Secularism or religion? Certainly religion is dominating our TV screens at the moment with its message that fanatical Islam and Isis is rising. So you’d be forgiven if you came to the conclusion that far from dying out religion is actually growing. But it appears that the opposite is true; in fact it is humanists who are increasing in numbers, its:
The fastest growing belief system in the world is non-belief. No religion grew nearly as fast over the past century.
In other words, the quickest growing belief system is actually non-belief.
Back in 2012 Saudi Arabia 5% of those polled said they were an atheist and 19% as non-believers. These figures are higher than in countries such as Italy. In Lebanon, the figure was 37%. Yet,
Saudi Arabia has introduced a series of new laws which define atheists as terrorists, according to a report from Human Rights Watch.
In a string of royal decrees and an overarching new piece of legislation to deal with terrorism generally, the Saudi King Abdullah has clamped down on all forms of political dissent and protests that could “harm public order”.
For me this is proof of alarm, not confidence. Just as the fanaticism of jihadis is evidence of their anger at the spread of secularism.
Secularism and the Stoics
Now, the Stoics were pantheists, beginning with Zeno of Citium and culminating in the emperor-philosopher Marcus Aurelius. Pantheism is the belief that the Universe (or nature as the totality of everything) is identical with divinity, or that everything composes an all-encompassing, immanent god. Pantheists thus do not believe in a distinct personal or anthropomorphic god. But, in Stoicism, the only true good is human virtue, sometimes known as excellence.
I would argue that this does not need a belief in God. Whether we believe in God we can appreciate that we are part of a whole, along with the rest of Nature and mankind. We are all connected to something larger than us, a component in something bigger, and a kinship should exist between you and everything else. And it’s this thought process which will affect the vain efforts of the militants to prop up belief.
The pull of materialism, rationalism and scepticism will prove too strong. Whatever your religion, there’s something about living in a western society that makes it difficult to conclude that morality derives from some divine law. Jihadism is a terrible threat, but don’t worry, perhaps secularism will triumph in the long run?
What do you think? Leave a comment below: