Tag Archive | "Democracy"

Our Government was Hacked: Cyber Martial Law and the Sottovirus


Definitely not a government web page.

The true test of any system is its ability to respond to problems. A system can work most of the time, but you can’t measure its true capacity unless you subject it to stress.

This is what happened to several government websites recently when Anonymous Philippines hacked them to display a message protesting the Cybercrime Prevention Act. While proving their skill as hackers, they also proved another thing: the security system of these government sites has failed. There have been a range of criticisms to this hacking: from petty and ineffective on one end to ultimately counterproductive on the other.

Whatever the case, this serves as a good analog to the larger narrative. The government is designed to self-correct internal problems through a system of checks and balances. There’s a reason there are three branches of government, two houses of Congress, 24 senators, and so on. These bureaucracies make it hard for any single element to make the entire system fail, similar to a computer’s using several layers of protection, such as firewalls and anti-virus software.

So what does the passage of the Cybercrime bill say about our government? Our legislative system has been hacked; its many layers of security have failed. A malicious virus was uploaded, undetected, and resulted in the system behaving contrary to its intended design.

Let me explain the analogy. As part of a democratic government, our legislation was designed to create democratic laws. In contrast, the laws crafted by a dictatorial government would be undemocratic. By now it’s obvious to any intelligent person who has a basic understanding of democracy that the Cybercrime Law is undemocratic. I have yet to encounter someone who thinks otherwise. Despite their responsibility for the law, even our politicians agree, but it will take some explaining.

Most probably, the implications of the Cybercrime Law — particularly on the right to free speech and privacy — weren’t fully understood by most legislators when they first encountered it. I don’t think that any intelligent legislator would think that someone who simply tweets an unflattering sentence about someone should be at risk of government surveillance or spending a decade behind bars. This is just one of the Cybercrime Law’s implications that weren’t so obvious at first. These concerns possibilities may be absurd, but they’re legitimate ones, at least according to every lawyer I’ve read and spoken to so far.

Senator Escudero: Better late than never?

I believe that if you take a poll of our lawmakers, asking them whether they would have passed the bill knowing these implications, the results would show how much each lawmaker understands and values democracy. Only the undemocratic or incredibly stupid would still have passed it.

In spite of everything, I still think majority of our lawmakers are basically democratic. Yet the Cybercrime Law shows that a mostly-democratic legislative branch has created an extremely undemocratic law. The executive branch, which is lead by someone who would especially want to avoid any association with dictatorship, would have vetoed the bill had he known its dictatorial implications.

Sadly, most of them will never admit this. Senator Escudero has been the first and only one so far to have admitted his mistake, but only because he has good reason to. He is the author of a bill that decriminalizes libel. There could be nothing more embarrassing than his having passed a bill that not only perpetuates libel’s criminal status but broadens it as well. An error of this magnitude is better corrected sooner than later.

Which makes me wonder why Senator Angara, who has also authored a bill removing the prison penalty for libel, has yet to admit his mistake. It probably has to do with the fact that he is a principal author of the Cybercrime Law. Admitting that you shouldn’t have passed your own law is understandably more embarrassing. Two more senators, Sen. Honasan and Sen. Estrada, also have pending bills that decriminalize libel. Yet both have voted for a bill that makes libel an even graver crime, and both have yet to admit their grave mistake.

The other senators are not as hard-pressed to admit their error, and it will be interesting to listen to their excuses when (or if) they do. But I highly doubt that many will. Because if more Senators admit that they’ve made a mistake, then the integrity of the entire legislative institution will be jeopardized. Better to perpetuate the story that the Cybercrime Law, flawed as it is, is still the product of a working legislative branch.

P-Noy thoroughly examining something.

Which is precisely the story that the executive one has been telling so far. His spokespersons have said that he endorsed the Cybercrime Law only after studying it thoroughly. Which is a good political move considering the alternative: admitting that he and the people who work for him weren’t doing their jobs (or as his critics love to call it, Noynoying).

Our government may not admit it, but the integrity of the legislative and executive branches has been tested, and it has failed badly. Like the handful of government websites hacked by Anonymous PH, our democratic system has been hacked — the Cybercrime Law is the malicious web page to prove it.

