The Instigator
Con (against)
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The Contender
Pro (for)
6 Points

Is Secularism Rational Choice?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/3/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,174 times Debate No: 45163
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (4)
Votes (1)




Debate is about :

  1. Philosophical aspect of Secularism

  2. Morality

  3. History of Secularism (Secular Countries in Historical Context)

  4. Does Secularism respond to human needs?

Burden of proof is on Pro. Pro posts first argument, so Pro will not post argument in last round.



I happily accept Pro's challenge and look forward to his opening arguments.
Debate Round No. 1


Actually Pro should post first argument. In this round I will touch upon few points, which I am going to discuss on next round.

Firstly, let's define secularism:

1. - Secularism is the principle of the separation of government institutions and persons mandated to represent the state from religious institutions and religious dignitaries.1

2. - The belief that religion should not play a role in government, education, or other public parts of society; indifference to or rejection or exclusion of religion and religious considerations.2

3. - A doctrine that rejects religion and religious considerations.3

4. - Secularism is a principle that involves two basic propositions. The first is the strict separation of the state from religious institutions. The second is that people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law.4

A. Mostly, secularists will argue, that secular government is neutral to all religions and ideologies. But secularism is being ideology, cannot be neutral. It can be defined as political branch of atheism, which removes God from public sphere. Therefor no religion has voice in public sphere.

B. Secularism has no rational basis. And it is unto Pro to prove contrary.

C. Secularism has no ontological and rational basis for morality. (Only) source of morality is social consensus.

D. Secularism is unpredictable (which is problematic).

E. Does Secularism respond to human needs? - the question which should be answered by Pro.







I would like to thank my opponent for bringing this challenge forward. I accepted this challenge because I believe that, in a world of increasing dichotomy between science and faith, it is very important to discuss matters such as these. All too often, particularly here in the United States, we are blinded, and often held back, by dogmatic beliefs.

As a secular agnostic, I believe that reason, logic and science provide humanity with the best answers to life’s questions over any religion. Secularism looks us square in the eye and gives us the truth, no matter how ugly or frightening it may be. It pays no attention to creed, race, sexual orientation, gender, political affiliation, or one’s personal beliefs, hopes or dreams. It is the perfect shade of gray.


While my opponent gives an accurate definition of secularism, he seems to take exception to the role of secularism with regard to government, education, and its applied contrast to religious worldviews. I’d like to start my rebuttal by a few examples of why secularism is necessary and a wall of separation between faith and government is so vital to humanity and its growth.


Contrary to popular belief, the Founders of the United States forged our nation to be secular. Having escaped religious persecution at the hands of the British crown, the Founders dreamed of a land where they no longer had to fear that persecution. Consequently, the US is the first nation in the history of the world to be a founded as a secular nation. While many Founders were indeed Christian, many were also deists including Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington [1].

The First Amendment of our Constitution clearly states that Congress shall make no law respecting one religion over another, nor suppress one’s right to practice it. Moreover, Article VI states that no religious test shall ever be required for public office. Yet, there are at least six states in the Union that ignore this Constitutional guarantee.

Being a lover of science, I find it particularly egregious that so many of our state and Congressional leaders place their faith above knowledge. In 2012, John Shimkus (R-IL) gave a jaw-dropping speech in which he made his case for denying rising sea levels due to climate change. He cited God’s promise to not destroy the earth again in Genesis 9 as the reason for his conclusion. Mr. Shimkus currently serves on the House Subcomittee on Energy and Power, and seeks to use his personal interpretation of Genesis 9 to enforce and control environmental legislation[2][3]. But what he and many others do not realize is the fact that the Flood narrative in Genesis is largely lifted from Sumerian tales like the Epic of Gilgamesh that predate Genesis by at least 900 years. I find such baseless and inane religio-political zealotry by the likes of Shimkus to be absolutely repugnant, irresponsible, and detrimental to science and humanity as a whole.

Through reason, logic, and science secularism has resulted in American advances in medicine, crop production, technology, and health care, both mentally and physically.

In stark contrast, many theocratic nations throughout the world suffer at the hands of despotic rulers who use religion in order to control their people through fear and manipulation. Many of the worst human rights abuses occur in nations throughout the Middle East and Africa, who use Islam and Christianity to visit nightmares upon their people.

However, the US has been slipping in terms of education in math and science. Compare the US, which is the most religious nation on earth, to Scandinavian countries, some of the least religious nations on earth, and the difference is like night and day [4]. Even within the US, if one compares the New England states to the Bible Belt states, the differences are stark. Quality of life is lower in places that are more religious, but higher in places that are more secular. It is a trend seen over and over again throughout the world [5].


