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Secular law
willie
OK as promised, a secular law thread.

I keep hearing the term secular law, particularly in relation of the threat from religious law. No dictionary holds a definition for secular law. As I suspected most search results come from theistic standpoints, where 'secular law' is used to distinguish laws not laid out in religious doctrine.

I don't need to point out how irrelevant religious doctrine is in setting moral standards. So if moral standards are attainable without religion, why make a 'secular' distinction, from a non theist standpoint?

Clearly many religious principles are enshrined in our laws, for example, love thy neighbour. Our legal systems were founded on religious systems. In modern terms our laws (those that would be considered secular) are based on equality, liberty and certain freedoms (restrained by the common law or by statute). Those freedoms must, surely, include the right to religious thought. Only by granting rights to big-endians, to open their eggs one way, can it be self evident that little-endian's hold equal rights, and vica versa. This does not mean 'boiled egg dogma' is relevant, only that it is neither more or less relevant than any other view in a pluralist society, and thus can only be judged on it's merits (or lack of).

When it's suggested that religious doctrine should play no part in 'secular' law presumably this does not include the good parts, that we take for granted as basic morals. Only relatively recently the right of Conscientious objection became law. This was based in large part to religious doctrine. In effect what is being said is we should not allow the bad bits. Fair enough, that is in reality what happens. The question is who decides? If religion is excluded a voice in how laws evolve, how about race? In the UK Jews and Sikhs are judge (by secular law) to be a race, Muslims aren't. So would Jews and Sikhs have the freedom to play their part in shaping national 'secular' law, as their culture (religion) expects?

Picking the good bits and rejecting the bad, for the good of all, is only possible with universal rights.
 
seeker
There is another consideration as well. Like it or not the chances are that any law is going to be made, passed and administered by theists. They are in charge and the only reason the concept of secular law exists is because they had to accomodate each other or continue to fight holy wars
 
willie
That is a very concise way of explaining my contention that, although we should not 'allow' religious superstition to prevail (logically), we should not (logically) strive to remove the right for them to try... only without the boiled eggs.

To clarify, seeker, do you think those religious freedoms should be upheld in a system 'ruled' by atheists? I would think more so.
 
General-Pryce
Although religion does play a small part those passing may well be Theists, as Seeker said, I think my own definition of what I consider secular law, would be a legal system which does not incorporated religion or religous references and teachings into it's decision making or sentencing. Sort of like the American separation of church and state, a separation of church and courts.

That's what I consider it and it is what, to my knowledge, happens in UK courts. People do still swear on religious texts and documents as part of their oath, as a non-religious person can swear an oath without anything.
 
derF
I would say that it is a form of government that has it's own basic outline of proper conduct and is ever on the watch for legislation being introduced by self serving religious groups intent on forcing their beliefs on the rest of the population. Mabe too simple and too succinct but that's just IMHO.
Edited by derF on 11/03/2008 21:57
I'll drink to that. Or anything else for that matter.
 
seeker
willie wrote:
That is a very concise way of explaining my contention that, although we should not 'allow' religious superstition to prevail (logically), we should not (logically) strive to remove the right for them to try... only without the boiled eggs.

To clarify, seeker, do you think those religious freedoms should be upheld in a system 'ruled' by atheists? I would think more so.


Ideally no but if we are dealing with reality then I'd say some degree of religious freedom is necessary. We can't expect people to just start thinking rationally overnight.
 
willie
General-Pryce wrote:
Although religion does play a small part...
Small nitpick... Religion, like any other factor, plays as proportionate a part in (most) society's laws as it does in the attitudes in that society in general.

General-Pryce wrote:
I think my own definition of what I consider secular law, would be a legal system which does not incorporated religion or religious references and teachings into it's decision making or sentencing.
Religion and religious references I would agree have no part; 'teaching' I think is the sticking point. Laws are shaped by the beliefs (general, not solely religious), attitudes and prejudices of the societies in which they are formed. How does one differentiate between one persons life lessons and another's? Is it any better that a person knows not to steal from fear of an actual beating from their farther, than a theoretical one from 'god'?

If we can't differentiate between life lessons, neither can we differentiate, surely, on how those lessons were learnt. A person can arrive at the 'right' conclusion for the wrong reasons. No reasonable person would reject the SCLC and Martin Luther King's role in the civil rights movement because they believed equality was a god given right rather than a secular one.

Clearly it would be wrong to suggest moral codes could not be formed in the absence of religious belief, that is definitely not my view. The question is, given the fact that a (woefully large) number of people do cite the supernatural, what is gained by demanding religion be classed as separate from consideration when arriving at the 'right' conclusion, in this case, good law? After all, if a position can be defended solely on the irrational belief in the supernatural, then the counter position must be severely lacking in substance.

There is a whole lot more I would like to discuss, but as no one has made the claims about 'secular law' in this thread as have been made elsewhere, I would be just beating a drum.

In short I believe 'secular law' is a misnomer and a flawed concept, currently at least.
 
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