But there is hope. The third branch of government has yet to fail, and it is now being tested. Several citizens have separately filed motions asking the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) on implementing the law’s undemocratic provisions. Some have even asked that the entire law be repealed. But it will be hard for the Supreme Court to do either. Whichever they choose, it will mean the failure of the executive and legislative branches. Understandably, Chief Justice Sereno would think twice before painting P-noy and his administration as less than competent.

And if there’s any branch who understands how undemocratic and unconstitutional the Cybercrime Law is, it’s the Supreme Court. Regardless of what the SC decides, it’s up to us citizens, the programmers and owners of this system, to make sure that the error is corrected. We deserve some of the blame, having installed these faulty components. But it’s a good sign that unlike the incompetent government we’ve elected, we’ve detected the virus.

CJ Sereno and the SC: The Last Bastion?

What’s left is to deal with it — telling our anti-virus software to put the virus in quarantine (issue a TRO), delete it (repeal the law), and of course, uninstalling those responsible for it (not re-electing them). The Cybercrime Law is testing our country — whether we’re truly a democracy or just a democracy on paper. It is then fitting that some have dubbed it “cyber martial law.” Forty years ago, when Marcos declared martial law, we faced a similar test. I hope it doesn’t take us as many years — or casualties — to pass this one.

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For updates on the fight to junk the Cybercrime Prevention Act (Cyber Martial Law), join the Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance (PIFA) on Facebook. Filipino Freethinkers is a proud member of PIFA.

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Shepherd and Sheep


Democracy and with it, freedom of choice, are among the best moral ideas that we have developed, a “universal value” of the 20th century according to the economist and philosopher Amartya Sen. Poor and powerless people do not have much of both, but most will agree that having more is the right way to go. I say “most” because believers of one-man, one-party or one-religion rule do still exist and assert that orders from above work best, or that people are like sheep that constantly need a shepherd for direction. Consider this gem of such thinking from CBCP president Bishop Nereo Odchimar as told in the report “CBCP renews opposition to RH bill ahead of SONA”:

“The bill ignores moral and religious considerations in the name of democracy and freedom of choice in a pluralist society,” he said. … He said the people’s right to choose must always be guided by the Gospels and the teachings of the Church. “To ignore this principle is to ignore the light that illumines an upright conscience,” Odchimar said.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” is a popular saying that most people agree with. Both deep and practical, it is something you can repeat to yourself as you overhear your neighbor enjoying the current brain-stopper on TV, or as you read the latest inanities of anti-RH groups. Well, Bishop Odchimar just upended that guide to good-neighborliness.

We know that Catholic doctrine states that contraception is intrinsically evil. But the bishop’s statement is not about the evil of contraception anymore, but the evil of democracy. Odchimar is saying that beyond his right to proclaim his brand of morality, democracy must also give way so that only his moral choices remain. We have the freedom to choose as long as we stick to what he chooses. He must think that we really are dumb sheep.

The RH bill upholds the moral and religious views of all precisely through freedom of choice, and seeks to become law through a democratic process. Unlike Odchimar’s proposal, no one will be forced. All can live with or without RH services. Even funding will depend on people’s choices. If Catholics shift from artificial to natural family planning (NFP), then public money will also shift to funding NFP training costs.

The CBCP should be more careful about devaluing democracy and freedom of choice. Odchimar’s claim about the RH bill ignoring moral and religious considerations is false. However, the country has had plenty of disastrous experience with the reverse, when democracy and freedom of choice were ignored in the name of interests cloaked in morality and religiosity.

Spanish friars came to the Philippines and amassed wealth and power as part of conquest, colonization and Christianization. We lost 300 years of national freedom. If those events are too distant to remember, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s sham presidency should be memorable enough. Just two months after the May 2004 election, the bishop-friendly Arroyo was hurriedly anointed with legitimacy with these words from the CBCP:

It is the view of the bishops that the results of the elections reflected the will of the Filipino people.

Years after Arroyo’s election cheating and large-scale corruption sparked popular protests, the majority of bishops continued to prop her rule through open collaboration* or acquiescence. All in the name of her anti-RH, conservative politics.

