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Philosophy Talk

Friday, April 21, 2006
Thursday nights at 8:00 on OPB Philosophy Talk comes on the air. In this latest show they were talking about religion and secularism in a democracy. It's been said (but I can't remember or seem to find out by whom) that "Democracy is the oppression of the minority by the majority."

I prefer to think of the preamble to the United States Constitution, wherein mention is made of "secure[ing] the blessings of liberty". If we think of liberty as "freedom" and define freedom as "the ability to do what you want so long as it doesn't impede the freedoms of others", then the fact is that laws that define morality should have no place in a government, because morals are value-based and the moment the majority starts defining values is when the minority has their liberties taken away.

Religion should, in my opinion, be kept separate from the government (hey, those "founding fathers" might have been on to something!) Being as we're a very diverse and (at times) religious country, any move on the part of "the faithful" to move their values into law is really an attempt to force the values of one culture onto another.

The rise of fundamentalism in any religion is a danger to a free society because a fundamentalist (as former President Jimmy Carter has put it:
"A fundamentalist believes, say, in religious circles, that I am close to God. Everything that I believe is absolutely right. Anyone who disagrees with me, in any case, is inherently wrong and therefore, inferior. And it violates my basic principles if I negotiate with anyone else or listen to their point of view or modify my own positions at all."
Fundamentalism and secularism are antonyms, really, and I believe that a secular state can and should lead to a more tolerant state and a more free people, as well.


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