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Thread: Is secularism the bane of community life?

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    Is secularism the bane of community life?

    Hello all,

    I pose the above question to you. As an atheist and a sceptic, I am paradoxically fascinated by the methods and actions of religions. As a reader of the works of Nietzsche I have considered the existence of morality with scepticism. Yet I realise that without morality or moral institutions to contrast secularism, countries would collapse into chaos.

    Religious believers cite crimes as immoral acts, committed by people without morality. Is this so or is it a myth purported by theists themselves?

    I believe that the problems facing the United Kingdom, such as the epidemics of teenage pregnancy, obesity, sexually-transmitted infections, crime and "anti-social" behaviour stem out of the death of religious institutions where the state offers no secular alternative. There is no morality in a secular society as to define morals in that contexts would be to remove God from the equation.

    A difference from the 2010's and the 1960's is that people are not active in their communities. They shut themselves inside their homes in a technology-induced coma. Churches, once, used to be the bastion of their respective communities. Relics such as parish councils, church fetes, still exist as proof. Yet it is branded as a event for the old, and those under that age of 40, see little reason to attend these events. No-one knows anybody any more and that is a tragedy.

    In this world of glum and gloom we must reclaim a bastion of the community. Whether it be a secular bastion, a religious bastion or a "preference" bastion. I believe that reconnection with these institutions will reduce crime and "immoral" acts to a far greater effect than any of Cameron's phoney "Big Society" measures.

    What do you think?

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    Re: Is secularism the bane of community life?

    Problems often (not always) stem from environment, so if you grow in a bad environment then it tends to affect you and visa versa with a good environment. I think organised religion was and still is in many cases a form of control, which is bad but in many cases it can also be good in the manner you describe, as a focus for the community but at the end of the day it all comes down to people, whether its a religious priest tending his congregation or a scientific professor guiding his pupils or a parent bringing up their progeny, they all shape to some extent those they teach.

    There will always be leaders and followers, if you have a good leader then your group will thrive if not then sooner or later your group will fail in some manner, some inspire, some bully, some prey on their followers, some teach.

    To answer your question I don't think religion is necessary in modern society except as a comfort for those who cannot cope with final death, technology changes the world in many ways and the "community" has changed as a result, where before you had small groups meeting in local halls for whatever reason you now have huge groups meeting online, the only thing I think that is missing from such meetings is the ability to read people that you would have with a face to face meeting. True we have lost some things as we advanced but equally we have gained.

    Furthermore many of the problems of our current society in the UK have been brought about or exacerbated by our "group leaders" the Government, it is they that make the laws and enforce them, they control the levers of how our society functions in many ways. In many ways all successive governments do is tinker with society as a whole, with a group as large as the UK I think it's impossible to actually see results of strategies in anything under 10 years, and since many Govs don't last more than that their decisions (good or bad) are often reveresed by their opponents.
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    Re: Is secularism the bane of community life?

    Quote Originally Posted by Syph View Post
    I believe that the problems facing the United Kingdom, such as the epidemics of teenage pregnancy, obesity, sexually-transmitted infections, crime and "anti-social" behaviour stem out of the death of religious institutions where the state offers no secular alternative. There is no morality in a secular society as to define morals in that contexts would be to remove God from the equation.
    A good topic Syph!

    I will very readily concede that the cause of some of our modern society's ills can indeed be laid at the door of secularism, although I think by saying that it's glossing over the fact that the whole issue is probably a great deal more complex. We do certainly know that religion and religious belief in morality can create a different ethos to a society without such beliefs, however what studies have been carried out into this matter seem to show that although it's the religious belief itself which brings people together and gives them common values, it's not religion per se which does this. It's far more a common belief in something which is perceived as being of universal value which creates the community feel and the consequential respect for it and its members. In other words the lack of belief in religion itself isn't the direct cause, it's more the absence of any alternative or replacement belief system which encourages a similar set of attitudes which is the problem.

    My own answer to this would be to encourage something like humanism, which is basically the view that we can make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values and that we can live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. I don't mean that humanism has to be taught as a belief system in its own right, but that the values and importance of respect, love, responsibility...... the belief that humanity en masse and people as individuals can control the destiny and be responsible for the actions which lead to a closer, more community-based, society, that come with humanism should be instilled into our children as an alternative to the belief in superstition and myth.

