Promoting science, reason & critical thinking with a rational A-theist perspective to advance the secular political agenda

Sacred to Secular: eBook Overview — Reviews and Preface

First, what the reviewers say . . . then, new eBook Overview:

“… a blueprint for a more rational, more sane Australia.”
Dr Peter Boghossian, Speaker for the Richard Dawkins Foundation.

“A Secular Australia is a timely and extremely relevant issue.”
Hugh Mackay AO

“… this book is at the vanguard (for a) secular Australia.”
Dr Paul Willis, Science Communicator

“… inspiring, with a vision for a genuinely secular Australia.”
Dr Meredith Doig, President, Rationalist Society of Australia Inc.

“… clearly explains the hold that Christian fundamentalism has over secular society…”
Dr David Zyngier, Faculty of Education, Monash University

“… it sounds an important warning of threats to secular public education.”
Professor Alan Reid AM, School of Education, University of South Australia

Note: This sets out the book’s theme — a broad chapter outline and rationale.  The Appendix includes information and methods for taking individual (or group) action on the list of 25 issues identified in Chapter 9 as ‘secular’ topics.

New Overview — go to ‘Home’ for FREE eBook copy

This is the burning question . . .   Is Australia a Christian or Secular nation? Should churches and schools continue to teach each new generation WHAT to believe about Jesus and Christianity? Or do we teach HOW to gain independent knowledge about religion – in a secular society?

Telling children what to believe about religion is unethical. There is no absolute proof – either for or against a Christian God, or any god – and faith can only be belief without knowledge. But without doubt, the weight of material and circumstantial evidence leans heavily against any supernatural deity; chapters 6, 7 and 8.

Certainly, children can be taught the cultural histories and foundation myths of various religions, with a proviso they include an atheist perspective of why religion is a human construct…  It’s a religion-neutral worldview that is crucial to Australia finally becoming a secular nation: the theme of this book.

Political secularism protects everyone’s right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief – including non-belief and atheism. All these rights are guaranteed under provisions of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) — to which Australia is a signatory.

Later chapters profile the successful secular nations of Europe and how we, too, can move away from the divisive social rifts created by conflicting politicised and sectarian religions. But religious neutrality — secularism — requires a degree of commitment, and it’s a process we have not yet mastered.

So how does one gain knowledge independently to reliably form any particular belief? What path do we take to claim belief in Jesus, Muhammad, or any other god – or no god at all? And how do we know whether that body of knowledge is correct?

The short answer is that we ‘test’ it – not simply against texts that confirm our personal beliefs, but against those which oppose them. It requires courage to fight against all our innate cognitive biases to reach rational conclusions.

All beliefs should be tested and open to challenge:

Regrettably, the path to knowledge uses the ungainly term epistemology. Epistemology simply means the nature of knowledge – its methods, scope and validity. It drives home a clear distinction between verifiable fact and personal opinion. Epistemology is to the validity of knowledge what the scientific method is to evidence – in every field of science. It critically tests what is true!

It seems bizarre, in this evidence-based era, we still teach religion ‘as truth’ in schools and ignore completely the path to knowledge gained from ‘philosophical ethics’ and epistemology. Both are discussed extensively throughout the book. There are many studies showing secular ethics to be vital in all education, with the most recent example coming from England and an ethics program across 48 schools, involving 3,000 year-five students.

Personal opinions are not facts:

Sacred to Secular analyses every aspect of Christianity in Australia, a nation that is constitutionally required to be secular. More than a hundred years after federation the question remains; why does Christianity continue to exert such undue influence – in politics, education, media, the law, and across the entire contemporary social policy agenda? It becomes a matter of concern, too, that this persists when a clear majority of Australians are religion-neutral – while their parliaments are not.

Why focus on Christianity and not the global threat of Islamic extremists?

The short answer is there are many high-profile progressive Muslims who write articles, blogs, and gain international media coverage – they already work with moderate Muslim leaders in an on-going effort to have Islam ‘modernise’. One advocate is former Islamist, Maajid Nawaz, the founding chairman of Quillium. But there are scores of others who denounce radical Islam.

However, there is clearly a systemic political problem in failing to publicly link Islamic extremism with violent elements of the Islamic religion. Rank denial that religious terrorism across so many countries has “nothing to do with Islam” simply adds fuel to the fire of our own right wing extremists who seek to portray all Muslims as terrorists.

Our Muslim population is just 2.5%, and while we need to be vigilant to home-grown attacks we should not ignore the core problem which is religion itself. History shows that intense belief in supernatural gods leads to devastating cruelty and violence — whether extreme Islam or fundamentalist Christianity.