My opponent states that secularism is irrational. This simply isn’t true. My opponent's comment that secularism isn't rational is unfounded simply due to the reason that secularism employs rational thought to find answers to problems [6]. He further states that secularism does not remain neutral with regard to religion. To a degree he is correct because secularists are strongly against mixing faith with politics and infusing creationism into science. Otherwise, we feel that people have the right to venerate any god they choose, so long as it does not harm others. So, I would like to know how my opponent reaches this conclusion.

Since secularism remains neutral toward religion, by default religions are able to flourish. Moreover, since secular governments remain neutral toward religion, adherents of any faith are free to worship as they choose.

One thing that to be resolved is that while atheism is secular in nature, secularism is not tantamount to atheism, as my opponent infers.


There are positive aspects to a secular society. First, since secularists rely on reality, we don't live under delusions that religions promote in order to maintain members. Also, unlike most religions, we are not limited to explore other the inner workings of other cultures. Additionally, secularism is morally superior to most religions, including Abrahamic religions. Secularism does not require us to judge or kill others as holy books do like the Qu'ran [7] and the Bible [8]. Knowing that the Qu'ran compels Muslims to kill people that don't believe in Allah, on what grounds can he infer that secularism has no moral foundation?

My opponent asked if secularism responds to human needs. The answer to this question is yes, it does. There are many secular organizations that do a great deal to help humans who need help. Some of those organizations include Doctors Without Borders, the National Center for Science Education, the National Red Cross, United Nations Children's Fund, and Amnesty International [9][10].

I would like for my opponent to clarify what he means when he says secularism is unpredictable.


[1] Wikipedia. List of Deists. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
[2] Bible Gateway. Genesis 9. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
[3] US House of Representatives. John Shimkus. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
[4] Wikipedia. Religiosity and Intelligence. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
[5] A Tale of Two States. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
[6] RationalWiki. Secular. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
[7] Quran Sura 4:89
[8] Bible Gateway. Deuteronomy 20:10-14. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
[9] With Beans. 10 Best Secular Non-Profits. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
[10] Freethoughtpedia. Secular Charities. Retrieved February 8, 2014.

Debate Round No. 2


I thank Pro for his argument. I may use ridicule in argument, but my goal is not to insult anyone, rather it is ridicule of ideas.

1. “I believe that reason, logic and science provide humanity with the best answers to life’s questions over any religion.

Actually you have to prove this statement (using reason, logic, and science). It is off the topic, and your beliefs are irrelevant.

2. “It [secularism] pays no attention to creed, race, sexual orientation, gender, political affiliation, or one's personal beliefs, hopes or dreams. It is the perfect shade of gray.

Well, actually it does pay attention, whether it is dictatorship or democratic society. I do not have to prove my case for dictatorship, I assume we all agree. But in “democratic” countries, secularism discriminates some individuals or groups, for example, gay rights, abortion laws in some states of US, ban of burka, hijab in some EU countries, ban of minarets in Switzerland. And this shows secularism is unpredictable, the laws which violates basic individual and group rights may be passed by legislative branch in secular countries.


This debate is not about US or congress members, and definitely not about Genesis.

4. “Through reason, logic, and science secularism has resulted in American advances in medicine, crop production, technology, and health care, both mentally and physically.

It does not prove secularism, and it seems you forgot witch burning in US. And during Golden Age of Islam, Muslim countries advanced in medicine, maths, science, astronomy, agriculture, art and literature. In fact if it was not for Al-Khawarizmi developing algorithms, you would have a laptop, and would not be able to post your argument.

5. “My opponent's comment that secularism isn't rational, is unfounded simply due to the reason that secularism employs rational thought to find answers to problems

Not only secularism employs rational thought to find answers, before discussing what secularism does, you have to show secularism itself is rational. Sometimes false ideas result in correct solutions. And do not bring science into discussion, topic is not about science.

6. “Secularism does not require us to judge or kill others as holy books do like the Qu'ran and the Bible.

Secularism does judge and kill people based on holy book of legislative branch. And secularism does kill innocent people, for example, UK, Germany, USA, France, Spain and etc.

7. “Knowing that the Qu'ran compels Muslims to kill people that don't believe in Allah, on what grounds can he infer that secularism has no moral foundation?

Pro cites 4:89, but (I don't know why) he forgot to cite 4:90 and onwards where it says except, who takes refuge with you, who does not fight against you, who wants peace with you and etc., be consistent please and do not misquote text.

8. “My opponent asked if secularism responds to human needs. The answer to this question is yes, it does.

