Does India need to revisit Secularism?

Various definition of secularism

  • The term “Secular” means being “separate” from religion or having no religious basis.
  • A secular person is one who does not owe his moral values to any religion. His values are the product of his rational and scientific thinking.
  • Secularism means separation of religion from political, economic, social and cultural aspects of life, religion being treated as a purely personal matter.
  • It emphasized dissociation of the state from religion and full freedom to all religions and tolerance of all religions.
  • It also stands for equal opportunities for followers of all religions, and no discrimination and partiality on grounds of religion.

Above mentioned definition of secularism can be considered as an idealist definition. Idealist secularism works when society is ideal ,above mentioned definitions are valid only when

  • All the religion in the society talks about equality of religion and respects each other’s faith in the society.
  • All the scriptures of the practiced religion in the society respects other religion.

If any single religion in the society having ill-feeling toward other religion or its scripture talking ill of another religion these concepts will fail.

Why India need to relook at adopted western secularism

Ancient Indian secularism promotes dialogue within one’s own faith and with other belief systems. It involves, implies, necessitates and legitimizes study, scrutiny and criticism of one’s faith within and one another’s faith mutually, as well as prior study and scrutiny of the other or opposing view. This method is inherent in ancient India’s logic and dialectics.

Debating culture has been in vogue in Indian philosophic discourse since time immemorial. In this culture, the debating scholars would study each other’s’ philosophy and each would critique the others’ thought systems.

The system involved three stages in the dialogue— The first stage is the study of the opposite view to understand and prepare oneself for refuting it. The second stage is refutation which is criticism of the other view. The third stage is the establishment of one’s or the other’s viewpoint by debate.

But in recent times the system has fallen into disuse mostly because of the intellectual taboo in India that the people of one religion cannot comment on another faith. It may even be a punishable offence if it hurts the religious feelings of others.

This is the outcome of the entry of the Abrahamic faiths which claim to be the only true ones and therefore do not have the tradition of debating on their claim. Unless debating culture or an equivalent model is introduced there would not be true debate or dialogue.

The fallout of western secularism as follows:

  • One religion has become a threat to other religion in India and started violence in the name of religion
  • Speaking against fundamentals became a criminal offence, as it will affect western secular ethos or hurting the religious sentiment of the people.
  • Scripture of one religion promotes violence against non-believer and so-called non-believer can’t speak about it
  • There are 109 verses in the Holy Quran which are promoting violence against non-believers such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhist and Jainism.
  • There is violence against minority religion like Sikhs, Hindu, Buddhist in Pakistan and Afghanistan and people can’t speak about them in India and can’t even debate about it.
  • According to a Muslim believer, they are not bound to follow secularism, only Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhist, Jain should follow secularism.

Changes in the laws of land

There is an urgent relook at the laws of the land, laws should be designed in such a way that it doesn’t confront with debating culture. According to article 51 a (h) It is the duty of a citizen to have a sense of scientific temper.

Scientific temper and conflict management will develop only when people will be allowed to comment on each other’s religion. The debating culture will bring religious issues in the public mind which will lead to the discarding of false religious practices and growth of new practices in the religion.

Harmony between modern value and religious value is necessary and this will happen only when critique of religion will be promoted.

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