    It's perhaps arguable, but I feel that the move away from community type housing which grows organically and where people were naturally grouped into small communities of a couple of hundred people, most of whom knew each other, and where each 'group' had its own corner shop, pub and perhaps community hall, has been a significant factor. There's been a great deal of research into this carried out in some countries, especially in Sweden and the Netherlands, and it's been shown time after time that people who're moved out of existing communities, even though their amenities might have been substandard (think the old fashioned inner city terraced housing for example), and into pre-planned and soulless estates with no communal facilities and where people hardly ever speak to their neighbours, let alone know those a few doors down, tend to lose their respect for society and the incidence of anti-social behaviour and other modern society ills increases substantially. Conversely it's also been shown that where people move into communities, regardless of how modern they are, which have been developed to replicate the organic type layout and development of traditional societies, the incidence of anti-social behaviour etc., drops markedly.

    Strangely enough, at first sight anyway, it's also been shown that the removal of car parking facilities immediately outside individual houses has an effect on how sociable a community is. The rationale of this is that if people are forced to walk past their neighbours each time they come and go, a better community feel will develop, and I don't think it's a coincidence that some experimental communities which are laid out like this - think the Prince of Wales' Poundbury Village as an example - are both exceedingly popular as places to live but also have a significantly lower incidence of anti-social behaviour.

    My two-pence worth.
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    Re: Is secularism the bane of community life?

    Quote Originally Posted by ryoden View Post
    Problems often (not always) stem from environment, so if you grow in a bad environment then it tends to affect you and visa versa with a good environment.
    Nature vs Nurture. The latter is incredibly important as bad parenting and bullying destroy children, academically and socially.

    Quote Originally Posted by ryoden View Post
    I think organised religion was and still is in many cases a form of control, which is bad but in many cases it can also be good in the manner you describe, as a focus for the community but at the end of the day it all comes down to people, whether its a religious priest tending his congregation or a scientific professor guiding his pupils or a parent bringing up their progeny, they all shape to some extent those they teach.
    I believe that without a guiding light we are nothing but free agents. Free agents cause anarchy, the vices of capitalism and criminal atrocities in their wake.

    I'm not saying that there should be a religious context for this guiding light, but I stand by the fact that a guiding light is necessary. Imagine a Boy Scouts/Girl Guide/Parish Council in a properly regulated, secular setting.

    Quote Originally Posted by ryoden View Post
    To answer your question I don't think religion is necessary in modern society except as a comfort for those who cannot cope with final death, technology changes the world in many ways and the "community" has changed as a result, where before you had small groups meeting in local halls for whatever reason you now have huge groups meeting online, the only thing I think that is missing from such meetings is the ability to read people that you would have with a face to face meeting. True we have lost some things as we advanced but equally we have gained.
    This problem destroys the most vulnerable far more than the middle classes. Those who lack internet lack social interaction with normal people. The escape their houses and join gang culture to feel accepted. Destruction follows in their wake.

    Quote Originally Posted by ryoden View Post
    Furthermore many of the problems of our current society in the UK have been brought about or exacerbated by our "group leaders" the Government, it is they that make the laws and enforce them, they control the levers of how our society functions in many ways. In many ways all successive governments do is tinker with society as a whole, with a group as large as the UK I think it's impossible to actually see results of strategies in anything under 10 years, and since many Govs don't last more than that their decisions (good or bad) are often reveresed by their opponents.
    It is the governments duty to protect its citizens and to an extent "train" new citizens to behave better than the previous generation. Our government lacks the vision and drive to change the world for the better. They are just spineless protectors of the Thatcherite Order.

    Quote Originally Posted by Midas View Post
    A good topic Syph!
    Funnily enough, I was catholic-baiting with Richard Dawkins' "Protest the Pope" speech (just for a reaction, the ideology of that prick put the humanist movement back decades). My mother had a rant which resulted in this thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Midas View Post
    It's far more a common belief in something which is perceived as being of universal value which creates the community feel and the consequential respect for it and its members. In other words the lack of belief in religion itself isn't the direct cause, it's more the absence of any alternative or replacement belief system which encourages a similar set of attitudes which is the problem.
    Which is why I said a secular alternative must exist as Buddhist value systems exist without a deity. The question is, can we create a long-standing institution that escapes the traps of spirituality and the supernatural.

