What it means to be secular


In our time that is unnerved by any hint of life beyond the physical, the term “secular” has changed definition. It now means: completely removed from religion, based in materialism and the related arguments and nothing else.

Originally it meant something far more benign, which was “you don’t need religion to appreciate this.” That in turn implied a dual character to what was being discussed: it could be derived through physical means or metaphysical ones. It was not limited to one of the two ways of viewing reality.

As a parallelist, I see the material and the metaphysical as existing in a sort of unison. That is, the metaphysical includes the physical in a type of system we call monism. This means that whatever is ideal according to metaphysical means can also be derived with materialist means and the same truth will be reached. All that is required is honesty.

Perhaps it is time to recapture this word “secular.” It does not mean throw your religion away at the door. Rather, it means that you can get there with religion, or without, but the same logic, common sense, honesty and realism that get you any correct answer will get you there in either a metaphysical or physical context.

Here’s a great example of secular thinking:

I still believe that the ideas I espoused in my first post are self-evident and true regardless of religion, that they are based on reality and are thus immutable, but I found that the Bible is an incredibly realistic text. A lot of the platitudes that people had been parroting at me over the years — and that I foolishly took to be real Christianity — were, at best, misunderstandings of Scripture and, at worst, willful misrepresentations meant for personal gain.

I have traveled various paths to get here: atheism, paganism, occultism. What I discovered about these various paths and about secularism is that they all have “self” at the center. When you’re praying to a god in a pantheon or when you disavow God altogether, you’ve put yourself and your wants at the center of your universe. We can’t all be the center of the universe. It’s no wonder we can’t all agree on common goals.

While many in the Traditionalist community want to base the practice in religion alone, in my view (and that of others) this is a mistake.

Nothing in religion contradicts reality.

What we need is logical, clear and realistic thought. It will be compatible with both sides of the human perception coin.

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28 Responses to “What it means to be secular”

  1. “Secular” in the Catholic lexicon means simply of the world, vis-a-vis the monastic life. Non-monastic priests are therefore properly called “Secular Priests”, tho’ less commonly today due to the influence of the dominant Protestant lexicon, which sees “secular” more as an antonym for “sacred”.

    “Nothing in religion contradicts reality.”

    Amen to that. One of them would have to be wrong.

  2. Wild says:

    If one desires “secularist types” to become open again to metaphysical thinking, the inverse should be desired as well. That is, the grounding of religion in that which is real, as opposed to that which is fantastical.

    At some point, religion moved from a heightening of human expression to an attempt to be a mental replacement for the real world. This probably was a large factor in the splitting of hermeticism into materialism and religion, which in turn try to oppress each other.

    Also, we all know “Nothing in religion contradicts reality.” is an absurd statement. I don’t think anyone here would assert that “JESUS DIED FOR YOUR SINS!” is an accurate statement, for one.

    (Unless your point was that there is no inherent “unreal” aspect to religious-type thinking, which is distinct, but one I’m still skeptical about.)

  3. Repair_Man_Jack says:

    I think people should learn to be both secular and religious. They should be each at the appropriate time. St. Stephen The Martyr could tell me very little about selecting an appropriate p-value for a difference of means test. Likewise Neil Tyson DeGrasse is undoubtibly ignorant as to the hows, whys and wherefores of the creation of the universe.

    People are generally bright enough not consult St. Jude on how to best write code to execute a Fast-Fourier Transform in a real-time computing environment. Why, oh why are we dumb enough to believe Carl Sagan knew dick about the cosmos?

    • Sagan produced a brilliant mystique. It made the cosmos seem like a frontier, which excited people. But that’s a great point about using the right tool for the job.

    • Wild says:

      “How” is a question that science is in the process of answering. No religion has ever attempted to answer it with anything approaching careful discourse.

      I am continually baffled as to why religious-minded people get away with denigrating the only people who have ever provided any objective study of the cosmos. If it weren’t for them, you’d still be saying the universe was created in 7 days, snakes talk, and you’d be off burning men at the stake for telling you the Earth actually orbits the Sun.

      Show some appreciation.

