practice religion as they see fit.

As I see it, secularism is the freedom of religion in action.

Gudjon Bergmann
Author & Interfaith Minister

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  • James

    A great number of Christian sects are trying to tear the heart out of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. They all seem to think it will be their particular version of Christianity that will come out on top dictating things such as school prayer or legislation.

    What they fail to realise is that in addition to keeping the depredations of state power out of churches (and vice-versa), it keeps the depredation of churches out of each other.

    I imagine a Baptist church in a majority Catholic area would be appalled at the idea of the local school board voting to require the Angelus and Rosary every day. The best protection for all faiths is for the government to support no particular faith.

  • morris98

    “The best protection for all faiths is for the government to support no particular faith.”
    That sounds very good but it is not that simple. We have granted people of faiths the right to practice their religions. That means people are not only just free to practice their faiths but they also have a right to practice their faiths So demand they make on our governments depend upon the nature of their religious practices. For instance Buddhists make a little or no demand. Muslims on the other hand make more demands than any other. For example they can demand prayer rooms in public places. You can see that happening. We do not have equal rights under the law. Our rights depend upon our faiths. And that is the nature of our secular democracy.