“Ang sinungaling ay kapatid ng magnanakaw” was Susan Roces’ ringing sound bite on Arroyo’s power grab. Bishops who wish to impose their morality after inflicting a corrupt and unelected ruler on us deserve a similar rebuke: Ang kapal ninyo!

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* In 2009, Arroyo released public funds to Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos who asked for a 4×4 vehicle as a birthday gift and to Bishop Diosdado Talamayan who asked for contributions to a clergy retirement home. A year before, the two bishops were reported to have “spent thousands of pesos for a full-page ad in a major broadsheet to express support for the Arroyo government and insist that the [bishops’] call for ‘communal action’ should not be interpreted as a call for people power.”


 

The image of shepherd and sheep above is from a public domain work of Martinus Antonius Kuytenbrouwer d. J. (1821–1897), available at Wikimedia Commons

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Rough Notes on Secularism, Democracy and Human Progress, Part 3


In part 1 of this series, we looked at what secularism is. Part 2 examined the relationship between the church and state in a secular democracy. In this final installment, we’ll see how secular democracy affects human progress.


Image by Olivander, used under creative commons license.

Secularism and democracy are legacies worth fighting for, because they in union provide the only safe public space whereby people of different outlooks can amicably tackle their differences and pursue shared goals for their common welfare. In what follows, we shall attempt to prove our opening statement by discussing the relationship between secularism, democracy and human progress,

Secular Democracy and Human Progress

The empirical studies of Gregory Paul on secularism and religion reveal a strong correlation between dysfunctional societal conditions and public acceptance of conservative religions as well as an inverse correlation between improving social conditions and a high level of popular religiosity (Paul, 2005, 2009). The most religious affluent nation USA scored the worst in 14 out of 25 societal health and the highest in dysfunction indicators (homicide, incarceration, juvenile mortality, venereal disease, abortions, teen pregnancies, income disparity, poverty, work hours, and volume of energy consumption/resource-use per head), while the least religious democracies in Western Europe, Japan and Canada scored best in societal health indicators.

Paul attributes the USA’s exceptional ill health to unregulated capitalism and the American people’s heavy reliance on religion as a psychosocial mechanism for coping with stress and fear of misery and dispossession. Among the affluent states, all but the USA, have adopted a mix of pragmatic and social democratic policies that include progressive taxation, moderation of predatory propensities of corporations, protection for women at home and in work environments, job security and universal health care that reduce the risk of catastrophic ruin of ordinary citizens. Though the least religious of the prosperous democracies have their own major problems, they enjoy a high level of societal health such as they’ve never experienced before under past theocracy-friendly regimes. In contrast to these countries, the USA imposes the free market principle on ordinary people while handing out billions of tax dollars to big business firms, military contractors and faith-based initiatives, with disastrous results for democracy, popular welfare and global ecology. Far from proving claims about religion as an indispensable guide to moral conduct and about democratic secular values as a contributing factor to moral decadence, the results of these studies demonstrate the ease with which many people outgrow the faith of their forefathers and devote their lives to earthly but no less ethical endeavors, as soon as they attain a certain level of freedom, education and economic security.

Conclusions

Secularism is a necessary but insufficient condition for the growth of amity and cooperation among people of diverse outlooks and cultural backgrounds. The flaw in many secular societies lies not in excessive democracy (or “moral laxity” as conservatives and reactionaries are wont to argue) but in its limited and inconsistent observance with regard to ownership of productive assets, distribution of incomes and benefit-entitlements, as well as control over the policy-making process. The ideals of liberty, equality, and fellowship do not prevail in nominal democracies not because of their lack of validity, but because of their being stunted by stratification of these societies along class, ethnic, gender and/or geopolitical lines (imperial states versus their respective neo-colonies). These modes of stratification generate impoverishment and social exclusion of underprivileged sectors that in turn fuel identity formation and violent contention along ethnic and religious lines.

