|Religion 21st Century|
Secular States and Freedom
A secular state is based on rational humanism and the conviction that individual humans and human societies are capable of self-regulation. Secularity, democracy and freedom are the three pillars of self-regulating, free states. A secular society is not based on any religion, although the right to pursue your own religion, independent of politics and government, is considered to be a basic freedom.
A civil society is built from many constructive organizations that thrive in local communities. Citizens of the 21st century can be quite sure that top-down solutions will not work and the tendency toward centralized political and economic control will need to be modified or abandoned. The realist will recognize that "social progress" is not a progression of rational responses to problems, proceeding toward some ultimate solution for human deficiencies and aberrations. The realist recognizes an unchanging human nature expresses all its contradictions in a turbulent, often violent and recursive manner. A knowledgeable realist will assume that governments are inherently unreliable. This is axiomatic and not a critique of individual participants.
Each citizen in a free, civil society does have a responsibility to protect his or her freedom and right to life by insisting on bottom-up solutions to problems. This means that the local community decides what is in its best interests; not a distant and autocratic authority. When central authority becomes autocratic, it must be replaced. The best way to replace bad governments is to vote against politicians who formed the government. The idealist who becomes a realist needs to understand human nature as outlined in this book.
Limitations of Human Nature
In my other books, I described three fundamental limitations of human cognition: that information and cognitive abilities are unevenly distributed; that each person will display some understanding of some issues but will be otherwise ignorant; that each person acts from a narcissistic assumption that only I am right. The enlightenment tendency of mind is to open up, to expand beyond limiting local conditions. If any enlightenment tendency survives the rigors of traffic jams, shopping malls and TV news, then there will be tension between the limiting needs of daily existence and a deep and recurrent call to expand beyond local conditions, to open up to the universal properties of mind.
Atonement is the re-integration of many worldly parts into a holy whole. Epiphany is the transcendence of the little and local mind by achieving atonement. One desirable property of an expanded, atoned mind is compassion.
There are hazards built into the aspiration to be a good person. One hazard is the tendency to act like a good person without becoming a good person. Another hazard is self-righteousness, the tendency to turn good deeds into reasons to feel superior. Much harm has been inflicted on others by self-righteous people, so that proper self-development must lead to humility and tolerance, not the belligerent imposition of your own views on others. We have recognized a tense dialectic at work in human minds. The thesis is personal freedom and antithesis is bondage and oppression, acting as competing teams in constant play. Since we often work in the interfaces between being isolated creatures with selfish interests and participation in group activities, there are always tensions that need resolution.
Often, we exaggerate the importance and the autonomy of individual experience and individual action, but we seldom act alone. Each person is an agent of a common understanding both innate and learned. We depend on each other to provide rules of conduct, information, context and meaning. Mostly, we are free to conform to the norms and expectations of the local group and suffer when others find fault with our actions. A human tendency is to treat only a few other humans well, members of your immediate select group, and to be suspicious of and hostile towards everyone else. Humans can learn to override this tendency and succeed in developing tolerance, even affection for other sentient beings, but this is a difficult task.