      • Repair_Man_Jack says:

        The how is a question that science is laughably bad at asnwering. They have yet to describe a “Big Bang” that is anywhere in the realm of physical possibility in accordance with science’s very own 3 laws of thermodynamics. Call me back when they get any more logical than the snake-handlers.

        • Wild says:

          Science does not presume definite knowledge, ever, of anything. The process of decoding how the universe formed is understandably difficult.

          Sitting back and expecting to be spoon-fed an answer “This is how the universe formed” is the sign of a religious mind.

          If you’re genuinely curious, Lawrence Krauss has put forward a hypothesis that quantum fluctuations, in “empty” space, are capable of producing an explosion of material, with verifiable mathematics that confirm that possibility. Of course, there are a whole number of antecedent questions that arise from that, but it is the beginning of an attempt to unravel the truth of the cosmos.

          “God created the universe in 7 days” is beyond a useless statement. Religion is strictly inferior to science in answering “How”.

          • Repair_Man_Jack says:

            Please. Modern Science is an extention of Modern Cultural and Political war. It’s no more about the truth than a Presidential Debate. It’s at least as faith-based as the snake-handlers I made fun of in my prior post.
            It’s about bullying people with “settled science” and “intellectual superiority” rather than making th eworld a better place. It is about enslaving humanity rather than serving humanity. Scientism is its own religion. I think it will holding a mass over at Harvard University sometime soon.

            • LoreTek says:

              Sad isn’t it? It used to be such a noble thing.

              • Repair_Man_Jack says:


                And it only gets worse. There’s a guy at Stanford U who actually makes a fulltime living doing nothing but debunking imaginary, faith-based science.

                You can go to http://retractionwatch.com/ and see them lying in real-time.

                • LoreTek says:

                  At least some studies are being retracted for dishonesty, that’s hopeful! Shocking how many there are. Sickening even.

                  I can tell you right now as a graduating biology major (my peers are the future writers of these studies), they do NOT teach you the difference between classic and modern science. I only had one professor talk about being wary of studies and to be mindful that it may be a case of only a minority, or of only certain conclusions, being published – he was tenured, as most of the classical science class professors were as well.

                  The classes you have to take slowly change from classic to modern in ideology, so it’s like watching paint dry.
                  Most people don’t notice that their love of science has been made into a love of deceit. Tossing your square hat in joy at the “end of education” ritual just seals the deal.

                  It is truly an indoctrination, college is. I could barely go a week in certain classes without a professor using a scientific fact to “prove” that we are all equal, we are born with equal ability, that “much” – hate that word – of the animal world is altruistic, that humans are the only spiteful ones, or my favorite, that “many” – another word that does not belong in science – animal species have “natural” homosexuality.

                  They use much, many, and most as logical fallacies that would mean a majority normally, when they are in fact talking about “some”, a minority, and even that is pushing it for the number of examples of these things available.
                  “Here is an example of a dolphin taking in an abandoned whale calf, it shows that much of the natural world is altruistic” – no it shows that one dolphin pod acted altruistically for an unknown reason, or were simply confused – not most, not much, not many, just one.

                  After my classic science classes ended after the first semester of junior year, I stopped going to most classes, in order to literally save my mind from the poison. GPA went from a 3.8 to a 2.98 all from attendance and busy work grades while my testing stayed consistent – the real price you must pay to stay whole in college.

                  Indoctrinate and succeed, refuse and we will fail you, your performance is meaningless – Ut prosim: so that I may serve … Another prime example of modern cultism.

                  By the way, I read what you said as, the sheer number of fraudulent studies is the “it gets worse”, the guy debunking them is good, and you can watch the lying studies come in, in real time – as apposed to the linked site doing the lying. Correct?

          • LoreTek says:

            Luckily you are able to see science for what it is and have a mind for it. Unfortunately most people actually believe it as it is fed to them.

            The true spirit of science never believes what if finds, it only takes it as a place holder until it proves it wrong. It never leans on it for “importance” past simple inquiry.

            Religion simply believes the what and leaves science to fumble through the why. As the what is the truly important part.

            The great civilizations of old were built on religious “what” and rose and fell thinking the sun revolved around them. Don’t forget religion is what got us to math and then science.

            It deserves some appreciation to.

