Angry Doctor

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

'Militant Secularism'

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?

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8 Comments:

  • Clever misdirection by NMP Thio - she did not mention that some of the loudest criticisms of the AWARE takeover was not by "militant secularists" but by other Christians, who were not "muted" but expressed their views clearly and eloquently.

    Unless everyone who disagrees with her becomes a "secular fundamentalist" by fiat...

    By Blogger Lim Leng Hiong, At May 27, 2009 8:04 pm  

  • You know how it is: when someone of your faith does something you disagree with, he or she is "not a true [insert appropriate noun for follower of religion here]".

    By Blogger angry doc, At May 27, 2009 8:31 pm  

  • I think it was Atticus Finch who said: "If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it"

    I took the liberty of imagining an alternate universe in which roles were reversed, and paraphrased some of your arguments against the role of religion in public debate (actually all I did was a find and replace, and some tweaking of the grammar). You can see that the same argument cuts both ways.

    "christian doc believes that we should challenge the convention that atheistic beliefs, and attempts to impose public policies which will affect all of us that are based on such atheistic beliefs, may not be challenged. Of course, being "militant" about it risks running afoul of the law, which is why christian doc disagrees with gigamole that the argument is 'lopsided' (or rather it is, but the other way round).

    christian doc finds many of the terms used in Dr Thio's speech iconic, and thinks it demonstrates the frame of mind of those who believe atheism has 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. "atheistically-informed" is an oxymoron - atheistic 'truths' are not founded on empirical observations or philosophical arguments, but accepted on faith; to call views based on atheistic 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 "atheisticly-informed" deserve to be made to feel embarrassed for them.

    christian 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 who believe in a deity should not be made to accept their views based on their belief that no deity exists. Their opponents do not "demonise" them (interesting choice of word there...) - they are ridiculed by their own presumptions.

    christian 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 refuse to accept the existence of a deity in a debate (ie if atheism can't be argued with), then where does that leave us?"

    As far as I am concerned, atheism is a matter of faith, because the evidence that surrounds me (from the design of creation to the effect of religion on men's hearts and on society) points to the existence of the Christian God.

    I also happen to agree with the definition that secularism (not secularity) is a comprehensive worldview that actually fulfills the criteria for being a religion. (see http://puritanreformed.blogspot.com/2009/05/secular-vs-secularism.html)

    By Blogger Beng, At May 27, 2009 11:10 pm  

  • Your parody makes no sense, Beng, because your definition of atheism is wrong.

    You also commit factual errors - secular ideologies are not based on faith, and the feelings of "secularists" are certainly not protected by law (click on the 'S298' link in the post).

    I won't argue about whether atheism is a faith or not, because it's been done a thousand times before by others and I am pretty sure you and I are not going to convert each other to our respective point of view.

    I also won't go through your list of "evidence" for design and creation - done to death, that.

    Effects of religion on men's hearts and on society are irrelevant, since in the totality of history atrocities have been committed in the name of religions as well as atheistic political ideologies, and we are both going to say that the people who performed those atrocities are "not true Christians/atheists". (Actually, I won't - I think anyone who is willing to choose blind faith over reason, regardless of whether that faith is in a god or an atheistic political ideology, is capable of atrocities; you can see my comments on gigamole's blog for elaboration.)

    What I will do, however, is suggest you take your own advice, and imagine yourself living under, say, Shariah law.

    That's the factual argument part.

    Now I wish to get personal; do feel free to ignore what I write below, cry "ad hominem!", or repay in kind.

    I despise what you are doing through your blog.

    You use your religion to draw a line between yourself and 'others', and then preach hate against them and see it as an act of worship to your god.

    You take delight in the tortures you imagine will be visited upon them by your god.

    The way you use the same comic I used on my blog in our Apr 24 entries shows how blind you are to your self-righteousness.

    You show cleverness, but not love.

    People like you are what made people afraid of the New Guard.

    Having said all that, I still welcome your comments on my blog, even if we disagree. Or should it be especially if we disagree?

    By Blogger angry doc, At May 28, 2009 12:23 am  

  • Using self-defined word salad terms like "secular fundamentalist" in an attempt label anybody who does not agree with your perspective is a good trick.

    Flipping their words around into self-defined word salad terms (atheistically-informed???) in an attempt to demonstrate opposing views is a fairly neat trick too.

    After all, our world is a "black vs white", "us vs them" world, isn't it?

    Let me show you an even neater trick.

    Look at this picture -

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_nvWgMkmFQCE/Sh3iC8soRoI/AAAAAAAACqo/LBK255gonMg/s400/Opponent+process.bmp

    Two white squares are surrounded by two different-coloured borders.

    Just stare at the green dot in the middle for about a minute, and then look at a blank part of the screen.

    The afterimage of the white square surrounded by black border is black, hahaha... of course, because the "opposite" of white is always black, isn't it?

    But the afterimage of the white square surrounded by red border is...

    RED!??!

    Why isn't the opposite of white ALWAYS black, my friends?

    Why isn't the opposite of black always white?

    By Blogger Lim Leng Hiong, At May 28, 2009 9:28 am  

  • Is it because I is communist?

    By Blogger angry doc, At May 28, 2009 9:32 am  

  • Meow.

    By Blogger Lim Leng Hiong, At May 28, 2009 9:50 am  

  • Of course, welcoming phentermine online illegals with open arms will only cause more lower-class weight loss pills here Mexicans to flood in, bringing with them even more crime -- but which they'll have an Cheap lose weight fast easier time reporting! It's neat how these problems practically work themselves out.

    By OpenID victoryab, At July 12, 2012 10:49 pm  

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