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Seminar CHURCH AND POLITICS ( PROMETHEUS Society. On November 7,1998 )
THESES OF MAIN REPORTS.
1.The essence and aims of contemporary clericalism ( by J. Čelko )
2.Preparing the basic treaty (= BT) of Slovak republic and Vartican makes foundations for re- catholicising Slovak republic. ( by P. Prusák )
3.The issue of secularisation, humanism and religion in the contemporary world. (by B. Kvasnička )
1.The essence and aims ofcontemporary clericalism ( by J. Čelko )
The attempts to dominate over the State policy - defended by theologians- have deep historical roots . Melting altar of religion and throne of secular power after the rise of Christianity was completed by emperor Constantine the Great, which meant a purposeful coalescence of the secular and church power aiming at a better dominance over the strata of population. Similarly in the time of feudalism the church was entirely engaged in support of governing powers, reciprocated by non-precedent rights. ( among others the right of pope to decide about the emperors ). After the starting restrained relations of church towards the upcoming capitalism also in these relations a complete mutual support was established . The interventions of church into the secular State policy had to be substantiated also by a doctrine, which has been construed during centuries. This doctrine associating everything with god had to induce divine elements into the teaching of church about relations of god and humans. god and history, god and church , substantiating thus the right of church to interfere in the secular life. At present it is necessary to mention from some of such ideological streams also Christocentrism, which is often manifested in the concept of church policy by pope and by some of Slovak Catholic bishops. In this process of construing theoretical foundations to church for domination over people a „deification of church itself" came about, which created a basis for theoretical justification enabling in a very flexible way to substantiate theoretically the claims of church to power ( alongside with wealth ). The whole of these theoretical foundations enabled also to formulate flexibly the demands of church and its interference ( supposed that these theoretical prerequisites are based on exclusive faith which is never allowed to be exposed to any criticism or doubts based on reason .) Secular humanism on the other hand is based on scientific knowledge, overcoming any mysticism, considering the moral behaviour of humans as being derived from own power of thinking and conscience. Values such as morals are not judged isolated from their social and economic influences. All that bears the purpose to reach for humanity not to be just an object of politics, namely a toy in the hands of those who derive their powers from supernatural sources, but to make humans a subject of politics and have them shape the meaning of their own existence and deeds.
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2.Preparing the basic treaty (= BT ) of Slovak republic and Vartican makes foundations for re catholicising Slovak republic. ( by P. Prusák )
The political powers of SR decided to prepare the BT with exclusion of public, without any WITHOUT discussions or consultations with citizens , making thus the document to be not legible or not controllable . It is being prepared in closed cabinets. The legal system is violated . First a systemic legal provision to guarantee equal rights to all churches should have been accepted. The BT violates also the principle of neutral status of the State authority and the equal rights of all citizens as declared by the article 1. of Slovak Constitution.. The philosophy and sources of BT :
1.) Admitting solely Christian traditions ( especially Cyril-Methodian ones. )
2.) The principle of preferring majority, namely the fact that Catholics make up about 63 % of total population of Slovak republic.
3.) The spiritual and moral criteria are based on supposition that solely the teachings of Catholic church are guarantee of morality.
4.) The Canonical law and the social teaching of Catholic church are made basic principles of the treaty.
These ideological criteria suggest that the BT does not follow the aim of a
workable democratic State system and civil society. Therewith it is contrary to the
Slovak Constitution- the 1-st article of which reads: „Slovak republic is a
sovereign , democratic and law abiding State . It is not linked to any
ideology , nor religion..". The BT should secure for the Catholic church an
extraordinary position ( advantages and privileges ). The BT got an one-sided
asymmetrical character and puts the Slovak republic in a position of one-sided
vassalage. The legal freedom of thought , and conscience it is to be
replaced by Catholic indoctrination, Catholic religious teachings
and morals. The danger of Catholic church hegemony threatens.
This treaty (like any other treaties) should be respectful of the neutral position of the State concerning life stance and the democratic character of the State., which are anchored in the Constitution.
