Being secular is being non-religious, that is, not belonging to a religious order or congregation.
Secularism is defined as rejecting religion.
What's wrong with religion?
Each of the major religions was created hundreds or thousands of years ago, when humans were largely ignorant of how the world worked, that is, the laws of nature and science.
Those religions were founded and still operate on the principle that men are superior to women and that all of the other species on Earth exist to support human desires.
Much of the conflict and violence in the world is linked to religion, for example:
Christians vs. Muslims
Muslims vs. Jews
Hindus vs. Muslims
Even within religions, there is much conflict:
Within Christianity, Protestants vs. Catholics.
Within Islam, Shiites vs. Sunnis.
Each religion believes in a supernatural god or gods that can and/or do interfere in the daily lives of humans.
There is no tangible evidence that such gods exist and to believe in such beings undermines the need for humans to take proper responsibility for their actions, individually and collectively.
Although more than 75% of the world's population belongs to one of the major religions, after thousands of years of religious practice we have more than a billion people who:
Lack access to clean water.
Don't have enough to eat on a daily basis.
Lack basic sanitation facilities.
In addition, half the world's population does not have access to basic healthcare services.
Religion offers no solutions for these problems and the biggest threat to humanity, climate change.
In general, the most secular countries have the highest standards of living, the least violence and the highest levels of happiness.
The challenge for secularism
For many people, religion does provide a sense of community and a source of consolation when a great loss occurs in their lives.
If secularism is to replace religion, it will have to provide those same benefits.
It is therefore important that secularists come together to provide that same sense of community and support for its members.
Four keys to providing a sense of community
Membership - having a sense of belonging and a personal investment in the group.
Building trust - people must know and be able to depend on what they can expect from each other in the community.
The community must offer something of value that its members want.
There is a common bond, an emotional connection between members.
Religion vs. secularism
Religion depends largely on faith, an unquestioning belief in the spiritual, suspending logic and reason.
Secularism relies on the laws of science, proven facts and the use of reason to decide the correct path forward.
Most religions emphasize an afterlife, that is, no matter how bad a person's life is, they will be better off in the afterlife (when they're dead). Secularism believes that the life a person is living now is what is most important and that people should have the resources and opportunity to make that life a happy one.
Living a secular life - basic principles
The universe is governed by one overarching set of laws, the laws of nature and science.
The human community, whose existence is subject to those laws, needs to respect and preserve the environment that nature has bestowed, or threaten the existence of humanity and the other species with which we share our planet.
Within the human community, if we are to consider our societies to be civilized, each person must be acknowledged as having a set of basic rights.
An individual's basic rights
The right to life and liberty, liberty being the freedom to do that which injures neither another person nor the environment.
The right to be happy.
Freedom from discrimination based on race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religious or other personal beliefs, nationality or social origin.
No human being shall be held in slavery or servitude.
The right to live in a free and open society with the right to vote, free speech, a basic education, affordable healthcare, clean air, water and proper sanitation.
Because children represent our future and because of their lack of maturity, they require special safeguards and care. Children, defined as those humans under 18 years of age, should be afforded the following protections:
The right to know and be cared for by their parents.
While acknowledging the rights and responsibilities of parents, children are not the property of their parents. Where a parent's personal beliefs or actions are contrary to the health and well-being of the child, the child's well-being takes precedence.
Children have the right to form and express their own ideas in the same manner as adults.
Code of conduct
We cannot command people; people have free will and will make their own decisions as to what they will do. However, people must also be held accountable for the consequences of their actions.
We do not need religion for morality; as a society, we are fully capable of agreeing on a basic set of precepts that form the basis of a common moral code that all should follow, and as a foundation for a set of laws that society puts in place.
12 basic moral precepts
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (the Golden Rule).
We should all have the freedom to choose our actions, but we also bear the responsibility for the consequences of the actions that we take.
The unending chase for the acquisition of more and more material goods is a fool's errand. Love and friendship are the true foundations of happiness and the key to the positive interactions necessary to provide peace and tranquility within and across societies.
An individual has but one life to live and should strive for happiness in that life, built on positive relationships with others and a continual sense of joy at the wonders that nature has to offer.
Do not allow yourself to be blindly led by others. Question everything and use your own reasoning based on fact and your life experiences to decide what is right.
Do not discriminate against others based on sex, race, culture, sexual orientation, religion, social origin or personal beliefs.
