What is secularism, really?

secularism11If there is one thing that was highlighted in my previous posts on secularism in India; that was the confusion about what it really meant. Is it possible for secularism to have different meanings for different peoples? Is it something like democracy where government by, for and of the people may really not be that and yet be called a democracy?

If this is indeed the case, why then should we call it by a common name? Why should “secularism” in India be called secularism if it is not the secularism that evolved in the West? Should not descriptive words have traditions and meaning backing them up?

But what if the above contention is wrong? What if what India really has is the secularism that evolved in the West andsecularism23 was transposed onto our polity? Are we then deluding ourselves by giving it like-able and harmless meanings? Ekam Sat Vipraha…..? The State is not against religion and treats all religions equally? etc etc.

If this is so..then why delude ourselves at all? Why can we not decide that secularism in our society has no meaning and purpose and is actually a “foreign body” that will cause great infection and disease? Or is that the purpose? To cause disease?

I have realised that I am not qualified to answer my friend Kharaharapriya’s question. I must know more. However, since my pride refuses to lie low and must seek some small victory, I would like to say that my gut is right. I know that what I wrote on Churumuri, not a while back, is intrinsically right.

secularism3But in order to know more and test my reasoning, I am going to journey with Balu….

I plan on taking short breaks while on the journey to write about it. I do wish readers would join me..it’s so much more fun when with friends..!

This is what Balu says about the nature of this journey…

In the literal sense of the word, this essay is a journey in both space and time. Geographically, it flits between the two continents that Asia and Europe are.

Temporally, it broadly picks out two thousand years of human history. Given the scope of the travel and its ultimate destination, a road map is perhaps needed to enable travellers to get off and on as they wish to. I will provide one very soon by describing the structure of the essay. Before that, however, a word or two from the guide may prove useful about such things as the entrance-fee, the travel routes, and the baggage one needs to bring along.

As it befits an organised tour, the baggage requirements are minimal. One needs merely to begin with the common-sense idea that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are religions, as are Buddhism and Hinduism. This is a very reasonable demand, because it is what we intuitively take to be the case. Any further baggage, such as some or another explicit definition of the concept of religion, is going to be strictly superfluous for the travel; it will not bring any additional comfort along the way. To those among you who would prefer to begin with a clear definition, I would suggest patience. All things have their place and time; definition is no exception either.

Ps – My acknowledgment to Churumuri for pasting from their website. And my fellow commenter, Metaempiricus.


The Heathen in his Blindness – Balu’s journey

– Namaste


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