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3.The issue of secularisation, humanism and religion in the contemporary world. ( by B. Kvasnička )
In modern society a process of secularisation is under way. - as a natural
development , which bears of course some contradictory features. In Slovak republic,
in conditions after 1989 is this process probably more subject to stagnation ,
or even regression.. Secularisation covers approximately one fourth of population.
In younger age groups is this proportion probably higher. The core of this
contribution aims at answering the question what can secular humanism offer to
contemporary people. In the author's opinion the following points should
-Rational scientific explanation, awareness of the position of human beings and his/her vocation in this society.
-To be defenders and initiators of co-operation between people of different life stance., especially in issues of basic human problems- as far as we find the common language.
- To show that a principal position in life stance does not exclude tolerance.
-To consider after analysing historical experience and the contemporary conditions the idea of a dialogue between people of different life stance in order to develop humanisation in the life of individuals, and the whole.
- To shape a real image of secular humanism on the grounds of personal behaviour and show its aims , helping thus its propagation in our society.
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Communiqué November 7, 1998.
On Saturday November 7, 1998. a seminar on "CHURCH AND POLITICS" with participants from the whole country took place in Bratislava. Its organisers were PROMETHEUS SOCIETY, which is a civil association of adherents to materialist life stance and secular humanism
On the grounds of building a civil society based on democracy and freedom, pluralism and tolerance -the participants have evaluated the current state of rights of every citizen to have his/ her own opinion, as well as guarantees , that they would not be discriminated against for their declaring it. Special attention was paid to the treaty between the Slovak republic and Vatican which is being prepared. In this connection the participants asked the leadership of PROMETHEUS SOCIETY to submit to the government of Slovak republic and to the National Council of Slovak republic a position according to which this treaty should be fully respectful of freedom of conscience, thought and belief of all citizens in accordance with the Constitution of Slovak republic and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. At the same time it is asked, that the said treaty be given to public discussion before its acceptance by the National Council of Slovak republic.
Participants PROMETHEUS SOCIETY central council , Bratislava
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The foundations and aims of contemporary clericalism( by J. Čelko )
The church, the society and the distorted image. .
Ideas of church about itself and abou the politics.
Links between politics and religion are a reality. Their history is impressive. They belonged to undeniable elements of events as early as in remote Antiquity. The religion played an important part in struggles for power . In the Old Testament one can see as well, exploiting religion as an efficient instrument in efforts to dominate over the public life in the ancient Jewish nation either on the part of hierarchic priests, or of particular social and religious streams, the Seduces, Pharisees , or Essenians
Christianity with its manifold links to Jewish traditions , simultaneously absorbing elements of other cultures prevailing in the that-time Roman Empire as early as in its starting period of organisation and build-up - gets necessarily in touch with political events. The first centuries of this era were from this point of view full of vacillations, which were manifested by the fact that Christians were tolerated , even esteemed by some of the rulers , and persecuted on the part of others .Despite it, or perhaps just due to it Christianity became gradually homogenised, its organisation was strengthened and its material basis expanded. It was important that under the disguise of religion it built up an ideological and political platform which was more suitable to ruling powers than the rest of religions in Roman Empire. This reality was fully appreciated by emperor Constantine the Great, who - as church historian J. Špirko has written - joined the forces of Christianity with building up his rule and made of Christian church a strong pillar of his empire. Since the fourth century it became the main religion and since 380 AD - as this church historian asserts- it became the only public religion in Roman Empire.
This joining of throne and altar came about just in the period of collapsing Roman Empire.. At the end of the Fourth century the Empire was divided into West- Roman and East- Roman empires . Under the pressure of internal and external forces the West -Roman Empire dissolved . On the first sight one could have supposed that with the demise of secular power the western branch of Christianity could have been shaken or even collapsed . Due to many acting factors , which are well- known, the church not only survived the great historical shake-ups, but it build up gradually its strong position. And as a centralised organisation the church could interfere in processes connected with the onset and development of the feudal system.. The same was true as concerns the „small" and „big" politics.- As an example one can mention the exclusive right of popes to decide on emperors of the „Saint Roman Empire of German Nation", which lasted for several centuries. In the feudal époque an unequivocal symbiosis of secular rulers and church came about, which is among others confirmed by the edict of Gregory X. : If the task of those, who rule the State is to protect the rights and independence of church, it is then the task of those in the hands of whose is the ruling of church to do everything in order to have the kings and princes carry out their sovereign might.
