The problem with Secularism
The problem with Secularism is that too many people don’t know what it means. It’s frequently used to describe a form of repressive atheism that’s anti-religion. The National Secular Society explains it succinctly:
Secularism is a principle that involves two basic propositions. The first is the strict separation of the state from religious institutions. The second is that people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law.
The former nun, Karen Armstrong, who writes extensively about religion, is the latest to misuse the term in an article for the Guardian, ‘The myth of religious violence’. She’s been taken to task in an open letter by the philosopher Stephen Law. He wrote:
Your Guardian article presents a little history of ‘secularism’ on which it is revealed to be responsible for a long list of awful things. But pretty much all the awful things you describe have little if anything to with Secularism. Ataturk’s violent suppression of Islam was not Secular. Secularists would oppose that suppression. Locke’s insistence that Catholics and Muslims should not be tolerated is not Secular. Secularists would oppose that too.
It would be good if Armstrong accepted the criticism, and acknowledged her ignorance.
PS: al-Razi of the Ex-Muslims Forum has also responded to Armstrong’s essay, arguing that the secular movement is in fact responsible for the good things that religions now claim to be their intrinsic values, and says Armstrong’s critique of secularism is a form of apologetics for fundamentalism and bigotry.