RELEVANCE OF SECULAR HUMANISM



RELEVANCE OF SECULAR HUMANISM
Secular Humanism seems to be more relevant in the present context, because it is purely concerned with life.  It is a middle path compared to the liberal mode of thinking and the selfish mode of thinking in terms of religion. These two modes of thinking are always conditioned by religion (tradition, practices dogmas, beliefs, etc.). 
17.1 Liberal Mode of Thinking
The liberal mode of thinking has taken human life very seriously, in accordance with the changing world.  It hints that, today humanity needs to be united, more than ever before, to face the common issues which the humanity as a whole faces.  It accepts religious pluralism as a way of God’s interaction with people and people’s diverse responses to God.
17.1.1 Importance of Human Welfare against Mere Religious Observation
The world is changing everyday.  Currently, there is lot of transformation in the human perception of religion itself.  Today, people are ready even to ignore their religion for the sake of better and more meaningful life.  If at all, religion is elevated to a higher state or much propagation is done on behalf or religion, it is nothing more than the self-interests of a few like rulers, politicians and priests. Of course, it is not to deny absolutely the necessity of religion in human life.  But to say that, people have began to think that, they are not living for religion.  Rather they understand religion as a part of life.  It is part of life, as long as it does no affect human well-being.  That is, one’s relationship with other people, opportunities in life and freedom of life. 
People thus, consider religion as one of the necessary aspects of life.  They are prepared to leave their religion without any fear for their betterment in life.  In India people are more open to inter religious marriage, but not to inter caste marriages.  It is just to say that, it is not religion that matters so much, but life in the society in which one lives.  In such a situation Secular Humanism seems to be more sound and acceptable.  It considers religion as a mere path of life, if it is helpful to humanity. 
17.1.2 Corporate Life
Modern developments have created ample opportunities for people to come in contact with people of other faiths and cultures.  As people come in contact with different religions and cultures they no longer restrict themselves to their own religion and culture.  For this reason today, many are accepting religious pluralism as God’s gift to humanity to understand him differently and respond to him differently in different situations.  So that the whole humanity can be united to face the common issues which are a threat to human existence.