Respect the rights of others to hold opinions that differ from your own.
Stand against violence and be ready to defend those who are subjected to violence.
Treat the environment and nature with respect and be active in preventing harm that would jeopardize future generations' ability to enjoy nature's beauty and bounty.
As our future, children must be properly nurtured and educated so they can assume their rightful place in society when they come of age.
A person who is able should earn their way through life and not feed selfishly on the efforts of others.
A person's opportunity for happiness should not be limited by the circumstances into which they were born and it is the obligation of society, as a whole, to ensure that each person has an opportunity to reach their full potential as a contributing member of their community.
The word virtue means moral excellence.
Virtures are positive traits considered inherent in good people.
To aspire to be virtuous means to strive to achieve the potential for good that humanity, at its best, represents.
List of virtues
Each of the following virtues, which are interrelated and overlap, represents a different aspect of what sums to be the ideal of the virtuous self:
Politeness - being courteous toward others.
Prudence - thinking before you act.
Courage - to do the right thing.
Justice - ensuring that everyone is treated fairly and receives their proper share of life's benefits.
Generosity - giving something of yourself to others, something that has value and is something others lack.
Compassion - a feeling of concern for the suffering of others.
Mercy - forgiveness. When you show mercy, you put aside hate and vengence.
Gratitude - being grateful for the positive in our lives, the things we have and the benefits we receive.
Humility - an acknowledgement of our own limits.
Tolerance - our capacity to respect other people's opinions, practices and beliefs.
Love - the affection we feel for one another, providing a personal level of care and kindness.
Honesty - being truthful, sincere and trustworthy.
Self-Discipline - the ability to control one's anger, properly channeling passion and thinking before responding to impulses.
Curiosity - it is curiosity that drives our ability to learn, providing an antidote for ignorance and countering the dangers posed by blind faith.
Skepticism - going hand-in-hand with curiosity, it is our filter, the check in helping us evaluate which information is actually worthy of consideration and belief.
The value of art, music & culture
Art is a human activity or product in visual form, which is intended to express ideas, trigger emotions or communicate a sense of beauty.
Music, whose intended expressions parallel those of art, are auditory instead of visual, although participation in musical activities often involves a visual component.
Culture is a combination of art, music, other forms of expression and the customs and beliefs of a people.
Art and music often speak to us in ways that are difficult to express in words, which is why they are so powerful and important to us as human beings.
Art and music help to educate, about life and our history. Images can be particularly important in helping to explain difficult concepts.
Art and music are part of our histories and cultures, helping to explain who we are, what we've done and where we're going. They are, in many ways, the best expression of who we are.
Art and music can also be therapeutic and the field of art therapy is a recognized form of treatment for people needing to find relief from trauma and other personal crises.
Art and music can also be valuable tools for promoting a greater sense of community.
Art and music are part of our collective culture, but culture embraces far more, including our clothing, our celebrations and our languages.
As part of building our communities, we need to embrace and celebrate the diverse cultures represented within and outside of our community boundaries.
By integrating art, music, food and other cultural components as a regular part of community celebrations and observances, our sense of community is encouraged and strengthened.
Preserving our home - the environment and climate change
The Earth is our home; we have no other.
Human activities have been and continue to devastate our planet:
The burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) is causing climate change, leading to more intense storms and drought and rising sea levels.
The destruction and crowding out of habitats resulting from human population growth are causing plant and animal species to experience extinctions at 1,000 times the normal rate.
Religion, based on ancient texts, has few if any answers for these problems.
A unified, secular, worldwide effort is the best option for addressing these challenges.
Secularism & democracy
Democracy, generally defined as rule by the majority, is widely acknowledged to be the only legitimate form of government.
Democracies are more likely to provide an environment that is supportive of an individual's inherent right to achieve happiness in their lives.
Democracies have been shown to register the highest level of happiness for their people than other forms of government.
The most democratic and secular societies tend to be not only the happiest but the most affluent, best educated and least violent.
Democracies rarely fight other democracies. Therefore, the more governments that are democratic, the fewer wars that are likely to occur.
A move to secularism would resolve much of the conflict and violence stemming from different religious beliefs.
One can lead a happy, meaningful life without the need of religion.
A move away from religion toward secularism would remove significant barriers between people, help unite the human population and enable it to better address major problems such as poverty and climate change.
Democracy, coupled with secularism, would lead to greater overall happiness and prosperity across the globe.