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July 06th 2017 print

Peter Smith

Secularism and Societal Suicide

The Secular Party is unlikely to be a major player in upcoming elections, representing the monocular obsession of a cranky minority fixated on erasing the influence of religion in public life. Small it may be, but also useful as a reminder of the need to be very careful when making a wish

darwin fishInto my hands last week came a press release from the Secular Party of Australia. I hadn’t heard of them before, but that is by the way. The release was prompted by publication of 2016 census data showing a decline in religiosity. Grist for the Secular Party’s mill, indeed it was. For the moment, I want to leave aside the misconceived triumphalism evident in the release. I will come back to it. When I do, the old adage, ‘be careful what you wish for’ underscores my cautionary pointer to the Secular Party.

We are told that the “party intends to build support over the coming years to be ready at the next elections in 2018/19 as a viable alternative to the major parties.” According party president John Perkins, the Secular Party stands for the separation of church from state. He goes on:

Because the Liberal and Labor parties are restricted by their fear of religious voter backlash they are both hamstrung in dealing with straightforward solutions wanted by the majority of ordinary Australians…We can make marriage equality real. We can introduce assisted suicide under conditions which have proved successful in enlightened counties. We can eliminate funding to all religious schools. As champions of human rights, we want women, minorities and the LGBTI community to be free of discrimination and the dictates of archaic superstition.

I am secular. Christ was secular. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. I believe in a separation of church from state; that parliament has the sole role in making laws. Yet I doubt I would find a happy home as a conservative Christian in the Secular Party. Clearly, the Party has a progressive social agenda. Its membership, I would guess, is comprised mainly or wholly of atheists, as distinct from secularists. That’s fine, but why not call themselves something like the Socially Progressive Atheist Party? That way no one would be misled.

I looked at four of their policies: on Economics, Immigration, Education, and the Environment. They are a mixture of barely okay to bad. But that is my view. You’d have to read them. I will give you just a flavour.

On economics, they attribute our history of increasing prosperity to the “humanist phenomenon” of technical progress and commercial innovation, which they want to support. That’s fine as far as it goes but they rule out exploitative capitalism, monopoly power or religion as having played any role. In fact, however, economic progress is built on an exploitative pursuit of monopoly profits. Why else would people put their capital at risk?

Moreover, for capitalism to flourish in the first place a supportive culture is required which protects property rights, which rewards merit, which disdains nepotism and cronyism, which engenders trust, and which values individual worth. That is why capitalism flourished in Christian nations and floundered elsewhere.

Culture is almost everything. Humanism? Give me a break. The Party believes that the key to eliminating world poverty is international cooperation and goodwill which would be helped by promoting secular values. Venezuela and Cuba have secular values. The only way bring nations out of poverty is to encourage them to adopt values throughout their societies which, at their core, are Christian values.

It is no surprise that the Party’s agenda more or less mirrors Tim Flannery’s when it comes to the environment. Global warming is recognised as a “dire threat to global civilisation.” So they advocate an international coal export tax and the use of all forms of low-carbon energy. Mind you, they include nuclear to deal themselves partially into the rational world, as against the Greens. How Australia manages to stay competitive in this brave new energy world is not addressed, so far as I can see.

On immigration, it is noted that “migrants to Australia must agree to respect certain values, including the equality of men and women [and that refugees] should be discouraged from attempting to enter Australia via boats.” Good stuff to a point, though ‘discouraged’ is such a weasel word in the circumstances. Isn’t it? But it is consistent with the admonition that “the current detention arrangements are inhumane and another solution is needed.”

What solution exactly? Well the Party keeps shtum about that effective yet more benign solution. Peter Dutton, I’m sure, would like to know what it is.

On education, defunding religious schools is the principal goal, as you would expect. Gonsky-style socialism also gets a look-in. Private schools will have their government funding cut if they spend too much on their students. So, if those who pay most taxes want to spend generously from their after-tax incomes on their children’s education they will, correspondingly, be denied taxpayer funds. Sounds fair to a socialist.