Democracy must not to be confused with a multicultural pluralist polity of the sort that bestows upon every ethnic community and religious sect immunity against external criticism on issues of broad societal concern such as reproductive health, sexuality, marriage, medical care and so forth. Faith-based privileges such as speech codes and anti-blasphemy laws do not a democracy make; they in fact constitute a distortion of democracy that leads to any or all of the following evils:

a. tyranny of dominant religious groups by virtue of state-guaranteed special privileges to meddle in the affairs of government;

b. ghettoization of cultural minorities and strengthening of their traditional leaders without commensurate accountability for respecting the constitutional rights of their individual members as citizens of the republic;

c. elite cooptation of leaders of minority communities and their very agenda for sector amelioration as quid pro quo for special privileges; and

d. self-censorship and concealment of deep seated prejudices
that manifest themselves in insidious and antagonistic forms.

Religion has always been a worldly affair and it would profit people to subject to critical analysis both the doctrinal contents and secular histories of their respective faiths with same impartiality that they analyze non-religious issues. For instance, some Jewish scholars — such as Israeli historian Ilan Pappe and American political scientist Norman Finkelstein — have contributed to the demystification of Israel’s official history by revealing how the Zionists built the Jewish state through the propagation of ancient myths, exploitation of the Holocaust tragedy and the expulsion of the Palestinians from their native land.(Finkelstein, Nov. 2000; Lendman, 2007) Likewise, Muslims must rediscover their past, not only with a view to acquitting Islam of the sins of religious despotism and misogyny as well as casting all blame for these on Western imperialism and secularism; they must also consider the merits of secular democracy by disentangling democracy’s substance from its corrupted forms that foreign and local elites have foisted upon them.(Dacey and Koproske, 2008) Such is the level of honesty required of both secularists and religionists in discussing and settling disputes on the basis of truth, fairness and practicality.

References:

1) Concordat Watch. “Millions for the bishops: Why the German State pays the wages for the church” http://www.concordatwatch.eu/showtopic.php?org_id=858&kb_header_id=41971

2) Concordat Watch. “”German taxpayers subsidise 98% of faith-based social services” http://www.concordatwatch.eu/showtopic.php?org_id=858&kb_header_id=32561

3) Dacey, Austin and Colin Koproske, “Islam and Human Rights: Defending Universality at the United Nations, Center for Inquiry, September 2008. http://www.centerforinquiry.net/uploads/attachments/ISLAM_AND_HUMAN_RIGHTS.pdf

4) Dacey, Austin. “The Secular Conscience” Excerpt from The Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus, 2008). http://www.culturaljudaism.org/pdf/Dacey.pdf

5) Frerk, Carsten. “German Taxpayers Subsidize 98% of Faith-Based Social Services”
http://www.concordatwatch.eu/showtopic.php?org_id=858&kb_header_id=32561

6) Farris, Anne. R. P. Nathan and D. J. Wright, ”The Expanding Administrative Presidency: George Bush Jr. and Faith-Based Initiatives” The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, Rockefeller Institute of Government, August 2004. http://www.religionandsocialpolicy.org/docs/policy/FB_Administrative_Presidency_Report_10_08_04.pdf

7) Finkelstein, Norman. “The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering”, Nov. 2000, http://www.vho.org/aaargh/fran/livres4/NFHolindustry.pdf

8) Loll, Anna Catherin and Peter Wensierski, “The Hidden Wealth of the Catholic Church”, Part 1: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,700513,00.html; and Part 2: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,700513-2,00.html

9) Lendman, Stephen. “On The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe”, Feb. 2007, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=LEN20070207&articleId=4715

10) Paul, Gregory. “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look” Journal of Religion and Society (2005) http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/pdf/2005-11.pdf

11) Paul, Gregory. “The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity on Dysfunctional Psychosocial Conditions” Evolutionary Psychology, Volume 7(3). 2009. http://www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP07398441_c.pdf

12) Sizemore, Bill. “Gaining Faith in Federal Money” The Virginian-Pilot, January 17, 2006 http://www.redorbit.com/news/education/359888/gaining_faith_in_federal_money/index.html

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Rough Notes on Secularism, Democracy and Human Progress, Part 2


In part 1 of this series, we looked at what secularism is. Today we examine the relationship between the church and state in a secular democracy.


