Once again, angry doc finds himself in disagreement with fellow-blogger gigamole, this time over this news article.
'A recipe for disharmony'
NMP Thio Li-ann speaks out against ‘militant secularism’
Loh Chee Kong
WHILE Singapore’s secularism dictates that religion should not be mixed with politics, religion is “not separated from public life and culture”, law academic Thio Li-ann asserted in Parliament yesterday.
And those who engage in public debate cannot be expected to do so independent of their religious views, the Nominated Member of Parliament stressed.
In his speech last week when he reconvened Parliament, PresidentS R Nathan remarked that the recent Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) saga demonstrated a new style of politics that does not involve political parties.
Describing such politics involving lobby groups as an “ideological” contest, Prof Thio criticised the “militant secularism” and the biased media coverage — “particularly in one paper” — of the Aware saga which involved her mother, former law dean Thio Su Mien, who had drawn flak for her viewpoints as “feminist mentor” to the group.
With the senior Thio looking on in the public gallery, Prof Thio argued: “Secular fundamentalists are oppressive where they seek to mute religiously-informed convictions in public debate.” They do so “by demonising a view as religious in attempting to make religious faith a cause for embarrassment, or to distract citizens from the merits of an argument by discounting a speaker whose values are shaped by a religious” faith.
Such militant secularism is “a recipe for social disharmony”, she added.
In the aftermath of the saga, Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng had reiterated the Government’s position that religious individuals “have the same rights as any citizen to express their views on issues in the public space, as guided by their teachings and personal conscience”. But they should also be mindful of sensitivities, he had added.
Yesterday, noting the power of the press “when it comes to moral disagreements and public policy”, Prof Thio said that journalists “are entitled, like all citizens, to have their own opinions; however, they do a disservice if they report contentious issues in a one-sided fashion”.
While the “proper limits of religious activism” was a valid issue that arose, she felt that other issues were “strangely subdued” in the media, including “whether it was really a debate about values, rather than religious overstepping”.
angry doc is a self-described 'militant'; not a "militant secularist", but a "militant atheist" - angry doc thinks atheism is an intellectual position, while secularism is a political position - although recent events are nudging him towards becoming a "militant secularist".
angry doc believes that we should challenge the convention that religious beliefs, and attempts to impose public policies which will affect all of us that are based on such religious beliefs, may not be challenged. Of course, being "militant" about it risks running afoul of the law (S298), which is why angry doc disagrees with gigamole that the environment is 'lopsided' (or rather it is, but the other way round).
angry doc finds many of the terms used in Dr Thio's speech ironic, and thinks it demonstrates the frame of mind of those who believe religions have a role in determining public policies.
A public debate can only be meaningful if we enter it with an open-mind, willing to allow our own premises to be challenged and examined. "Religiously-informed" is an oxymoron - religious 'truths' are not founded on empirical observations or philosophical arguments, but accepted on faith; to call views based on religious beliefs "informed" is an abuse of the word. It is, like Dr Thio said, a "conviction". People who expect their views to be accepted in a public debate based solely on the fact that they are "religiously-informed" deserve to be made to feel embarrassed for them.
angry doc agrees they shouldn't be muted though - they deserve to be heard, questioned, and then laughed at until they are prepared to accept that people not belonging to their faith should not be made to accept their views based on what they believe are their respective deities' commandments. Their opponents do not "demonise" them (intersting choice of word there...) - they are ridiculed by their own presumptions.
angry doc does concede that "militant secularism" can be a recipe for social disharmony, but then so were the concepts of democracy and human rights in their early days. Some things are worth more than social harmony. What these things are we must come together collectively and agree on; but if you are going to invoke God in the debate, and God can't be argued with, then where does that leave us?