The Catholic church as regards its attitude in the feudal system, took a hostile position against the efforts of bourgeoisie to install the capitalist system.. It took a long time till it found the common language with ruling powers of capitalist society. But finally this happened when the church construed „ the social teaching" of popes, its contemporary theory of the society, and found appropriate ways how to interfere into political issues in the framework of capitalism.
Sometimes one can hear opinions, that if the church „makes politics" it makes it contrary to its essence and its mission . But this is a basic misunderstanding of the whole problem. It is necessary to have a look how the church itself views its relation to politics.
The church, the society and the distorted image..
According to religious view, the whole universe is a creation of supernatural powers. They have build up with great plasticity the image of world's creation (among others the ancient Yews ), - it has been anchored in the Old Testament, which was taken over as the „ideological armament" by Christianity. The supernatural god- as it is said in the first part of Pentateuch and in the Old Testament in general - made from the dirt of the earth a man and inspired into his nostrils the breath of life. And so the man became a living being. He accommodated him in the paradise- Eden, in order to have him cultivate it and watch it . Shortly the god came to know that it is not good for the man to be alone. And he made a helping creature for him, which would be similar to him. The technological procedure, chosen by god at that occasion is similarly described in the book of Genesis. We have no room to go into details. But one cannot omit the fact that at the description of these first events of creation , a principle of inequity has been formulated . As far as the creation of man is depicted , the masculine human species itself is meant, but in the relation to woman , it was just a creature similar to man, which should not be an equal partner to him, but only a helper. And this construction of ideas became the basis , on which the opinions and tendencies of three millennia stand , and which mean a degrading position of woman in society.
In the light of attainments of science, which expand ever more, many people consider the myth of Adam's creation obsolete. But the Jews and the Christians including Catholics still adopt it. Their view is far from being just an anachronism, but it is a permanent up- dating , which has a premeditated purpose. The theological explanation of creating humans and the ensuing human race enables the religious organisations, including the Catholic church , to project the nature of the human society in a distorted mirror .
According to Bible the universe and everything connected with it has its roots in supernatural origin , everything consists in „divine" might .Subject to God are according to theologians, the nature and the human society. In this aspect a vast number of constructed ideas exist - known under the notion of „theocentrism".
One of its important features is the theological interpretation of the society - of its
origin, nature and development. According to theology, everything which is connected
with humans, and society is a manifestation of supernatural force, of a direct or
indirect action of God. In Christianity and in particular in Catholicism it is a God
personalised in His Trinity , and a great part is ascribed to Jesus Christ. The
views conceived in this direction constitute the „Christocentrism" Its
active promulgator is also the pope John Paul II . ,
whose ideas are in Slovakia vehemently propagated. For instance
cardinal J. Ch. Korec in his speech delivered to students in Trenčín in 1991
said: „Christ did not terminate his life and work on the cross. We carry
on his life and work. We materialise Christ the King in our
We materialise his kingdom in the 20- th century... Everything serves him and his work. Everything takes part in accomplishing his plans, everything materialises them. Christ the King is the centre -ontological , substantial centre of everything in the universe, everything is done according to him, and according to his plans. Everything which exists is to fulfil some task in the plan of the Kingdom of Christ."