17.1.2.1 Corporateness for Common Cause.
Amidst poverty, injustice, environmental disaster, the threat of nuclear war, etc. people are longing for peace, freedom and justice.  This kind of situation calls for the co-operation of entire humanity beyond the religious and structural differences.  Often a religion with all its dogmas and rituals is found as an obstacle in this process.[1]
Although, people feel life is more important than religion, religionists always control such kind of thinking with their colourful, deceptive and unauthentic ideas about God and religion.  Therefore, people should be made aware that no religion, religious dogmas and religious teaching are perfectly true as these are man-made.  Even if people come to such a stage, still they tend to be faithful to their own religion because it is unavoidable.  On the contrary, Secular Humanism has no such difficulties.  Its main goal is to untie and unite the people to voice against the forces that threaten human existence. 
17.1.2.2 Corporateness is Inherent in Humanity
As corporate life is inevitable to human life in this world, many liberal religious thinkers have asserted that religion has done great damage to such an essential characteristic of humanity.  It has separated people, created unbridgeable division with all its dogmas, practices, structures, rituals and ceremonies.  On the contrary, Secular Humanists would stress this core of human characteristic.  The necessity for corporate life is repeatedly expressed by Periyar that “people all over the world should untie.  They should have an existence that does no harm to other beings.  Means must be found for a peaceful life, free from envy, care, deceit, hatred and sorrow.”[2]  Again “we should not think that life is only for the sake of the individual.  It is also for the welfare of others.”[3] 
17.1.3 Religious Pluralism
Liberal religious thinking has recognized religious pluralism as God’s way of interaction with people.  It accepts and recognizes all religions equally.  It amounts to say that, God cannot be conceived in one single way.[4]  As people respond to God from different contexts, their responses also vary.[5] 
It is time for everybody to realize that there can be only one God or Reality or Truth or ultimate power.[6]  Various religions are different methods/ways of recognizing that One.  As it is hard to understand that “One”, it is better that humanity takes life more seriously than religion.  In this context, A. P. Nirmal says “the primary object of any theology is certainly the concept of God, but we need to recognize the fact that the primary datum for doing theology is human life.”[7]
Whatever may be the openness of liberal religious thinking, it is crucial to note that, as long as people speak of religion, there will be division, hatred and disunity.  Even though people have begun to question the validity of religion, dogmas and rituals, still religion is used by rulers, politicians and priests for their own gains.  Therefore, it is important to realize that, these people are striving not to preserve religion but to gain and retain power and position in the name of religion.  Secular Humanism, therefore, seems to be more fitting to the present context, in overcoming these hurdles.
17.2 Selfish Mode of Thinking
Periyar contributed a lot to eradicate selfish interests and attitude in religion. That is why he became a critique of Brahminical Hinduism.  His criticisms of Brahminical Hinduism point to how far religion is misused in India.  S. J. Samartha writes, “no one would deny that religions have exploited persons and have contributed to much social injustice in India (as well as in other countries).”[8] Periyar, therefore, followed a kind of secular humanistic principles, which are helpful to uphold sustainable existence.
17.2.1 India a Pluralistic Society
India is the best example of a pluralistic state.  Although there were conflicts among different religious groups, they lived together.  Now due to the emergence of a few communal political parties, common people are forced into religious conflicts.  It does not contribute to peaceful life, rather to unrest and hatred among different religions. 
Secular humanism is the moderate ideology in this context. Its main objective is the betterment of human life.  It therefore, overlooks religion and sees the common concerns of humanity without any differences. 
17.2.2 India a Secular State
India is called a Secular state.  It means that it should not accept or uphold one particular religion; should treat all religions as equal; every citizen should be given freedom of belief and freedom to express his/her belief.  But this secular nature is not strictly maintained.[9] This point is further stated by S. J. Samartha that “there is hardly a single matter that touches public life in India which sooner or later, does not become a ‘religious issue’.[10]  It is a technique the politicians in India have learned.  In this situation Secular Humanism seems more appropriate. 
17.2.3 Common Issues in India Require Secular Humanism
The ever growing population, low status of women, increasing poverty, growing unemployment, illiteracy, unlawful child labour, etc. are some of the issues that all should face together.  Religion also talks about the same issues. But as long as religion has an absolute say, religious communities will not come together.  Even if they do contribute toward these issues, it would be confined to their own religious community.  Secular Humanism on the contrary envisages a situation in which no one suffers such issues. The need of the hour is that humanity should realize the reality that, all should strive to establish a just society where in all can work together to promote the standard of human life.
Secular Humanism is not anti-religious.  It does not involve in religious issues.  At the same time, it does not encourage religion to influence social life.  Its main concern is life.  It would accept anything that could contribute toward life, even if it is religion.  This was the type of Secular Humanism Periyar advocated, and India requires this.  Further more, this type of Secular humanism stresses all the essential qualities required for a healthy human life, where reason is given prime importance.  It considers religion as a way of life.  There is ample emphasis on morality here.  The essential qualities of human life like, dignity, harmonious living, progress of humanity, human welfare and serving one another are the common principles of Secular Humanism, with the view of human liberation.


[1] Paul F. Knitter, “Toward A Liberation Theology of Religions”, The Myth of Christian
Uniqueness, ed. By John Hick and Paul F. Knitter, (New York: Orbis Books, 1987) , p.181.
[2] The Revolutionary Sayings of Periyar, op. cit., p.5.
[3] Ibid., p.107.
[4] S. J. Samartha, One Christ Many Religions, (Bangalore: SATHRI, 1992), p. 5.
[5] Ibid.
[6] John Hick, The Centre of Christian, (San Francisco :Harper & Row Publishers,  1978) ,
p. 77.
[7] Arvind P. Nirmal, Heuristic Explorations, (Madras: CLS, 1990), p.98.
[8] Stanley J. Samartha, “The Cross and the Rainbow,” The Myth of Christian Uniqueness, Op.
cit., p.73.
[9] Eddy Asirvatham, Christianity in the Indian Crucible, 2nd and Revised ed., (Calcutta: YMCA
Publishing House, 1957) , p.23.
[10] S.J. Samartha, One Christ Many Religions, op. cit., p.51.

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