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.