Christianity in connection with many views which were appropriated and adapted has formulated its philosophy on the history. The author J. Špirko in his work „ The history of Church" comments in this matter: „ The Christian insight concerning history as it was first time formulated by Saint August in his work : „De Civitate Dei" considers it a struggle between good and evil, the kingdom of God and Satan, which permanently fight each other .The struggle started by Adam downfall and culminated by redeeming and founding the Divine Kingdom and will end on the doomsday and transition of time into infinity, when all problems will be resolved definitely. If one speaks about earthly empires they consider it just manifestations of supernatural power, which creates or negates the existence of the world, humans and society. Theologians simply do not take into account any purposeful activities done by man , based on acquired knowledge on the laws regulating the nature and the society. According to them God is the only and unlimited power in the hands of whom is the history. Mystification of history makes use ofôfof of many factors. Among these are also views about the relation God - human beings. Theology maintains the primary existence of God and the dependence of man on him. The Catholic journal „Spiritual shepherd" in 1978 wrote: „Lord is the power of every call. The man is only an instrument in the hands of God." Alojz Martinec in „Catholic News" in 1992 wrote : „According to the divine plan every human received his plan and attitude, on that basis he should accomplish the will of God and acquire merits for eternal life .It holds true for each individual and for the human community, that the contract , concluded by Lord and them has to be fulfilled" .
It should be noted that the relation God -man is presented in varied modifications.. Often this is presented as something based on a kind of „consanguinity", or on a mutual contract. In other instances as a kind of reflection of God within the man , which can have varied dimensions.- starting from „democratic ones" and ending with total dependence of man on god. An interesting construction in this aspect was formulated by a Czech Catholic author D. Pecka, who wrote: „The proper grandeur and misery of man manifest itself in his relation to God. The man is similar to God. But he is also dissimilar . He is similar like the outlines of a humming- bird egg to an ellipse in which the earth circulate around the sun. It is a similarity , but also dissimilarity. the manman man resembles existence.. But the only real, proper , unconditioned existence is God. The human existence compared with divine existence is more non- existence, it is nothing." (No need to comment .)
In varied church essays, or materials meant as instruction for practical behaviour often the human free will is mentioned. God in his infinite goodness gave to man something from himself - free will . ( if we take in consideration the just mentioned opinions of D. Pecka. - it was not too much). Outwardly a nice thesis, - for some people rather attractive. . But from the point of view of its practical application the theorising theologians and practising priests get in great trouble. That is why varied aspects have been formulated, which have shifted this problem in a not workable position. For instance in 1968 „Catholic News" published an article „ Man and Free Will" in which it was noted: „Man has his free will, in order to act and decide according his own consideration. No one else can him enforce his idea" At the same time in this article instructions are given in which direction should the free will proceed. „The free will is to serve to the end of perceiving God and the inevitability of his existence by himself without any pressure". But what is god for people ? Answers pronounced by theologians are really many. Their essence- despite the vague formulations - is only one and the same: Instructive are the ideas , pronounced some time ago by German cardinal Dr .M. Faulhemer. According to him god is the legislator of life , lord of the world, who demands from humans obedience. People have to be in his services, because to him as to creator belongs „ the first and last word. God stands on the first place, not humans". So an eclectic mixture of theocentric and anthropocentric attitudes is formed, which leads to disorientation of people and drawing their attention away from real problems , from seeking ways how to purposefully and actively intervene into concrete social life , which does concern them directly.. One can say that all that is to lead to a situation when man is more an object of politics, than an active subject to it.
The theocentrical approach is manifested in additional systems of theological views. Its roots reach into ancient times , it developed widely in the old Jewish religion and afterwards in Christianity. It makes currently also a basic part of Catholicism, which often deals with issues of earthly life, but simultaneously draws the attention of people to „ the other world". The renown contemporary theologian Michael Schmaus writes: „The death which befall Jesus, brought about salvation to all the history, to the preceding past, as well as to the future , forthcoming after his earthly life. The life of Jesus, his activity, but above all his death bear an eschatological , i.e. definitive content, shaping the whole future" Slovak writer J. Dieška wrote: „ Everybody must be aware that the only supreme principle for a Christian is God. And therefore he/she must direct all of his /her deeds, thinking, and actions to transcendence."...A. Š Barnáš made the following declaration: „Only in the viewpoint of supernatural life has the human existence of the individual as well as of himself as a social being , namely the whole society, the ultimate meaning" .
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The problem of eschatology would deserve a wider essay , because it has an important position in the current religious thinking . It is a basis for the fictions of personal immortality , whichis however in the hands of god , but to which the man can contribute by his / hers behaviour on this earth. This is undoubtedly a consolation ,which is by church generously distributed . But it is without any guarantee, and the believers pay for it dearly. On the basis of eschatological imaginations people in some way are cut off from real ways how to solve the problems in the life of individuals, as well as in the whole society, including complicated and important political issues.
