RESPECTING RELIGION STARTS WITH RESPECTING SECULARISM, THE FUNDAMENTAL RELIGION. 12/15/07.
THE DEFINITION OF A RELIGION:
What is the definition of a religion? Cicero thought it had to do with re-legare (re-read). So superficial an interpretation is silly. The modern sense of “recognition of, obedience to, and worship of a higher, unseen power” so as to RE-LIGARE (tie-again) psychologically people together is the most general, and is retained by more recent thinkers. Rather prosaically, the higher, unseen power could just be a higher culture or wisdom. It does not need superstitious priests to evoke it. Philosophers can do just fine (Draco and Solon, at the origins of Sparta and Athens, being examples).
According to this definition, a “religion” is any set of cultural networks of metapsychological beliefs and emotions inclusive enough to impel human behavior beyond what basic psychobiology provides with (example: everybody wants to feed, that’s psychobiology, but hungry people have to be religiously conditioned to not steal other people’s food, sights unseen). By metapsychological, we mean that those roots of psychology do not have any cause themselves: they are the axioms of cultural psychology, and can have less causal input than the axioms of mathematics (mathematical axioms are established because they are found empirically to be useful; religious axioms are not necessarily useful in ways which can be easily explained; in this vision, psychology has two morphogenetical roots, one biological, the other cultural; they partly overlap and interact, causing further complexities).
This very general definition of religion is made necessary by the fact that, like chimpanzees, but much more than chimpanzees, human beings are not just animals. HUMAN BEINGS ARE ALSO CULTURAL CREATURES. The cultural capacity of humans is amazing: brought up by wolves, a human will absorb canine culture, dominate it, and become leader. Without culture, chimpanzees die, and much more so human beings. In human beings, the gigantic gap between what they can figure out by themselves psychobiologically (like learning to walk, and even then…) and what they have to know to survive (and which is learned from culture), this gigantic culturally filled abyss, is CROWNED BY RELIGION. Thus religion is ubiquitous: TO BE HUMAN IS TO BE RELIGIOUS. This is so true that even movements which started by loudly proclaiming themselves “anti religious” such as Stalinism, Nazism, or Maoism, turned into religions of their own, resurrecting for the occasion all the excesses of the Inquisition (it was no accident the SS were dressed in black like inquisitors, but conscious mimicry).
Those who pretend that some other human group is not religious are thus embarked on the oldest and strongest of inter tribal interaction, namely denying that the tribe they do not belong to is really made of human beings.
According to this very inclusive definition, a religion does not have to be all encompassing: it could be just a partial motivation, or a partial explanation of the universe. Historically it often happened that several religions have been worshipped by a population (some Roman emperors, while officially Pontifex Maximus were closet Christians (and conversely); an inspection of an individual such as Charlemagne show his highest motivations and beliefs to be Secular, Catholic, Pagan, and even a bit… Jewish; the modern Japanese, besides being Secularist, often appreciate also simultaneously three other religions: Shinto, Zen, Christian; Islam recognizes that where the sacred Muslim texts do not reach, local traditional beliefs should take over…).
SECULARISM IS THE FIRST, LESS SUPERSTITIOUS RELIGION, BUT IT’S A RELIGION NEVERTHELESS:
A further order can be established on the set of all religions, according to how superstitious they are. Super-stition means to above-stand: implicitly, above the real world. Superstition is not what mathematicians know as a well ordering (different superstitions cannot be necessarily compared to each other), but it has a first element, namely SECULARISM. Thus, it’s the less superstitious of all religions. Secularism is by definition the set of all the metapsychology necessary for the psychobiology to exploit the world optimally in the AGE (“seculum”, a span of 120 years). It’s the set of all cultural primary causes necessary to do so. Secularism thus rests on the fact that BEING IMMENSELY CULTURAL, HOMO IS IMMENSELY TECHNOLOGICAL. The opportunities, and difficulties presented to human beings change the age, because their technology changes, and is, overall, ever more powerful. One of the greatest set of discoveries was the mastery of fire (it took more than a million years, and is still ongoing with thermonuclear fire). Isolated prehistoric populations were able to thrive during many horrendous glaciations in Europe only because of very advanced technology; without it, they would not have resisted the frosts of early August.
This means that secularism is itself technology dependent. Different secularisms from different ages are different. Obsolete secularism can turn into superstition. It may have made sense to not eat pigs among desert dwellers in the Middle East 2,000 years ago, because they had not enough firewood to properly cook them, and they got infested by the deadly parasite; this was correct secularism then. Judeo-Islamism turned this empirically grounded cultural axiom in a superstitious principle: “never eat pig, pig is dirty”. By super-stition is meant anything which stands above the world, and has lost its connection to it. The interdiction “never eat pig” did so, when it was forgotten it had to do with some specific disease, and stopped making sense (in the sense of being part of a logical chain of cuses and effects).
Confucianism, and some forms of Buddhism (including the original one) are not much, or not at all superstitious. Thus they were certainly just of their age, and nothing more (i.e., secularist). Nowadays they are somewhat quaint, because the age has changed so much, and became much more complex.
ROMAN EMPEROR CONSTANTINE, THE CREATOR OF CHRISTIANITY, insisted that Paganism was a “superstitio”, and Christianity was not. That was obviously erroneous, but his point of view can be understood in the sense that the old Greco-Romans were plagued by superstitions all day long, and, from this perspective, Constantine’s Christianity was very economical: one had to believe arbitrarily only very few totally empirically unbelievable things (“God died on the cross, as the Son, to save mankind, but is coming back soon, etc… “), and one did not have to fear the wrath of flocks of birds, black cats and ladders anymore…
Secularism was stealthily imposed by the Merovingian and Carolingian empires.
SECULARISM BECAME THE FUNDAMENT OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION (that was a big progress over fanatical Athens with her hubristic religion, and saved the world from civilization devouring “Orthodox Catholicism”). Since secularism is compatible with, and can hide behind, superstitious religions, it allowed for the thriving of state controlled Judaism and Catholicism, as long as the activities of the later were compatible with the main secular aims the Franks had set for themselves (all things about the practice of happiness).
Those who do not respect secularism, the fundamental religion, do not respect the essence of humanity. They are just being tribal. And, nowadays, TRIBAL MEANS TROUBLE.