          • Well, religion is not intended to answer ‘how’. The Bible is not a history book nor a physics book. God could have included EVERYTHING in there, but how many generations of Jews would it take to put it into scripture? Religion is there to answer four fundamental questions.

            That is, what was there before the natural world, what is our purpose in the natural world, what is right and wrong in the natural world, and what will happen after the natural world. Science can never give you these answers. Its why all godless states are morally bankrupt. You don’t find that its wrong to shoot a baby in the head at the bottom of a test tube. Science is undoubtedly useful, as is mathematics. But it is important to recognize that without theology to answer the most important questions, all their theorizing is ultimately useless. You can know all the calculations you want, but if you do not know your purpose in this world, how can you really know yourself?

      • LoreTek says:

        I see a stark difference between classic science that wondered how and modern science that says how. Like wondering how water moved up a tree, or how salmon spawned in the same river they were reared in, or how some peas were wrinkled and other smooth. Most modern science is so far away from “approaching careful discourse” it is laughable.

        I’m not a religious nut by any means, but I’ll take the spirit of creation rippled over the waters of the universe, to everything came together really fast and then exploded even faster and then kind of doesn’t move, or each galaxy is between two giant Tesla plates, any day.

        Science was deserving of appreciation when it was science, now it is no different from the talking snakes and deserves the same kind of scrutiny as to if they are interpreting what they are seeing/reading correctly or not. They are mostly not. Outside of theoretical science it is all just fixed experiments to support products – leaving very little to appreciate anyway.

      • crow says:

        You rage and exhibit outrage at something you do not understand.
        You do not understand it because you demand it fit your personal worldview. But it will never do that, because your worldview insists on the cosmos being reducible to neatly-ordered comprehension by your own intellect.
        The metaphysical is ungraspable by intellect. Wrong tool for the job. If you have any hope of understanding this thing that enrages you, you must first learn to suspend your intellect, your flawed logic, and your sense of importance.

        • Wild says:

          There wasn’t any “raging” here, crow.

          What it was, was an attempt to defend Western scientific achievements against those who display no understanding of their importance.

          My worldview is of a fondness for truth.

          • crow says:

            Hmmm. Maybe you have a forceful and irreverent manner.
            You seem often to become upset at the religious and/or metaphysical. Only you would know why.
            The problem with science is not that it is science, but that it has become more and more self-reverential, over time.
            This has also befallen Christianity, but in that case, it took centuries, whereas it has taken science almost no time at all to go from serving humanity, to having humanity serve it.

            Try to see yourself as an amoeba, regarding the whole planet, imagining it is able to ‘understand’ the planetary ecosystems. Do you imagine an amoeba would, or could, understand this vastly bigger and more complex thing than it itself is?
            Which is a lot like a human imagining he can understand the cosmos, and its workings. Unlikely.
            Metaphysics takes as its baseline that the whole creation is what it is. End of story. No need to wonder how. Just to know it is. Then get on with maximizing one’s alive-time, while remembering the importance of gratitude for ever finding oneself in this unlikely situation to begin with.

            The cosmos doesn’t care what a scientist thinks of it.
            It doesn’t give a toss about anyone’s intellect.

            • It’s hubris to assume our intellect is superior to the ways of the cosmos.

              Religion and science are in parallel. Unfortunately, both are in the hands of humans, who too easily believe their intellects outweigh the order of the universe.

              • crow says:

                It would be a no-brainer, if the order of the universe was able to be clearly seen by human senses. But that is not the case, for as long as intellect and opinion are exalted above all else.

              • LoreTek says:

                I really like the term of parallelism. It describes what I feel very well. I have faith that eventually science will fumble its way towards that truth.

                You are right hubris controls the mind of the intellectual. I’ll admit that when I first joined this site, I was raging against religion for being wrong. I was raging against Conservatism for saying it wasn’t. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be accepted if I didn’t go to church or if I genuinely enjoyed science. It took a long time and much internal honesty to realize that they backed each other up.

                Perhaps the most exiting time in my trek was realizing that religion and science were describing the same thing. I felt an overwhelming sense of oneness when I saw that I could see the truth in both of them, and what I was really raging against was that modern people seemingly could not.