Pro gave the names of organizations, but it is not the answer to question, there are many religious organizations which does the same, therefor that religion is rational?!

9. Pro did not touch upon morality and did not discuss philosophical aspect of secularism.

Pro did not made strong argument for secularism, and did not prove secularism being rational choice. All of his examples for secularism we can see in religions, and we can see his examples against religions in secularism also. And as I always said, examples are not proof.

Thank you for reading.



"Actually you have to prove this statement (using reason, logic, and science). It is off the topic, and your beliefs are irrelevant."

I don't know how much simpler I can make the argument. Secularism makes no appeal to any deity, no incantations, no prayers, no holy writ, no penance, no charms, and no places of worship. With this is mind, the only thing that we have left is ourselves and the science at our disposal. If we have no deity in our lives, then what else is there? Moreover, while my opponent states that my beliefs are irrelevant, I could just as easily say the same thing with regard to his views on secularism. However, I believe that his views are relevant. Otherwise, I wouldn't have accepted this debate.

I find it curious that my opponent mentions that secularism in some democratic countries is used to discriminate against homosexuals and abortion. While it is true that some that not all secularists embrace gay rights and abortion, secularism tends to go hand-in-hand with these topics. Meanwhile, homosexuality is forbidden in the Qu'ran and punishable by death at least 10 Islamic countries [1]. So, can Pro confidently say that secularism curbs sexual liberty and gay rights knowing that homosexuality is illegal in most Islamic countries? But I freely confess ignorance with regard to Islamic views on abortion.

As for the ban on burqas and minarets in Switzerland and elsewhere, I would ask my opponent why they're banned because I honestly don't know.

I understand my opponent's objection to my argument regarding the Wall of Separation. I"d like to explain why I brought it up on my argument. Also, I'm curious to know what country he lives in since he did not specify in his profile.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Founders sought to create a nation in which religious freedom was key because they knew it was beneficial to the overall health of its people. As such, we now enjoy a country that is free from theocratic entanglements. This does not mean that religion here is squelched. It simply means that, with secularism as the framework of our nation, people are free to pursue the religion of their choice. Or in the case of many, no religion at all.

A negative side effect of this is that many in our nation use their religion as a way to influence politics, legislation, and science, e.g., John Shimkus. Also, there are some religious movements like the New Apostolic Reformation led by the likes of Cindy Jacobs to influence politics in order to hasten what they perceive as the imminent return of Jesus Christ [2]. To me, this is intolerable and I stand in firm opposition to their cause. This is an example of what secularism stands for; standing in opposition to religious zealotry and offering a rational alternative to complete idiocy.

My opponent is absolutely correct when he mentions the great contributions that Islam has made to science and the advance of humanity. And I am thankful for the contributions that many Muslims have made. However, it must be mentioned that they used reason and logic when they made those discoveries, not divine revelation. Since Islamic culture has also made contributions to science, my opponent might make the claim that there is no need for secularism. But again, strip away the religious clothing, and we"re left with intellect, minus the commands for killing based on holy writ.

Moreover, while my opponent mentions that this discussion is not about science, it is about science by default simply because secularism deals away with religion. Also, Pro mentions that I forgot to mention witch burnings, a.k.a., the Salem Witch Trials. It's puzzling that he would bring this up because this is exactly one of the abhorrent religious practices that secularism is opposed to.

Pro also suggests that secularism employs holy books from which we derive legislation. First, we need to define what a holy book is. Although it's generally true, I hate to refer to Wikipedia as a very reliable source of information. But according to the site, holy books otherwise known as holy writ, religious texts, or scriptures, are are the texts which various religious traditions consider to be sacred, or central to their religious tradition. [3]" Such books include the Holy Bible, Qu'ran, the Book of Going Forth by Day, the Avestas, Bhagavad Gita, the Book of Mormon, and the Kitab-i-Aqdas. Not included among those books, at least as far as I am aware, is any legislation by any of the countries Pro mentioned. If Pro is able to produce an example of such writing, it would be interesting indeed.

As with the Bible, the Qu'ran has tidbits of goodness and wisdom (so does the Satanic Bible, for that matter). But also like the Bible, the Qu'ran is too full of calls to violence to be taken seriously as a moral guide for living. Notice that Pro didn't object to my mention of 4:89, but simply side-stepped it. Also notice that despite Pro's attempt to reconcile this verse with morality, it still clearly commands Muslims to kill unbelievers. How is this moral?

Rightly so, Pro wishes for specific examples of how secularism helps humanity. As such, I will elucidate on Doctors Without Borders. DWB is a secular organization that provides quality health care in places that are affected by war, disease, poverty, and natural disasters. Again, it pays no attention to religious creed and thus does not elevate one faith over another. They act simply because it is the right thing to do, without promises of an eternal reward in some unearthly estate.

