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secular humanism


From an excellent Salon article on Salman Rushdie (with a related Interview):

Rushdie the cosmopolitan is a defender of an idea even less fashionable, at the moment, than moral relativism -- secular humanism. It's a cause some of our best thinkers, such as Hitchens and Martin Amis, are increasingly taking up. Though hardly politically expedient, the fight against religion's tyranny makes intellectual and emotional sense right now. It could even replace the struggle against first-world imperialism as the organizing principle of radical thought, encompassing as it does the fight against the lunatics of al-Qaida, the butchers in Gujarat, the hard-line settlers in the West Bank, the rapists in the Catholic Church, the bombers of abortion clinics and, of course, our own attorney general.

Amis said it best in a June essay for the Guardian: "Since it is no longer permissible to disparage any single faith or creed, let us start disparaging all of them. To be clear: an ideology is a belief system with an inadequate basis in reality; a religion is a belief system with no basis in reality whatever. Religious belief is without reason and without dignity, and its record is near-universally dreadful." Rushdie echoes this sentiment -- as he writes in an enraged reaction to the killings in Gujarat, "[I]n India, as elsewhere in our darkening world, religion is the poison in the blood ... What happened in India, happened in God's name. The problem's name is God."

But elsewhere Rushdie goes beyond mere denunciation, turning atheism into a celebration rather than a rejection. In a delightful 1997 letter to the newly born 6 billionth person in the world, he encourages us to join Voltaire's battle, "the revolution in which each of us could play our small, six-billionth part: once and for all we could refuse to allow priests, and the fictions on whose behalf they claim to speak, to be the policemen of our liberties and behavior." He ends hopefully, "Imagine there's no heaven, my dear Six Billionth, and at once the sky's the limit."

Right on!

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on October 1 2002 at 1:51 PM

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