                I find it truly disturbing that people make a living debunking religion with science and vice-versa. My goal has become to bring that same peace of mind to this dual world that is at odds with itself. However, I fear that world moves at too fast a pace for such eloquence.

                • I think it was a Canadian philosopher who said, “I think when physicists and biologists finally reach the top of the mountain of knowledge, worn out and breathing heavily… they’ll find a bunch of theologians saying “what took you so long?” “

    • LoreTek says:

      “I think people should learn to be both secular and religious.”

      Can you explain this more? I’m honestly curious.
      Wouldn’t the original definition of secular, and being honest, entail that you recognize the dual character and would apply physical or metaphysical as required? Or do you mean that some things are not monist, and require people to both see the dual nature and be religious? You see what I mean?

      I’m not trying to nitpick, only explain my initial confusion, wouldn’t someone need to be materialistic and religions in “parallel” to truly be the original definition of secular?

      • Repair_Man_Jack says:

        Fair enough. There are things that required an almost hard determinism to do right. You either pass the evidence test or you suck. It’s A or B.

        There are other things in life where you have to make a leap of faith. You still have to intellectually function absent hard data and a mathematically constraining criterion to help make the process automatic. Then you can’t be secular or you fail to grasp the nuance beyond a very limited point of view.

        The trick to being secular and religious is to be capable of both types of disciplined thinking at the appropriate time and place for each.

  4. LoreTek says:

    This may be one the most difficult things to explain to people. They are all on a single “path” and they know that they are right – they live in a 2D world of sorts, unable to see/feel/hear the depth and connections between all things physical and metaphysical. To a strict atheist you are stupid and they are “awake”, to a “church only” religious person you are blasphemous. In my mind, that atheist is stupid and that religious person is blasphemous.

    The atheist has thought past religion but stopped so short and the religious person never stopped to ask if what they were told to believe was what the religion really intended. So I end up disregarding most people in this world – very frustrating to say the least.

    I recognized something similar to the quoted example as well. Most modern followings are all about empowering/relieving yourself, or you are unknowingly empowering the leader. For example I see the Protestant reformation as the former in retaliation to Catholicism becoming the latter shortly after its inception. I was raised Catholic but shuttered at the occultist happenings and affirmations of “truth”, and never liked the other options because they were allowed to do whatever they wanted; they taught the deal was already sealed and they were “saved” at the door – but if you read the Bible you get something completely different from both Churches. If you read it with a side by side Latin translation, you get something even more different – you get something very real feeling, I recommend everyone do this for at least Genesis.

    The self-empowering to empower the leader model carries over into many things, maybe even most. Businesses that get masses of people to be their sales reps by calling them IBO (Individual Business Owners) and having big loud conferences that get people exiting about using their “hidden powers of success” IF they learn to be coach-able and follow their path.
    Hollywood is also similar in the way they treat actors – give up your morals/senses, do what we tell you to the T, and we will make you rich.
    I have little insight, but I’m sure occultism follows a very similar path – do what we say and you will gain said power.

    I have also noticed they all have the same structure to their “Path”. Most of them use knowledge of logical fallacy as their tool of power over people – they take advantage of the knowledge that people live in the “2D” world, and use logical fallacy to deceive them; as the majority of people are ignorant to it, even if they’ve learned about it for argumentative uses. Promise the people their fantasies, and you have the world in your hand.

    It is a weird, weird, world out there once you start to see how simple and similar it all is. I feel secular has a sort of “read everything, believe nothing” type feel to it. Important because once you’ve done it long enough things become readily clear. The reality becomes immediately recognizable in whatever may be in front of you, and the rest can be lumped together for whatever you need to do with it – toss, analyze, reform so the person understand, ignore, etc.

    It is your knife to fillet away the scales of perception and get to the meat of what is. What is, is usually beautiful and simple even in its complexity and has just been butchered by a dull knife. Like I do with my comments :)

    • Toby says:

      Butchered or not, this is a great comment. I also appreciate the “read everything, believe nothing” statement – I had been trying to figure out how to put into words this exact thing, and you hit it for me (now that I think about it, I guess I have seen this or something similar before, but forgot about it.) And it does seem that eventually it all gets simply clear, what at one time seemed so confusing and complicated. Good stuff you wrote here.