Pro stated that I didn't touch on the morality or philosophy of secularism. But that's the reason I brought up Sura 4:89; to illustrate that religious doctrine in many religions command their adherents to kill people for no other reason than some deity said so. Again, if my opponent is able to produce an example of a secular holy book that commands its followers to brutally kill others for something like disbelief, I'd like to see it.


As I have stated throughout this debate, secularism presents humanity with the best possible venue for providing solutions for life"s problems. My opponent is absolutely correct when he mentions that many Muslims have made enormous scientific contributions to help solve some of the answers to life"s problems. However, the primary difference between secularism and faith is that faith often demands its followers to consider doing things that are detrimental to society.

For instance, in 2009 there was a rash of killings of children suspected of being witches by Christian pastors in Nigeria [4]. Conversely, a Christian was recently murdered by a Muslim mob in the Central African Republic [5].

Are killings by Christians and Muslims exemplary of what they believe? No. The vast majority of Muslims and Christians are good people seeking to live their lives in peace. But the fact remains that adherents of both faiths abide by scriptures that openly call for killing unbelievers.

Can people use faith to commit acts of kindess? Sure. But do they do those acts out of self-preservation or eternal reward? I contend that secularists commit acts of kindness without the hope or promise of reward.

Can people use faith to make scientific discoveries? This question isn"t as easy to answer. For instance, Michael Faraday and Ulugh Beg used faith as a vehicle to make the discoveries that they did, insisting they were trying to unravel the mysteries that God left for humanity to solve. Furthermore, Ray Damadian invented the MRI machine. He also happens to be a young earth creationist [6]. Does the fact that he invented one of the greatest medical devices of all time make him right about young earth creationism? Absolutely not. It was ultimately these men's employment of reason and logic that led to their discoveries, not divine revelation. More simply, faith is not necessary for scientific discovery.

I think my refutation of Pro's objections are concise and acceptable.


Debate Round No. 3


Most of Pro's argument is what secularism does, and why we can't rely on religions, but these issues does not provide rational basis for secularism. Before arguing for (any) system, one required to show if system has a rational basis, then argue what it does or doesn't do.
If you say "I believe that reason, logic and science provide humanity with the best answers to life’s questions over any religion" then I have a right to ask for prove, if you can't or don't then your believe is irrelevant.

1. In my argument I did not argue for any religion, but Pro brought forward religious texts, but it does not prove his point of view. And in Islam homosexual tendencies are not crime or sin, but homosexual acts are sin, and it is only punishable if there are 4 (four) witnesses. And abortion is illegal after 4 months (120 days) of conception, except if there some health related problems for mother, but before 4th month it is legal depending on circumstances.

2. There are several reports why minarets were banned, and you can find them on Internet, but for the most reliable answer, you should ask to members of Swiss People's Party and Federal Democratic Union.

3. I am from Azerbaijan, if it will change anything. And it is on my profile.

4. Religious freedom can be given under any system, it does not have to be secular system. Europe is the only continent where almost no national religion survived, however for other parts of world it is not true (except the places which were colonized by Europeans, such as New Zealand, Canada, USA, Mexica, Tasmania - there are no Tasmanians left on face of Earth, thanks to British).

5. If you do not want mentally ill people to effect policy using their religion, stop voting for republicans.

6. Islam, logic and reason. Muslim scholars, who contributed to science used logic and reason because Quran tells so, and prophet said so. For example, "God created every disease, and cure for every disease, so seek for the cure," or "Seek knowledge from cradle (time you were born) until the grave (time you die)" and etc.

7. We do not need holy book to kill people, and prove is USA, as US government being secular, kills innocent people on daily basis.

8. I did not suggest that books we derive legislation is holy as holy texts of religions, but my point was every system needs the frame of reference, whether it is holy or not. And one required to prove that frame of reference has rational basis or not.

9. I read the Satanic Bible few years ago, it is good book for reading. If there is God, the all commands of God is morally good, so before saying something in Quran (or in other religious books) is immoral, you have to prove God does not exist, and before making such moral judgement, you have to show us the ontological basis for your morality, if you don't have one, then you cannot make such judgments.

10. Again, there many religious organizations helping people in bad conditions, and it is not prove for their believe, and it is not prove for secularism.

11. Let's assume Quran and Islam has no rational or moral basis, does it prove secularism, of course no (although you may find few crazy people who label themselves as evangelicals would say, it proves Christianity).

And, I again ask Pro, to provide rational basis for secularism.