Image by Olivander, used under creative commons license.

Secularism and democracy are legacies worth fighting for, because they in union provide the only safe public space whereby people of different outlooks can amicably tackle their differences and pursue shared goals for their common welfare. In what follows, we shall attempt to prove our opening statement by discussing the relationship between secularism, democracy and human progress,

Church-State Relations in Secular States

Not only the non-religious but the organized religious as well have benefited from secularism and democracy. Historically dominant churches have survived and minor sects have flourished – some, to an arguably greater extent than they deserve — owing to liberal policies adopted by secular states that range from neutrality and benign tolerance to outright accommodation of politically significant sects. Whereas, in the past, a single hegemonic church ruled society directly or in partnership with secular overlords, various churches now freely evangelize without fear of prosecution under apostasy and blasphemy laws. These varying policies toward religion attest to the pragmatic concessions that societies had to make to various sects in their arduous and conflict-ridden march towards secularism and democracy.

A few examples would prove the aforementioned fact about church-state relations. The United Kingdom still maintains a national church, although one with a much diminished public role, as part of its bourgeoisie’s concessions to the old aristocracy, which it left ensconced in a constitutional monarchy and a House of Lords. In spite of the rising number of non-religious citizens in Germany, taxpayers subsidize 98% of faith-based social services, which are provided mainly by 2.5 million workers of the Catholic Caritas and the Protestant Diakonisches Werk. Thus, German state subsidies for faith-based social services seem less a function of popular religiosity than of the state’s pragmatic policy of honoring old agreements with the Vatican and the Protestant Churches. (Frerk)

America’s policy toward religion has been more ambivalent than what its secular liberal Constitution suggests. The First Amendment of the Constitution forbade the Congress from enacting “laws either respecting the establishment of a religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, but the U.S. government restricted the meaning of this clause to the establishment of an official national religion and allowed state governments to enact faith-based discriminatory laws against non-Christians until 1868 or three years after the Civil War. It took a century and a half for the U.S. Civil War (1861-65) and the mid-20th civil rights movement to sweep away these faith-based laws along with racial apartheid laws.

However, state support for religious discriminatory laws reemerged with a vengeance under the Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan and later George Bush Jr. In 2001, George Bush Jr. initiated the outsourcing of social services (that were once provided by the state) to favored church-affiliated organizations or “faith-based initiatives” through executive orders, rule changes, managerial realignment in federal agencies, and other innovative uses of his presidential prerogatives. Among these innovations is the creation of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives under the President and linked to sub-offices in 10 government agencies, each with a director and staff empowered to articulate, advance and oversee coordinated efforts to generate financial support for faith-based services.(Farris, et. al.) While the Bush Administration didn’t come up with a comprehensive faith-based legislative package, it crafted laws that permit recipients of government grants to hire only those whose religion and sexual orientation is compatible with the grantee’s mission. In 2004 alone, Bush extended more than $2 billion of tax money to religious organizations. Among the program beneficiaries was right-wing televangelist and 700 Club founder Pat Robertson whose annual revenue from government grants ballooned from $108,000 to $14.4 million in the brief period from 2003-2004. (Sizemore, 2006)

What could we surmise from the above relationship between church and state in secular societies? Much of religion’s resilience arises partly from default on the part of secular states that either make a fetish of faith or deliberately exploit faith for political and pecuniary purposes.

The secular humanist philosopher Austin Dacey has valuable insights on what he discerns as errors in secular thought. One is the Privacy Doctrine, which regards fundamental beliefs about morality as strictly private matters, not to be debated in public or urged on anyone else. The other is the Liberty Doctrine, which supposes that freedom of conscience entails that beliefs should be insulated from criticism and not held to any shared standards of correctness. The prevalence of these doctrines results in “a culture unwilling or unable to sustain a real public conversation about religion, ethics, and values.” A trend contributing to the privacy model of conscience is the commercialization of social and cultural life that tends to reduce the realm of values, ethics, and religion to private possessions and market choices. Traditional faiths, non-denominational religions and New Age occultism compete with one another, offering a buffet of diverse beliefs from which consumers can pick and choose the wisdom that best suits their needs. Ethical and religious questions are not “subjective” and “personal,” but open to rational inquiry and amenable to critical scrutiny by others. Claims of conscience may be introduced into public discourse so long as they are held to the same standards as other political proposals: practicality, rationality, consistency, and legality.