It is par for the course that parties with a particular axe to grind feel obliged to develop a whole suite of policies. At the very best, a curate’s egg emerges. The Secular Party doesn’t like people intruding their religious beliefs into worldly affairs. Maybe they should just stick to that line, which is at least worth debating, and forget the rest. But to come back to an earlier point they should take care.

There is all the difference in the world between Jesus and Mohammed; God and Allah. Muslims on the whole are not on a secular path. There is no separation of church and state in Islam. Let me put it starkly. Islam will bury humanism. And the more Christianity fades in national life, the more inevitable that outcome becomes.

Where do Western humanists think that they get their worldview from. Do they think they were born believing in equality of people regardless of their sex, ethnicity or station in life? Do they think that embracing democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and association, and a free press, is innate? Do they think that tolerance for those practicing a different religion is a naturally occurring outcome of human existence? Hindus, Confucians, Muslims, tribal indigenes, nomads, communists and fascists, don’t have all of these same cultural precepts informing their thinking and behaviour.

We are products of our evolved Judeo-Christian culture. To me, it is clear that humanism cannot carry the torch of freedom and tolerance without its inspiring foundation. Humanism readily morphs into a species of socialism. The same deficient economic ideas are common to both.

Take this: “The major economic challenges that lie ahead derive from international inequity and environmental problems associated with oil resource depletion and global warming.” Ignore the arrant nonsense about oil depletion (and GW if you are so inclined). Look at the word ‘inequity’ – meaning a lack of fairness or justice. It is not a lack of fairness that keeps (e.g.) most Islamic countries poor, it is their culture.

Take this: “To provide global funds for poverty reduction programs, the Secular Party supports the implementation of a tax on international currency transactions.” Comes close enough to the proposal of a global wealth tax by French socialist economist Thomas Piketty.

Take this: “The Secular Party bases its economic policies on judgments concerning the long term public interest and the interests of global humanity.” This could and probably was said by Lenin at some point.

Economic policies should be set to encourage capitalists to invest in pursuit of outrageously high profits. All else that is good falls out of this process. Immiseration falls out of humanistic, socialistic, communistic (take your pick) attempts to impose economic equality and equity.

Ominously Islamists are a growing force throughout the world and are on course to forming alliances with socialists as a bridge to eventual dominance. Only waning Christianity stands in the way. It is ironic that those working to rid our institutions of Christianity are, by so doing, helping to smooth the way for the imposition of religious fundamentalism.

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics

Comments [21]

  1. whitelaughter says:

    They actually ran for the last local election where I am, so I went looking for more info (to find out how far down the list they’d be, I always fill in every box) and was amused to find their (now closed) forums – silent as a grave. They’d be utterly laughable – if politicians understood to ignore them.
    IIRC it was Barry Cohen who pointed out that a large number of people go to political events because no one will listen to them at home; assuming that because someone is loud and annoying they represent a relevant view is foolish. “The empty pot rings loudest” and all that.

  2. Rob Brighton says:

    It is a crackpot assertion that our current living standards do not in many ways owe its existence to the Judeo-Christian belief system, Protestantism being the case in point.

    Nor do I accept that because a child is in a religious school they are less deserving of government largess, although the proposal does do away with my taxes supporting religious mindsets of all types including lefty biased public schools. While that is momentarily pleasant it is clearly not workable and so a compromise must be made. If they haven’t got the sense to see that then they are hardly suitable material for my vote.

    Nevertheless, welcome them with open arms if they can bring any change. Being left with choosing between electricity Bill and the great pretender is not a choice at all.

    • innocuous says:

      What makes you think that Christian Schools are immune from Left Bias and SJW nonsense? Case in Point St Justin’s Catholic School’s heartless exercise in stolen generations! At least the purpose of public schools is not to indoctrinate young minds into superstitious nonsense.

