Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Atheism vs. Secularism

This is a copy of my comment to a post on Maryam Namazie's blog:


I agree with your views in general but I would like to make a contribution with overstepping the mark. You implied that you are not completely content with conventional secularism (separation of church and state) by positing it as the minimum solution. Then you put forward direct intervention of state as the “real secularism”: “state cannot be natural to religion… it needs to be regulated… it needs to be controlled… it needs to be taxed”.

I think the major paradox of secularism is that it demands from the religious society to give up their illusions about the world in the political field. This is a very feasible solution as long as the society is free of contradictions… i.e. only if there was no other religion, gays, women, laborers, etc, etc. Even it was a “real secularism”, regulation of religious field by state, the subjectivity of statesmen overrides the quality of secularism to be promoted as real. So, even the “real secularism” is a derivative of minimum solution.

In the sense of state neutrality to religion the real solution is, I am very serious, Atheism. I know it sounds strange (and there is a misunderstanding that Marx criticized both religion and Atheism at the same degree) but only Atheism could ensure the neutrality of “state”. So let me set up a dialectical formula (!): secularism is the abstract negation of Christianity in political field, Atheism is the concrete negation of both religion and secularism, socialism is the complete establishment of social objectivity as there is no need for Atheism to solve the contradictions.
Best Regards,

A little discussion rised on Marxmail about my assessments above, I decided to copy comrade Mark Lause's well-founded objections and my replies:

I read "secularism is the abstract negation of Christianity in political field, Atheism is the concrete negation of both religion and secularism." Isn't anything in the political field (the real world) concrete and anything having to do with the existence or non-existence of God necessarily abstract?
What I mean by neutrality of state towards religion is an official approach to transform theology to anthropology. I was not proposing that religion must be prohibited, rather a scientific confrontation with
religion until religion descents to its essential meaning, becomes more religious by losing its political connotation. This is just a political emancipation in the boundaries of bourgeois state.
Secularism approaches the question abstractly since it misses the reality that state is regulated by religious society. Atheism is concrate in the sense of its political indifference to religious contradictions. I wasn't
implying any more than this.

Mehmet Çagatay:

As a simple example to clarify my stance: There is a fierce argument is underway in Turkey about the ban on wearing religious symbols in public schools. Muslims say that it is a question of the human rights, secularists say it is against the secularism, Kemalist social contract, etc. I think the proper Atheist approach should be like this: You are free to wear anything that you want or nothing as well, but in today's lesson we are going to work on Feuerbach, or Turan Dursun, etc.

Mark Lause:

In the Anglo-American tradition, these distinctions seem to be historically reversed Secularism (Bradlaugh, Ingersoll, etc.) has been about the removal of religious tests, getting the bibles out of the schools, etc. All sorts of rreligious groups, especially minority ones, are happy to accept secularist assumptions in the civic culture.
On the other hand, atheism is a private matter that seems to me to besocially and politically meaningless.

Mehmet Çagatay:

In Marx's words, "Hence, man was not freed from religion, he received religious freedom. He was not freed from property, he received freedom to own property. He was not freed from the egoism of business, he received freedom to engage in business." I think, secularism is the establishment of religious freedom, to ensure the imperative freedom to believe any god, or at least one god without running the risk of antagonizing the other world. If religious minorities or majorities are content with the removal of the bible from schools, now, they must give their consent to the "theoretical" critique of religion as well (the practical critique is
socialism). I demand from bourgeois state to be consistent with itself. That is all. Then let the Anglo-American tradition be reversed.

Mark Lause:

The record is absolutely clear. Historically, Charles Bradlaugh, Robert Ingersoll, and other prominent ATHEISTS fought to establish a SECULARIST civic culture. It was clearly their understanding that
secularism does not merely establish one's right to believe in any deity or deities but to disbelieve the lot of them. I'd add that this was also the position of the contemporary socialist movement.

You're reading Marx way too literally if you're understanding his position as one that secularism implies that you must make a choice of gods, goddesses, or whatnot.

Mehmet Çagatay:


In my last post, I lost my grip by inflaming myself. A particular expression from the Manifesto was resonating in my mind when I wrote, "Then let the Anglo-American tradition be reversed": "Let the ruling
classes tremble at a Communistic revolution". I have no objection to the fact that ortodox atheists put forward
secularism. It is the dead end of atheism on its own merit. Marx criticises Feuerbach for his deficiency to reach communism from atheism. And a paradox comes into view as long as atheism propounds secularism to
establish one's right to believe or disbelieve in gods: As if communism were striving to ensure the freedom to go on strike, it leaves the religious emancipation to the mercy of theology. My assertion of militant atheism for bourgeois state as a genuine approach to separate church and state was an example of suggesting the extreme to display the irrationality of the average or minimum solution (Maryam Namazie mentioned the "minimum solution"). I decided to read "On the Jewish Question" more literally once again tomorrow:

"Therefore, we explain the religious limitations of the free citizen by
their secular limitations. We do not assert that they must overcome their
religious narrowness in order to get rid of their secular restrictions, we
assert that they will overcome their religious narrowness once they get
rid of their secular restrictions. We do not turn secular questions into
theological ones. History has long enough been merged in superstition, we
now merge superstition in history. The question of the relation of
political emancipation to religion becomes for us the question of the
relation of political emancipation to human emancipation. We criticize the
religious weakness of the political state by criticizing the political
state in its secular form, apart from its weaknesses as regards religion."
"Now Ophelia, she's 'neath the window
For her I feel so afraid
On her twenty-second birthday
She already is an old maid
To her, death is quite romantic
She wears an iron vest
Her profession's her religion
Her sin is her lifelessness"



Anonymous said...

Samuel Skinner
Could you be clearer? All I got was secularism only works if religion gives up any pretense of operating in the real world. The rest was marxist jargon.

Renegade Eye said...

Atheism is the concrete negation of both religion and secularism, socialism is the complete establishment of social objectivity as there is no need for Atheism to solve the contradictions

When you say socialism, do you mean communism?