Speaking at the Hay-on-Wye literature festival in Wales , British atheist professor Richard Dawkins admitted that while he surely doesn’t believe in the supernatural elements of Christianity, he wouldn’t mind being called “a secular Christian. ” He also said he had an “Anglican upbringing.”
This will no doubt come as a shock to the advocates of secularism in India . Dawkins’ statement is a frank confession of how far from being devoid of ‘religion’, secularism has always been an intimate twin of Christianity. The term “secularism” was first used by the agnostic (not ‘atheist’) British writer George Jacob Holyoake in 1851 who invented it to describe separating the social order from religion, but without dismissing or criticizing religious belief. He candidly confessed:
“Secularism is not an argument against Christianity, it is one independent of it. It does not question the pretensions of Christianity; it advances others.”
Free thought and critical thinking has been found in many cultures. But this secularism is something different. It is a dogma, faith and indeed a religion. It was the necessary offspring of the Treaty of Westphalia 1648, which ended the Thirty Years War.
This was the last of the great religious wars which wreaked havoc across Europe spreading slaughter, disease and witch-burning as Catholic and Protestant powers engaged in fatalistic power of supremacy, and the divine right of kings clashed with the formation of the modern nation state. Hence secularism has relevance to Europe and allied western cultures not the ancient civilisation of India which long predated the Christianity which gave rise to it.
This may come as a shock. How can secularism be a ‘religion’ let alone close kin of Christianity? Ray Billington, former Methodist minister, looked into the confused terminology in his 1997 book Understanding Eastern Philosophy:
“There are two words in common use to express a denial of God’s existence, or, at least, scepticism on the matter. The first, already mentioned, is atheism, meaning literally, ‘no God’, or ‘without God’. In classical Greece , the word was used to describe anyone who, whether he believed in ‘God’ or not, disbelieved in the gods of the state, which was the equivalent of treason. Socrates was executed on these grounds. In the Roman Empire , the term was used similarly in 155CE, describes how the mob, seeking the blood of the local bishop, cried out, ‘Away with the atheists; let search be made for Polycarp.’ Over subsequent centuries, the term came to mean the rejection of any kind of belief in God or gods, though, for a lengthy period up to the Darwinian controversy of the nineteenth century, its meaning was mixed with that of the second term: agnosticism.”
Anybody who has read John Gray’s 2007 book Black Mass would not have been surprised in the least by Dawkins’ confession. On page 188 of this amazing book of revelation, we find this prophecy:
“If the political religions of the last century renewed Christian beliefs, secular humanism today is no different. Darwinist thinkers such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett are militant opponents of Christianity. Yet their atheism and humanism are versions of Christian concepts. As a defender of Darwinism, Dawkins is committed to the view that humans are like other animal species in being ‘gene machines’ ruled by the laws of natural selection.
He asserts nevertheless that humans uniquely, can defy these natural laws: ‘We alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the scientific replicators.’ In affirming human uniqueness in this way, Dawkins relies on a Christian world-view. The same is true of Dennett, who has spent much of his career labouring to show how scientific materialism can be reconciled with a form of free will – a project that would scarcely occur to someone from a culture not moulded by Christianity.”
This atheism and secularism is therefore a Christian heresy, despite its vague and futile attempts to find antecedents among Confucius in China , Charvaka in India , and above all the classical philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome . If a society had truly left Christianity it would also leave the concepts that shaped secular thought. Indeed even modern science is based on these religious concepts which explains why Dawkins is so fundamentalist in his own views.
He would have no hesitation in dismissing that modern science is based on very unscientific principles prevalent in Medieval Europe: alchemy, astrology, magic. All modern science did was become naturalistic, that is dispense with need for the supernatural. But the original scienta meant all knowledge, including the supernatural as well as theology. The intellectual foundations for modern science was laid in the Middle Ages.
Hence it should be no surprise that secularism, science, atheism and humanism has inherited that Christian mindset. Newton , that godfather of modern physics, believed that the Second Coming of Christ would be in 1948 using the Bible as his scientific method. The word ‘scientist’ did not even exist until 1833, when the British Association for the Advancement of Science met at Cambridge and agreed how much ‘science’ owed to the ancient Greeks and was a subject completely separate from philosophy and theology.
But original ‘humanists’ such as Disederius Erasmus (1469-1536) wanted to reform the Catholic Church from within. James Hannam teaches physics at Oxford University and wrote God’s Philosophers in 2009, looking into the role played by the Medieval Church in creating modern science. On page 212:
“ ‘Humanism’ is yet another word that was invented in the nineteenth century, but it derives from a historical group of people in the Renaissance who studied the humanities. Modern historians have piled all sorts of concepts on top of humanism and almost succeeded in turning a helpful term into a useless abstraction. Even more recently, non-believers have further muddied the waters by hijacking the word ‘humanist’ to mean a softer version of ‘atheist’. A fifteenth – or sixteenth – century humanist was simply someone who was interested in classical Greek and Latin.”
In his 2011 Why the West is Best Ibn Warraq, well-known critique of his former Islamic faith, compromises the unflinching atheism and secularism of his 1995 opus Why I am Not a Muslim. The man who once wrote that “all religions are sick men’s dreams” now has the audacity to claim that the essential elements which make western civilisation the most advanced and free, are the result of Biblical teachings, although he does concede the classical inheritance of Greece . Page 71:
“The roots of secularism go back to the biblical distinction of priestly and kingly authority, which inspired medieval Christians to elaborate theories of the relationship between spiritual and temporal powers. The religious wars in Europe , between 1540 and 1650 prompted many calls for a stricter separation of civil and ecclesiastical powers, from people like Spinoza, Milton, and Locke, as well as dissident Protestant sects.
Many Anabaptists who had suffered persecution under both Protestant and Catholic authorities, argued that the state should not interfere in religious affairs, and vice versa. Leonard Busher, an Anabaptist, made a case for the separation of church and state in a tract he addressed to King James I of England, Religious peace: or a Plea for Liberty of Conscience, where he asserted that “as kings and bishops cannot command the wind, so they cannot command faith.”
Ibn Warraq is especially scathing of Indian mysticism claiming that the West has its own traditions. For example on page 94 he cites Meister Eckhart. But Eckhart’s teaching show clear echoes of Vedanta. Warraq also claims that the ancient Greeks, forebears of western civilisation and all its glories, absorbed Vedic ideas.
In reality that rejected the concept of zero precisely because it denied pure logic, reason and rationality. Yet without zero, a Hindu invention, western technology as we know it simply would not have existed. The very secularism which he preaches is therefore not just inapplicable to India but is at the very diametric opposite of its values.
There was simply no need for it as a myriad of sects and ideas competed, thrived and coexisted. India was the only country where a microscopic minority of Jews found sanctuary and flourished. In the western civilisation of Dawkins and Ibn Warraq, including its secular component, they suffered unending persecution. Indeed it was the scientific secular mindset which took the demonic anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church and Martin Luther, and made the Jews into a cosmic evil that had to be eliminated by modern technological methods.
Hindu civilisation had no need to vilify anyone in such a manner just as it did not need secularism to teach it the religious diversity which it took for granted. Secularism, humanism and similar ideas must be seen not as eternal truths but given the rightful due in the correct period of history from which they arose. John Gray, page 126 of Straw Dogs:
“If atheism has a future, it can only be in a Christian revival; but in fact Christianity and atheism are declining together.”
That explains Dawkins’ confession. He has finally seen the light of revelation, the light which unmasks his very own intellectual cul-de-sac and apocalypse.
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