In the final installment of this series, we’ll take a look at how secular democracy affects human progress as well as the conclusions of this series

References:

1) Concordat Watch. “Millions for the bishops: Why the German State pays the wages for the church” http://www.concordatwatch.eu/showtopic.php?org_id=858&kb_header_id=41971

2) Concordat Watch. “”German taxpayers subsidise 98% of faith-based social services” http://www.concordatwatch.eu/showtopic.php?org_id=858&kb_header_id=32561

3) Dacey, Austin and Colin Koproske, “Islam and Human Rights: Defending Universality at the United Nations, Center for Inquiry, September 2008. http://www.centerforinquiry.net/uploads/attachments/ISLAM_AND_HUMAN_RIGHTS.pdf

4) Dacey, Austin. “The Secular Conscience” Excerpt from The Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus, 2008). http://www.culturaljudaism.org/pdf/Dacey.pdf

5) Frerk, Carsten. “German Taxpayers Subsidize 98% of Faith-Based Social Services”
http://www.concordatwatch.eu/showtopic.php?org_id=858&kb_header_id=32561

6) Farris, Anne. R. P. Nathan and D. J. Wright, ”The Expanding Administrative Presidency: George Bush Jr. and Faith-Based Initiatives” The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, Rockefeller Institute of Government, August 2004. http://www.religionandsocialpolicy.org/docs/policy/FB_Administrative_Presidency_Report_10_08_04.pdf

7) Finkelstein, Norman. “The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering”, Nov. 2000, http://www.vho.org/aaargh/fran/livres4/NFHolindustry.pdf

8) Loll, Anna Catherin and Peter Wensierski, “The Hidden Wealth of the Catholic Church”, Part 1: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,700513,00.html; and Part 2: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,700513-2,00.html

9) Lendman, Stephen. “On The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe”, Feb. 2007, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=LEN20070207&articleId=4715

10) Paul, Gregory. “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look” Journal of Religion and Society (2005) http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/pdf/2005-11.pdf

11) Paul, Gregory. “The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity on Dysfunctional Psychosocial Conditions” Evolutionary Psychology, Volume 7(3). 2009. http://www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP07398441_c.pdf

12) Sizemore, Bill. “Gaining Faith in Federal Money” The Virginian-Pilot, January 17, 2006 http://www.redorbit.com/news/education/359888/gaining_faith_in_federal_money/index.html

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Rough Notes on Secularism, Democracy and Human Progress, Part 1



Image by Olivander, used under creative commons license.

Secularism and democracy are legacies worth fighting for, because they in union provide the only safe public space whereby people of different outlooks can amicably tackle their differences and pursue shared goals for their common welfare. In what follows, we shall attempt to prove our opening statement by discussing the relationship between secularism, democracy and human progress,

Secularism and Democracy

Secularization is the process by which religious ideas and institutions tend to lose influence in society with the progress of science, technology, economy and modern government. Included here are such phenomena as the decline of formal church membership, reduced role of religion in formal education, institutional separation of church and state, as well as the supremacy of state laws over sectarian religious codes.
Democracy, in its 20th century sense, is a government that possesses the following traits: (a) universal suffrage or equal voting rights to all citizens of legal age regardless of class, creed, race, gender or sexual orientation; (b) a bill of rights; (c) rule of law; (d) periodic elections, whereby voters can freely choose among candidates bearing alternative platforms; and (e) rule of the majority for the election of representatives as well as for parliamentary deliberations.