I don't know what else I can say in response to Con's challenges.

In the beginning of our debate, Con laid the groundwork for what would be discussed; the philosophical aspect of secularism, morality, history of secularism, and whether or not secularism responds to human needs. Admittedly, I could have fleshed out the history of secularism better, but as for the remainder of his requirements, I feel I have sufficiently answered his challenge. So I will summarize my arguments in each of these categories.


The overall philosophy of secularism is to maintain a distance between religion and government. This is why I discussed the Wall of Separation at length. As I stated earlier, our Founders were sharply aware of the dangers of mixing religion and government. This is why The Constitution is designed the way it is; to protect believers and non-believers alike from governmental intrusion as well as government being infiltrated by religious zealots. The First Amendment protectseveryone. It protects Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Satanists, Wiccans, atheists, and agnostics. It remains neutral toward religion to the point that it makes no provision for religious testing among those who seek to serve in public office.

I don't know how much clearer I can make this argument for Con. Secularism = government - religion.

Moreover, since secularism tends to dismiss religion and, by extension, God,it embraces science and reason as the best way of solving our problems.


I'm not going to spend a lot of time arguing about this as I already pointed out, since secularism embraces science, it is therefore used to direct our moral path, even if it shows us ugly truths we'd rather not know about. Again, while most adherents of faith simply want to observe the Golden Rule and live their lives in peace, they still abide by books that openly call for deaths to others for something as personal as their sexuality. I'm not saying that Muslims or Christians would or should do such things in order to observe the Qu'ran more closely. I'm simply asking if they know that these are the commandments found in their holy writ, and it's something they disagree with, why practice it?


The history of secularism is steeped in reason, going back as far as the height of the Greco-Roman era, drawing on the intellectual influences of Epicurus [1]. More recently, however, intellectual thinkers such as Bertrand Russell, James Holyoake (who coined the term "secular"), Thomas Paine, and even the likes of James Randi, Bo Bennett, Barry Kosmin, David Niose, and the late Christopher Hitchens have advanced the cause of secularism.

Since the time of Epicurus, secularism has been used to promote reason, science, and logic without the cause or need for religion.


Again, I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this because I already illustrated how secular organizations (Doctors Without Borders, Red Cross, Amnesty International, etc.) responds to human needs.


I want to make it clear that I think my opponent is a good human being and and at no point in this discussion was I trying to infer that Islam is wholly flawed, nor was I suggesting that he should do harm to others. I simply contend that secularism is simply the best choice for advancing the cause of humanity. As I said before, secularism doesn't seek to dispel religion altogether, but it simply asks the question of whether or not it's necessary.

My opponent mentioned the fact that many Muslims have made significant contributions to science, and he is absolutely right and no one should ever take that away or even try to deny it. I simply state that those Muslims who have made those discoveries used their logic and reason to make them; their faith was only a vehicle toward those discoveries.

Finally, he made me laugh in his last response when he wrote, "If you do not want mentally ill people to effect policy using their religion, stop voting for republicans." There are many reasons why I'm no longer a Republican. The fact that they tend toward religious lunacy is only one of the dozens of reasons. I'm a registered Independent.

I thank my opponent for this debate and educating me on a few things about his faith. I wish him well and luck.


Debate Round No. 4
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by tahir.imanov 3 years ago
@comrade_most_silly_otter - science cannot be government, let alone best government. Please check the dictionary for words before making sentence. Government can (should) consult with scientists on science related issues.

And People have different ideas over secularism, therefor secularism should stay out of the picture of Politics. What kind of LOGIC is this?! Disproving religion does not prove secularism. Where were you when God gave people LOGIC?!
Posted by Comrade_Silly_Otter 3 years ago
Honestly, in my opinion a Secular Government with a focus on all humanity and Science would be the best government. Religion should stay out of the picture of Politics due to the fact that people have different beliefs over religion.

It is largely a personal matter, not a political one. You shouldn't force it on the citizens.
Posted by tahir.imanov 3 years ago
(Actually) pro should had post (first) argument. (But) it doesn't matter. I will post first.
Posted by Cygnus 3 years ago
Rather, I happily accept Con's challenge.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Cermank 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: An interesting debate. Would have been netter had Con shared the burden of proof, and not spent a majority of debate trying to rebutt. A few of the rebuttals were on point (specially to the 'perfect shade of gray' argument and the 'secularism does not kill' argument), but overall it was just a blip to the rather convincing arguments of Pro. Pro successfully pointed out that even though both forms of government followed a text, one of the text was based on reasoning AND was subject to change- based on the aforementioned logic. Pro had better conduct, was less snappy and used better sources.