Sacred to Secular: why a corrupted Christianity demands a Secular solution:

The seemingly provocative subtitle remains relevant, as these ten chapters will attest. Embedded religion has flown under the radar since the arrival of the First Fleet and Arthur Phillip. From the time of colonisation Australia has been moulded to become a ‘Soft Theocracy’, where religion influences every strata of society. As the book unfolds we explain why predatory evangelism and corporate Christianity remains harmful to the nation’s progressive future.

So, why has Australia failed the secular test? How has the nation’s social and political landscape remained subservient to Christian authority – a regime that is incompatible with logic and reason in this modern evidence-based era of the 21st century? And what will it take to resolve this paradox?

A secular Australia remains an illusion despite a 2016 IPSOS poll showing 78% of the population agree that all religion and politics should be separated. It’s a clear public majority – including many Christians – who want to separate Church and State. It is an elementary social objective already achieved by the more progressive and successful nations of European.

But the minority position still prevails here. It is a strident fundamentalist voice that adamantly claims “we are a Christian nation under God”. It’s a declaration backed by the full weight of right wing conservatism; a small but highly influential Christian elite; an equally small but powerful Christian lobby; and a neo-liberal government content to acquiesce. In fact, all state and federal parliaments are heavily Christianised.

Politicised church lobbies have also ramped up the mantra of a Judeo-Christian tradition, tacitly aided by a media still hamstrung by the long-standing taboo that prohibits close scrutiny of Christianity’s dark side. It perpetuates a ‘sacred aura’ of the Church, maintaining its privileged status, and keeping it on a purple pedestal.

The rationale for this book is to explain why a fully secular Australia is a social imperative; what tangible benefits can be gained; and how they might be achieved. To emphasise this thesis we profile the flourishing secular models of Scandinavia – why they rate so highly in education, IQ, and well-being, and succeed so well socially, economically and culturally.

Juxtaposed against these objectives are the corrupted elements of Christianity – how they have become embedded in society and the harm they do. We examine the rising influence of predatory evangelism and its sacred mission to ‘Christianise’ children in schools across the nation. And we probe beyond the facade of corporate Christianity – their entrepreneurial interests in private education, private health and aged care; their wealth in property and assets; and the raft of tax benefits they enjoy.

Personal and private’ faith is not the issue here – the primary focus is on politicised Christianity. But we do also examine the neuroscience of religious belief, and expose the fabricated foundations of Christian history. Conclusions are drawn and a firm and positive case is made – for Australia to finally adopt the successful social vision embodied by the modern Nordic nations.

Imagine Australia becoming fully secular:

  • a nation guided by reason and rationalism, not supernatural deities.
  • politicians deciding social policy without relying on religious doctrine.
  • minority groups no longer marginalised by religion.
  • all education free of evangelism and vested Church interests.
  • schoolchildren being taught ethics not ‘Christian morality’.
  • science given substantial research grants, facilities and resources.
  • women’s health, abortion and contraception, without God.
  • people enjoying all religious festivals – but as cultural events.
  • end of life choices for the terminally ill, without Godly moralising.
  • freedom to practice religion – but as a personal and private faith.
  • no political parties based on single religious denominations.
  • all religions taxed equally with secular organisations.

Secular not Sacred:

The Nordic model of secularism is not to eliminate religion but simply to move its historically divisive influence from the public and political forum, and reposition it to where it rightfully belongs – as a wholly private and personal faith for those who still wish to worship the god of their choice. To be secular is merely to separate a dominant religious influence away from the affairs of state – creating a social structure and public policy agenda that is equitable, just, tolerant and inclusive.

A stable secular society embraces all rational views and beliefs. It’s a concept that should permeate throughout the entire community – and it’s one that the more intellectually advanced nations of the world have already achieved. Only through open discussion, speaking publicly, and campaigning for change will the harmful effects of organised religion finally give way to the benefits of a progressive secular community.

The objective here is to stimulate the process of critical thought about religion in today’s society. We trust that others may take up the information and – perhaps in a more distilled form – pass it on to those who might use it in the on-going process of evolutionary social change.

There is a conspicuous secular alternative to religious dominance. It focuses on social cooperation not divisive faiths in the supernatural. It has a neutral foundation to defuse the blind supremacism of competing religions and denominations – and it combines universal human rights and ethical standards which surpass all religious doctrines that are rooted in the distant past.

Through these 10 chapters we offer a rational perspective of the challenge to shed our ‘Soft Theocracy’ – and move toward a more cooperative, egalitarian and progressive Australia that is fully secular and religion-neutral.

Brian Morris

Plain Reason: promoting science, logic, reason and critical thought.