    Quote Originally Posted by Midas View Post
    My own answer to this would be to encourage something like humanism, which is basically the view that we can make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values and that we can live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. I don't mean that humanism has to be taught as a belief system in its own right, but that the values and importance of respect, love, responsibility...... the belief that humanity en masse and people as individuals can control the destiny and be responsible for the actions which lead to a closer, more community-based, society, that come with humanism should be instilled into our children as an alternative to the belief in superstition and myth.
    Humanism is a great idea, once Richard Dawkins dies perhaps there will be an explosion of the humanist movement. I certainly hope so. In fact, by the time he does die I'll set up the Humanist Party.

    One thing we must avoid is the trap of "game theory" related ideologies that seek to define humans simply as self-serving agents. Thatcher inherited the ideology from Reagan and as a result she has a lot to answer for.

    Quote Originally Posted by Midas View Post
    It's perhaps arguable, but I feel that the move away from community type housing which grows organically and where people were naturally grouped into small communities of a couple of hundred people, most of whom knew each other, and where each 'group' had its own corner shop, pub and perhaps community hall, has been a significant factor...
    I completely agree, but targets-based-capitalism that Thatcher and Blair transplanted into our civil service doesn't care about "community life" it cares about fulfilling its targets so it keeps its contracts. Disgusting,.

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    Re: Is secularism the bane of community life?

    Quote Originally Posted by Syph View Post
    Hello all,

    I pose the above question to you. As an atheist and a sceptic, I am paradoxically fascinated by the methods and actions of religions. As a reader of the works of Nietzsche I have considered the existence of morality with scepticism. Yet I realise that without morality or moral institutions to contrast secularism, countries would collapse into chaos.

    Religious believers cite crimes as immoral acts, committed by people without morality. Is this so or is it a myth purported by theists themselves?

    I believe that the problems facing the United Kingdom, such as the epidemics of teenage pregnancy, obesity, sexually-transmitted infections, crime and "anti-social" behaviour stem out of the death of religious institutions where the state offers no secular alternative. There is no morality in a secular society as to define morals in that contexts would be to remove God from the equation.

    A difference from the 2010's and the 1960's is that people are not active in their communities. They shut themselves inside their homes in a technology-induced coma. Churches, once, used to be the bastion of their respective communities. Relics such as parish councils, church fetes, still exist as proof. Yet it is branded as a event for the old, and those under that age of 40, see little reason to attend these events. No-one knows anybody any more and that is a tragedy.

    In this world of glum and gloom we must reclaim a bastion of the community. Whether it be a secular bastion, a religious bastion or a "preference" bastion. I believe that reconnection with these institutions will reduce crime and "immoral" acts to a far greater effect than any of Cameron's phoney "Big Society" measures.

    What do you think?
    A very interesting post! But I now need more time to consider the options you pose!

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    Re: Is secularism the bane of community life?

    I disagree that the rise of our societies problems can be atributed to the decline of religious institutions. Just look at other countries that have much stronger religious institutions, their problems if anything are worse than ours.
    I think the rise of secularism has if anything brought these problems into much sharper focus. Take for example teenage pregnancy, and divorce. There was a time in Britain when such things were regarded as shameful, even scandalous. It happened, but it was a taboo subject.

    If the lack of religious institutions is to be blamed for a lack of morality in the UK, then the church needs to look itself in the mirror. Morality in the church has been found to be none existent in recent years.
    I hear the cries of "don't tar them all with the same brush" all the time. Frankly it's tiresome. When everyone in the Church, no matter their denomination, takes a serious stand FOR ethical morality, actively seeks to root out those in Holy Orders that **** children, that lie to children and terrorise them, that make other immoral and wicket statments (like for instance the Yorkshire floods were punishment from God for homosexuality, and HIV is bad but not as evil as condoms, and the biggest threat to world peace is abortion.......the list is endless), ...........when the church starts to excommunicate these people, hand them over to the authorities for prosecution, disassosiates from wicked statements and preachments, then and only then can the church be taken seriously as an ethical and moral isntitution.
    "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours ." Steven Roberts

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    Re: Is secularism the bane of community life?

    I wouldn't say it's the fault of secularism per-se, but rather it's siblings of the Enlightenment, namely individuality, and in some respects laissez faire capitalism. I do agree that there has been a failure by the secular community to adequately fill the void in society left by religion, which has caused a rise in anti-social behaviour and a myriad of other social problems stemming from that. Midas is quite correct in pointing out that there needs to be a championing of Humanism, especially in this time as we face the rise of religious fundamentalism. It's one of the reasons I consider myself such an ardent nationalist, because Religion does actually provide a variety of good social impacts, but so can Humanism and nationalism without the added baggage of ignorance and rhetoric.

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