Saturday, August 23, 2008


It seems the one absolute to the relativists is that there are no absolutes. That this is a contradiction will at once be obvious to the logician, but to the philosophical magician, it escapes notice in the same way he might make his assistant disappear. When told by a relativist on an airplane that there are no absolutes, my wife's uncle calmly replied, “Are you absolutely sure?” Saying there are absolutely no absolutes is like saying the one law of the jungle is that there is no jungle.

Relativism is essentially the same animal as secularism. Most of the differences between the two approaches are purely technical. Whereas the ideals of secularism can be traced back to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, relativism in the Western World is believed to have originated with the Sophists.

Known for their clever thought, the Sophists predate Socrates in fifth century Greece. Plato acknowledged Protagoras as the first professional sophist (i.e. teacher of virtue). Sophists were traveling philosophers who noticed wide variations in customs and beliefs between the many cultures they visited. From their observations, they concluded that everything is subjective to people’s experiences: all is relative.

In certain ways, the Sophists were right. It is that they made relativity an “ism” which made them wrong, essentially. Sophists of today might say, “It’s all good.” There is a universalism about them, which embraces everything from Totem Worship to Environmentalism, Atheism to Zoroastrianism, and nearly everything in between. The only absolute the relativist seems to embrace is that there is neither one God, nor one way.

It is interesting to make a side-note at this juncture, which relates to relativism from the scientific angle. It concerns "The Theory of Relativity.” Einstein was actually not happy with that appellation, because he thought it sounded as if “anything goes.” Moreover, though The Theory of Special Relativity (E=MC2) shows that everything is relative to light, it has been taken by scientists and philosophers (in a kind of sophistry) to mean that everything is relative to the way individuals see things.

Socrates, Plato and Aristotle rightly argued against the Sophists, but neither are they quite right themselves. Aristotle held that through the proper employment of reason, one could know truth objectively. This is a reasonable idea, indeed, and a great improvement on the ethereal ideas of Socrates and Plato. The problem all of them had was akin to the problem a man missing his limbs has, or that of a woman missing her sight. They were not altogether incorrect, but their theories were incomplete.

Socrates’ conflicting beliefs that one can know “nothing,” but can know himself, were merely the reverse of relativism; that Plato leaned on his own understanding did not make him un-relativistic, it merely made his scope smaller. The secularist’s world is smaller than the relativist’s, but it is relativistic, nonetheless.

Rather than a universal relativism, secularism holds that all is relative to itself. The philosopher is, after all, superior to the common man. It is not every tribe which knows best, it is the secularist who knows best. By employing one’s own understanding, one can decide which god is real, if any, and which culture is right. Relativism and secularism are alike. Secularism does not leave a blank spot where God should be in the equation; it doesn’t merely pull out Buddha, Mohammed or Zeus. It seats self on the throne as an absolute ruler, deciding between good and evil, right and wrong, according to its own philosophy. And its philosophy is usually built around its particular emotional and cultural habitat. It is no secret that many in Christendom have misguided philosophies as well, but that topic is too big for the present discussion.

One can embrace almost everything, and at the same time embrace nothing, if in all one’s embracing one does not embrace I AM. Embracing the ideas of all religions, all philosophy and anything one can imagine, in the end, is to embrace nothing. It is to embrace figments and thoughts, and figments of thoughts. To embrace I AM is to be more truly universal than the universalist. Apart from the Light of I AM, human reasoning is fallible at best. God's Light alone rightly enlightens.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Brief History of Modern Secularism

The American Heritage Dictionary defines secularism as: “The view that religious considerations should be excluded from civil affairs or public education.” The word secularism was coined (1846) by George Jacob Holyoake to denote "a form of opinion which concerns itself only with questions, the issues of which can be tested by the experience of this life."
"Secularism is a code of duty pertaining to this life founded on considerations purely human, and intended mainly for those who find theology indefinite or inadequate, unreliable or unbelievable. Its essential principles are three: 1) The improvement of this life by material means. 2) That science is the available providence of man. 3) That it is good to do good. Whether there be other good or not, the good of the present life is good, and it is good to seek that good" (English Secularism, page 35).
Holyoake fought to abolish oaths required by law, to disestablish the Church, and to secularize public education. He advocated socialism, and widely published the propaganda of “free thought” through magazines and books. Holyoake was an agnostic, and presided as President over the London Secular Society. His successor in that society, Charles Bradlaugh, was a member of the British House of Commons. He had become an atheist as a result of his conclusion that the articles of the Church of England and the four Gospels differed. Holyoake “held that secularism is based simply on the study of nature and has nothing to do with religion, while Bradlaugh claimed that secularism should start with the disproof of religion.”

The ideas of Secularism are obviously not new. A Godless universe, or even a cosmos independent of God, are things that thinkers have speculated about for all of recorded history. One such thinker, Ibn Rushd (1126—1198), otherwise known as Averroes, was a philosopher and scientist. He was born an Andalusian-Arab in Cordoba Spain, and is believed by many to be the father of secular thought in Western Europe. Besides writing original works of his own, Averroes commented extensively on the works of Aristotle and Plato, including The Republic, which is deemed to be one of the cornerstones of Western Thought.

Siger of Brabant (1240—1280’s) was the main torchbearer of Averroes’ teachings in his time. He taught Aristotelianism in its original form, not reconciling it to Christian understanding. Siger essentially said one thing could be true through reason, while the exact opposite could be true through faith; this “double truth” suggested hard facts are reached through science and philosophy, whereas religious truth is reached through faith. In Siger’s view, faith might just as well have been based on J.M. Barrie’s "Neverland" (in his play called Peter Pan), than in the spiritual reality called Heaven.

Siger’s two realms of truth are incongruous; this recycled philosophy of his became known as Averroism. The ideas of Averroism (separation of science and philosophy from religion) influenced the idea of secularism that we have today. Important to note is that the Hebrews had no such dichotomy of secular and spiritual. They did, however, differentiate between the clean and the unclean (Ezekiel 44:23).

Freethinkers developed theses from Siger’s views, which concluded philosophers (such as themselves) are superior to common people. In a very arrogant sense, these secularists hold to the belief that the philosopher, or even the philosophical scientist, is purely objective. While most men do not know what to think for themselves, they know. While one misunderstands his own experience, it is understood and categorized by them. In their view, the secular philosopher/scientist is able, more than any other, to decide what is true or false. The common man might believe the witness of the stars; he may believe the testimony of spring and autumn, but the secularist will know better.

In reality, however, to become secular is to turn off the lights; it is to try to study microscopic organisms with no microscope, and practice astronomy without a telescope. Worse than this, it is to speculate about what one sees, and make fabrications about what one doesn’t. Secular education is a travesty. It is to insist the earth is flat, to demand belief in bottled-up genies, and to reject the idea that the grass is green, or that it is even grass. It is to silence nature by stopping one’s ears and gouging out one’s eyes. It is to forgo the bread by plugging one’s nose to the bakery.