The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 82
What is Secularism?
What is Secularism?
How common it is to hear people find fault with Secularism when they do not know what it is. Clergymen often deliver sermons on what they call Secularism, but which is nothing of the kind; and many other people rave about it in the same ignorance of what it is. Some stupid people think Secularism is something to make us naughty and immoral; and others think it is something that is intended to do mischief. These people who know so little about it are the very ones who make the most fuss about it. What is Secularism then? It is the opposite to what is called religion, theology, or superstition. There have been hundreds of different religions believed in by different people, and there are hundreds believed in to-day. One religious belief is that the world we live in was made out of nothing by something called "God" that made itself, and that nobody knows anything about. Another religious belief is that our breath is ourselves, and that we, that is our bodies, are nothing. Another belief is that our thoughts fire ourselves, and that these thoughts are only using our heads, bodies, and limbs, to wear a little while, and then throw away, just as we wear a pair of boots and take them off and throw them away when we have done with them. They think that our thoughts resemble the boy or girl, and that we resemble the boots. Now, it would not matter if people thought such things, if they let alone other people who didn't think the same as they do, but they do not let others alone. Nearly everybody who believes in a god, for instance, thinks it a different kind of animal to what another person does. And there is the same difference of opinion in regard to the thought or breath, or as it is generally called, the "soul," Then they get great respect for the particular thing they believe in, and of course they dislike those who do not believe in it. And when they find that other people believe in something that they do not, they dislike them still more. This dislike turns to hatred, and after a time when they have got enough people to believe their superstition or religion, they all join together and molest those who do not believe it. They make holy war upon some of them; they torture others in what they call inquisitions; they tell lies about them in pulpits and newspapers, and also in books; they send those to jail who are honest enough to think for themselves, and brave enough to say what they think; they burn such as these at the stake, as they did Bruno; and many of them would now burn such brave and noble fellows as Thomas Paine, Richard Carlile, Charles Bradlaugh, and Mr. Foote, but they dare not—so they send them to prison and deprive them of their rights.
Now all these cruelties seem horrible to a secularist, and almost too bad to be true. But unfortunately they are too true; for all these terrible cruelties have been practised by religious people for hundreds of years. And we cannot be surprised at their doing so, for they are doing only what they think right. They cannot, love their religion and those who are opposed to their religion at the same time, but they must choose one and reject the other. So they choose the religion and reject the disbeliever.
The advocates of Secularism then come forward and tell them to throw away their stupid, quarrelsome religions, and to love one another instead of loving gods and hating each other. All these stupid beliefs in things that nobody knows anything about, are laid aside by the Secularists; and they ask people to get instead all the good things of this world. Secularism means "this world-ism," and it teaches us to make the most of what we have got.
As Secularism throws aside religion, let us see what it will put in its place, page 5 Secularism saves any good thing that it finds mixed up with a religion, and all the good things that it finds which have never been in a religion.
Secularism teaches us to always do what we think is best for other people, as well as for ourselves; to always speak the truth and expose a falsehood, even when religious people try to prevent us; to always act justly to everyone; to be honest in all our actions, as well as in our thoughts and utterances; to never take what belongs to another; to be industrious saying, and persevering; to not injure others, but to assist them when we can; to see that our bodies are clean and healthy, that our limbs are strong, and that our homes are pure; to learn all we can about everything we come across, and to enquire and think over all we hear; to let everyone do what we want to do, and to even let them do what we do not want to do so long as they are doing no one a wrong; to admire and spread goodness and truth wherever we may find it; and never to be afraid of ridiculing error and exposing it as it deserves to be. This is true Secularism, and every boy or girl who practices it is a true young Secularist. We hope there may be many such, and we ask our friends, young and old, to assist us in having these hopes fulfilled.