      • Rob Brighton says:

        The public school purpose is to indoctrinate kids into superstitious nonsense, how else can one adequately explain safe schools and gender theory.

        Some of the teachings on AGW are approached with the same reverence as liturgical teaching.

        So it seems to me a matter of “what” rather than “if” superstitious nonsense is being taught.

        As to the immunity from left wing idea’s or otherwise of Christian schools, its clear that they are not immune, only that it is in my experience less prevalent than in the local state schools. My empirical evidence is limited to a small grouping of my own 3 kids.

      • Jody says:

        Yes, sadly I have to agree with you. I think the best young people with children can do is complain about propaganda then vote with their feet (and wallets). When my 4 were in the Catholic high school there were girls found to be selling drugs; I went to the Principal (he lives near me now!!!) and asked him whether those girls would be expelled. He replied that he didn’t know yet and I said, “well, if they remain here at the school my 4 children will march out that gate”. It worked.

  3. Bill Martin says:

    It is a frequently recurring source of puzzling amusement how atheists are such fervent advocates of their conviction of the non-existence of an omnipotent supreme being. While they loudly deride the faith of those who believe in such “superstitious nonsense” without a shred of evidence to prove it, they fail to see that their ardent contrary belief also suffers from the same shortcoming. Circular reasoning? Perhaps, but amusing nevertheless.

    • Macspee says:

      Oh dear, Bill,
      One of the first things one learns in philosophy or science , or any other pursuit, including theology, is that one cannot prove a negative. If God existed it ought to be possible to prove it to be the case by showing evidence but you can’t prove that God does not exist or that there is not a big teapot in a stationary orbit on the other side of the Sun, or there are no elves at the bottom of my garden. Just because you can’t find them is not proof they do not exist – you’re just not looking in the right place. The best approach to take is to just ignore things that some people say exist but can’t prove – there are better things to do. That some people get worked up enough to assert that there is no God might be to assert too much but after many thousands of years waiting for proof that he she or it exists, their attitude is not wholly unreasonable.

      • Bill Martin says:

        It’s a little disappointing that this is the only bite at the audacious bait.

        • Rob Brighton says:

          It was certainly an overreach, I will give you that.

        • pablo says:

          Bill, why not just clearly state your position on God (your chosen God I mean) rather than attempt to be ‘audaciously’ clever? ie troll.

          • innocuous says:

            The best I can offer is a quote from the great Christopher Hitchens, ‘What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence’.

          • acarroll says:

            Eye-witness accounts and computer simulations of God’s existence count as proof.

            Oh no wait sorry… that’s climate change.

      • whitelaughter says:

        “One of the first things one learns in philosophy or science , or any other pursuit, including theology, is that one cannot prove a negative.”
        One of the first things you should have learned from the English language is that your statement *is* a negative, so if it were true, would be impossible to prove.

        However, should you study philosophy or science, you will learn that there are many negative proofs, typically proofs of impossibility or by using an evidence of absence argument.

        I suspect that the culprit for this belief is the Eddings’ Elenium fantasy theory – given that David Eddings taught English, it was probably always intended as a joke: on their readers.

  4. Jimbob says:

    “Moreover, for capitalism to flourish in the first place a supportive culture is required which protects property rights, which rewards merit, which disdains nepotism and cronyism, which engenders trust, and which values individual worth. That is why capitalism flourished in Christian nations and floundered elsewhere”

    I like this point you make Peter…kind of fits in with the “invisible hand”. Now I know that correlation and causation are two discrete and separate concepts but everywhere I look, material prosperity and personal liberties are “blessings” that seem to accompany the Christian gospel and I might add, the purer it’s form, the greater the blessings. By purer, I just mean individuals dispensing with the need of any human intermediary between themselves and God.

