Secularism from Two Planes: Philip Trower vs Daniel Baril

(Dear readers,  unlike earlier editions of the e-zine that allow for only one article, this edition accomodates two views on secularism. Though written some times ago, yet the issues addressed by both are still quite germaine to the discourse on humanism, secularism and religion today. Now, my suggestion is that you find time to read both views; you wont regret it. Happy reading!)
Secularism as a State Religion
By Philip Trower
Western cultures are losing sight of the critical distinction between a non-confessional state and a secularist state.

At last someone has said it. At least as far as I know, it's the first time it's been said in a major English newspaper. On September 20 of last year, the Daily Telegraph — England's largest quality national daily — carried an article about the problems the French government is having with some of its Muslims. "At the start of the school year," the report ran, "several Muslim girls nationwide were suspended or expelled for arriving at schools with their heads covered." In most French state schools this is forbidden. The French educational authorities see the wearing of headscarves by Muslim girls in state schools as a statement of religious belief, which — in the words of the relevant government document — would "constitute an act of intimidation, provocation, proselytizing, or propaganda."

To defuse this potentially explosive situation, the French education ministry has appointed a special official to mediate between the Muslims and the local education authorities. The press have nicknamed this official "Madame Foulard" — Mrs. Headscarf.

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Secularism is an Expression of Humanism

By Daniel Baril

"Our nation was chosen by God and mandated by History to serve as a model of Justice!" This quotation from George W. Bush could just as well be attributed to Ben Laden, as the two men think so much alike.

The American president, who refers to the will of God to justify each of his political decisions, declares unequivocably that he welcomes "faith to help solve the nation's deepest problems." This is not the banal opportunism of a politician seeking to increase his popular appeal: George W. Bush, a confirmed fundamentalist, really thinks that God is with him, and hence with the United States.

Several commentators remarked on Bush's exaggerated piety following the September 11th attacks when he launched his "crusade against the axis of evil". But in fact he originally arrived in the political arena claiming, like Claude Ryan, to be invested with a divine mission: "I came to the White House," declared Bush, "because I found faith. I found God. I am here because of the power of prayer." And George W. Bush prays, as he himself says, in order to thank "a generous, all-powerful God", the same God who commands him to maintain the death penalty and to oppose the right to abortion.

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