Sunday, September 28, 2008

A test for genuine secularism

The Wise Old Man on the Hill told me that there are two kinds of secularism – genuine and pseudo and that most of us are pseudo. This annoyed me, “I am secular,” I said.
“Are you truly secular,” he asked, “would you like to do a little test?”
“I will do any test,” I said, “I am truly secular; I have no problem with anyone following any religion.”
“What about when they question you on your religion,” he asked.
“I guess it depends on how they ask questions. But I don’t see why they will because I will not question them on theirs,” I said.
“Are you truly grounded in your faith?” he asked.
“I am as grounded as you are in yours,” I said shortly.
“Would you be able to take criticism of your religion from anyone of a different denomination?” he asked.
“I don’t think he would like to take my criticism of his religion,” I said.
“Why not,” he said, “If you are truly secular you should learn about the other’s religion and of course ask them questions about it.”
“But I am not interested in anyone else’s religion,” I pointed out.
“Suppose you are in a position to offer a job to one among three people who are equally qualified,” he said, “to whom will you give the job?”
“I will give the job to the best candidate, of course,” I said.
“Suppose one of them is from your religion; will you give the job to him or one of the other two from different religions,” he asked.
“Obviously I will help my own,” I said, “what has that got to do with secularism?”
“Do you ever question the tenets of your own religion?” he asked.
“What kinda dumb question is that,” I asked.
“If you have a maid servant in your employ, who is new to the place and needs to go to a temple, will you take her to the temple?” he asked. “Or will you make some excuse and hint that it is better if she stays at home?”
“She has come here to work; who has the time to take her on a tour?” I countered.
“If you have guardianship of a small child from a different religion, would you teach him your religion or would you teach him his?” he asked.
“That’s silly; why would I learn all about a different religion? I would teach him my own since I believe all religions are similar,” I said piously.
“If all religions are similar you can teach him all about his, can’t you?” he said.
“That’s stupid, because I may make mistakes while teaching him his,” I said.
“If your son or daughter wants to marry someone from a different faith, would you agree wholeheartedly?” he asked.
“Well there’s that whole thing of different cultures, etc,” I said.
“Would you agree to participate in two religious ceremonies?” he asked.
“You know how expensive marriages are? It would be a needless waste of money and the couple would need to save for their future, I would suggest a registered marriage,” I said.
“If you neighbour asked your advice about selling his house or apartment to someone from the minority community, would you encourage him to sell to the individual?” he asked.
“I like my neighbours and would not like them to sell and move away,” I said. “See, a neighbour is like a family member, I would tell him not to sell only because I consider him a family member.”
“Right,” he snorted. “And it would have nothing to do with the fact that he was planning to sell it to a member of a minority community.”
“Not at all,” I said. “So tell me how did I do in your ridiculously easy test?”
“You only proved that you are pseudo secular and a bigot,” he said.

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