    Nothing has changed since Christ left this earth. Nations and people groups that reject these foundational Gospel values, eventually succumb to totalitarianism which is the end product of all kinds of humanism. The only questions a humanist needs to answer are which human/s is/are incontrovertibly “right” and what do you do with those who disagree? If history is anything to learn from, the rejection of a Christian moral reference point seems to always brings diminished material prosperity (to the point of starvation and death for millions upon millions) and diminished if not total loss of personal liberty. Sometimes this process can be very quick and revolutionary (national socialism and communism are examples of radical revolt against the so called opiate of the masses); other times the process can be attended with a “slow march of totalitarianism” through established “institutions” (our current experience). The moral vacuum caused by the rejection of the foundational values of our civilisation just allows competitors in and they are not better by any stretch of the imagination. Just look at Europe!

    But it’s not all bad news. Though the “West” may become more “secular” (whatever that inane concept means -y certainly doesn’t mean more atheistic), other parts of the world become more “religious” and obviously, in some parts of the world, the dominant religion is a rapidly rising Christianity. Just imagine what geopolitical shifts will occur as China’s rapidly growing Christian population begin to infiltrate “institutions” and there arise maybe yet unborn, Chinese Wilberforce’s, Shaftesbury’s, Washington’s and Lincolns? It is reported by even “august” publication like the Economist that China most probably now has more Christians than even the United States!

    Like in ancient Rome, the “gates of hell” did not prevail in hindering that other (very) “long march” through all nations and institutions.

    Like I said, correlation doesn’t prove causation but as far as I can see, the invisible hand is still at work. It’s probably worth considering these words spoken long ago;

    “That is why I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce fruit for it. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

    Interesting times ahead.

  5. Alistair says:

    As a person interested in Indigenous affairs, I constantly see opinion writers exclaim that the demise of Aboriginal culture was precipitated by the end of their religion – which left them spiritually empty. All the fault of Government policy to crush their religious beliefs apparently. But none of those same opinion writers express any concern over the spiritual death of their own Western Society. For one group the loss of religion is literally the end of the world – for the other group, apparently, it the start of utopia. Anyone who wants to understand where Western society is heading should have a look around Aboriginal “communities”.

  6. pgang says:

    Peter, while I hesitate to comment at QOL, I’m sure you will find this article on the money if you haven’t already read it.

    The enormous gulf between the humanists and reality, not to mention the secular media, is quite evident.


    • Peter says:

      Thanks pgang I hadn’t read it; nor have I yet read Trump’s speech in Poland, but I intend to. It sounds more than pretty good from the bits reported in the article.

    • acarroll says:

      Christian values =/= Pharisee (Judaic) values.

      They have a common ancestor but have been separated in development for more than 1500 years.

      Judeo-Christian. Look up when the term started to come into mainstream use. It’s thoroughly modern, as modern as feminism.

      • Peter says:

        Tend to agree acarroll. I often use Judeo-Christian when really it is Christianity that moulded the Western enlightened world. On the other hand, the root of Christianity is Judaism – so I suppose an argument can be mounted for this term.

        • acarroll says:

          Peter, I appreciate your response but I’ll state it again, Christianity’s root is not Judaism as Judaism is a direct descendent of the Pharisee sect.

          Whatever you call the ancestral religion of both of those religions is Christianity’s root. Christianity is a projection of a Hellenistic theology (world view) on an “Israelite” religion. The bible itself indicates the rift between the view of the ancestral religion held by Jesus Christ and the Pharisees, who indeed rebelled against what they thought was the corruption of their religion by Greek influence. Those Israelites (not Jews) who followed the Helenic influenced sect ended up folding into the first Christian community of the middle east.

          • pabloAU says:

            I thought that after Jesus’ first coming the Old Testament Judaism was developed into Christianity, whereas those who did not accept Him from their opposition created Rabbinical (Talmud based) Judaism.
            One may claim common roots. Well, it’s of course more complicated than this…