Though modern democracy and secularism rely on rational and scientific arguments instead of appeals to faith and divine fiats, they are distinct from each other. Democracy is a form of government, dedicated to advancing and defending freedom, equality, social justice, fellowship and common welfare. Secularism is a social orientation that delimits the role of religion and faith in supernatural agencies to the non-governmental sphere of civil society, so as to protect society and state from endless conflict driven by faith-based claims. The institutional separation of church and state in democracies is not, as some religionists, argue, primarily intended for the protection of believers and their faith; it is intended for the protection of both believers and unbelievers, and their right to be held to the same standards of logical and scientific evidentiary tests, whenever and wherever they submit their claims to appropriate public institutions for adjudication or parliamentary deliberation.

Secularism is not anti-religion, but only anti-theocracy. A comparison of Old Testament norms and modern democratic norms should clarify the difference between a secular society and a theocratic society. In a democratic secular society, a person who files a case of marital infidelity against his/her spouse must first present a list of charges indicating probable cause of the said offense and later produce supporting empirical evidence for his/her case to prosper in court. In ancient Jewish society under Mosaic law, jealousy on the part of a husband is sufficient ground for him to compel his wife to submit to the “water of bitterness” ritual, a trial by ordeal wherein the suspected wife drinks a concoction of holy water and temple dirt prepared by a priest The suspected wife’s illness and eventual demise after her ingestion of the “water of bitterness” would prove her guilt, while her survival would clear her of all suspicion. (Numbers 5: 11-31)

Secularism and democracy have progressed at highly uneven rates across societies with varying politico-economic structures, cultures and historical legacies. The continuing hegemony of religion in some modernizing societies such as the Islamic Republic of Iran and the ascent of faith-based political blocs in affluent societies such as the United States defy a simple correlation between modernization and decline of religious practice. Likewise, the supposed synchrony of secularization and democratization cannot be taken for granted in view of the numerous regimes that are both secular and authoritarian. The lack of synchrony between secularization and democratization across affluent societies is underscored by the contrast between democratic welfare states and the USA which is a self-declared “free enterprise society” with minimal social security nets.

In part 2 of this series, we’ll take a look at the relationship between Church and State in secular states

References:

1) Concordat Watch. “Millions for the bishops: Why the German State pays the wages for the church” http://www.concordatwatch.eu/showtopic.php?org_id=858&kb_header_id=41971

2) Concordat Watch. “”German taxpayers subsidise 98% of faith-based social services” http://www.concordatwatch.eu/showtopic.php?org_id=858&kb_header_id=32561

3) Dacey, Austin and Colin Koproske, “Islam and Human Rights: Defending Universality at the United Nations, Center for Inquiry, September 2008. http://www.centerforinquiry.net/uploads/attachments/ISLAM_AND_HUMAN_RIGHTS.pdf

4) Dacey, Austin. “The Secular Conscience” Excerpt from The Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus, 2008). http://www.culturaljudaism.org/pdf/Dacey.pdf

5) Frerk, Carsten. “German Taxpayers Subsidize 98% of Faith-Based Social Services”
http://www.concordatwatch.eu/showtopic.php?org_id=858&kb_header_id=32561

6) Farris, Anne. R. P. Nathan and D. J. Wright, ”The Expanding Administrative Presidency: George Bush Jr. and Faith-Based Initiatives” The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, Rockefeller Institute of Government, August 2004. http://www.religionandsocialpolicy.org/docs/policy/FB_Administrative_Presidency_Report_10_08_04.pdf

7) Finkelstein, Norman. “The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering”, Nov. 2000, http://www.vho.org/aaargh/fran/livres4/NFHolindustry.pdf

8) Loll, Anna Catherin and Peter Wensierski, “The Hidden Wealth of the Catholic Church”, Part 1: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,700513,00.html; and Part 2: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,700513-2,00.html

9) Lendman, Stephen. “On The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe”, Feb. 2007, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=LEN20070207&articleId=4715

10) Paul, Gregory. “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look” Journal of Religion and Society (2005) http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/pdf/2005-11.pdf

11) Paul, Gregory. “The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity on Dysfunctional Psychosocial Conditions” Evolutionary Psychology, Volume 7(3). 2009. http://www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP07398441_c.pdf

12) Sizemore, Bill. “Gaining Faith in Federal Money” The Virginian-Pilot, January 17, 2006 http://www.redorbit.com/news/education/359888/gaining_faith_in_federal_money/index.html

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