Religious, Irreligious and Non-religious or Secular

According to the Constitution of India, it is a secular Nation which directs that it is a nation of commonness or oneness and it would not tolerate any religious dominance. None of the inhabitants would be treated by his/her religious background/identity. But does it not say inhabitants of this Nation should be secular? Unfortunately, perhaps very beginning of the declaration and enactment of its constitution, inhabitants are divided (in terms of religious faith) into two - religious and secular. Religious groups are again into two categories - minority and majority. And it is the absolute cause of everyday religious conflict and violence.  In recent times, it has become a big issue.  But what is secular meant? How they are separated from irreligious or non-religious/secular/anti-religious.

Sister Nivedita (1907) ( in an introduction to the “Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda”)  expressed that ‘life is itself religion’ and realization of oneness of all existence is religion.  In her realization, Swami Vivekananda removed the distinction between sacred and secular.  Swami Vivekananda preached that the purpose of religion is universal, and it provides infinite space of development. Sister Nivedita again opined,  ‘ we know that all religions alike, from the lowest fetishism to the highest absolutism, are but so many attempts of the human soul to grasp and realise the Infinite. So, we gather all these flowers, and binding them together with the cord of love, make them into a wonderful bouquet of worship.’ ‘None of this world was foreign or alien.’ According to Swamiji, ‘there existed only Humanity and Truth.’   And "If one religion true, then all the others also must be true.”

On the other hand, irreligion is the absence, indifference to, or rejection of religion. An irreligion means that ‘it's more of an attitude towards religion rather than an actual religious position.’ ‘People who are indifferent towards religion are also likely to be indifferent towards belief in gods, known as apatheism. Secularism may track most closely with an irreligion; anyone who is irreligious will also be secular.’   According to the Pew Research Center's  global study(2012),  among 230 countries and territories, only 16% of the world's population is not affiliated with a religion, while 84% are affiliated.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, secular means “belonging to the world and its affairs as distinguished from the church and religion; civil, lay, temporal." It is ‘the state of being separate from religion, or of not being exclusively allied with or against any particular religion.  Historically, the word secular was not related or linked to religion, but was a freestanding term in Latin which would relate to any mundane endeavor.’ It might be an experience ‘in diverse ways ranging from separation of religion and state to being anti-religion or even pro-religion, depending on the culture.’

Therefore, a person might be secular if (i) he/she does not believe in supernatural beings, entities, or realms, (ii) does not engage in religious behaviors, and (iii) does not identify as religious and is not a member of a religious community. ‘To be secular is to maintain a naturalistic worldview in which belief in anything is always proportioned to the evidence available’. It is about engaging in a variety of activities that are understood as this-worldly, and to identify with, or be a member of non-religious groupings or associations.

Those sensitive individuals claim them as secular, are they truly secular or anti-religious? It is because of non-leaving their born identity which is tagged with their surname. This is particularly attached with their born religious identity rather than as their own faith. When these secular individuals move and agitate against discrimination and deprivation of minority, is it not a biased act? And do they not harm the survival of minority? Is it not promoting the ethno- phobia among minority? Is it not enough to keep them within the realm of religious deprivation? Obviously, it is the prime hindrance to keep them within a narrow path and it is a tool promoting religious conflict and violence. If anyone is irreligious or non-religious, it is better than secular or anti-religious. The religiously conscious individual should be more liberal about this matter,  and it should not be an act like as the political leaders.


More by :  Dr. Harasankar Adhikari

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