Eschatology has to be replaced by other opinions , other attitudes . In accordance with following ideas expressed by the great German poet Heinrich Heine:
„I tell it with certainty , that our descendants will be nicer, happier as we are. Because a believe in progress, I believe that humankind destiny is felicity, thus my ideas about god are more noble . than those of religious people, who maintain, that god created man only for suffering. On this earth I wished to build up trough the bliss of free political and industrial institution beatitude , which in the mind of religious ones should commence only after the doomsday int he heaven".
While dealing with the matter of relations:god-man-society, one has to mention the issue of possibility to recognise god - what kind of being he is, what kind of might he is, and especially what are his intentions like, what people can or cannot expect from all of it. And as concerns the matter of human free will , also what people can, and what they must do. All these questions and many others are fully substantiated if we take into account the assertion, that historic events are dependent on god , and that people at solving social and also political problems should follow injunctions of god.
According to theologians it is not possible to come to know god directly. It is possible only via divine achievements and on the basis of revelations. One speaks sometimes also about on „supernatural instructions", which have a greater value , than the „cool human reason."A kind of „acquiring mediated knowledge" is thus recommended. in which mysticism plays the decisive part. Such a position was taken also by Andrej Hlinka, when he in his „ Notes of Mírov" told: „to recognise God, faith, and due to faith the deity and Messiah nature of Jesus, and his being son of God , is beyond powers of man . Spiritual gift, science, and human accounts cannot lift us to it. God himself has to visualise himself. He has to be the harbinger of Christ. .It depends only on man to accept this belief". So god still keeps to be an enigmatic being, and a not fathomable power, the action of whom man can never foresee , neither to know whether he will manifest himself as a „a benevolent foresight " , or as a punishing „master" , who can control everything.. But adopting such a position leads to certain forms of fatalism , to braking initiative and purposeful efforts of people in varied situations including political happenings and struggles, forming an inseparable facet.;
Theological concepts of the society and its history are full of contradictions., which the church cannot overcome. There is the divine predestination , which is the basis of everything concerning the society. Man and the whole humankind are instruments in divine hands, but on the other hand it admits, that the historical developmentis to some extent the result of human activity, due to manifesting free will presented to man by god.. This mystifying dualism is not- as experience has proved - a workable basis for practical activity of adherents to social progress and humanism. Secular humanists have an ideological platform ever developing and amending , which reacts more adequately to the needs connected with progress of human society. . Many things and proofs could be mentioned in this context . For the sake of conciseness I will touch only one of them.: .The contemplation expressed time ago by academician Andrej Sirácky., when in his work „The social world of man" he has written:. „I do not project into the future any mystical elements. Neither the future - similarly like the past -(except some theological mystification of reality ) will follow an „enigmatic" process, in which the man is a passive toy in the hands of „supernatural" powers, of the fate or god -namely in that sense of the word , that his route is inevitably determined . Conversely, I think that in the foreseeable future the history of humankind will develop on the historical- social arena , where varied social and ideological movements and streams will meet , under the surface of which material and existential concerns and efforts would be reflected . In such a process - on a differentiated level- the fate of individuals will be framed."
Ideas of church about itself and about the politics.
There are many opinions concerning churches, denominations, religious organisations etc. -it was so in the past , and is also at present. They deal with origin, features, mission, or forms and methods of action of these- to some extent specific social subjects. In general they can be ranged into two big groups. Into one of these belong the views of representatives of those organisations themselves. They consist of a really great multitude of views, often contradictory, in many aspects divided , even hateful. Interesting part is being played by theological constructions about the exceptional and exclusive nature of some of the religious movements and of its organisation structure resulting from it. In this way tensions arise between the big and small religious streams, ( Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism ,etc. )- but also within themselves . For instance in Christianity - divided are the views accepted by Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants,. To overcome this is the aim of ecumenism , but it has not brought about by far the expectations of its founders and contemporary organisers. The only resulting issue of interest is the contemporary controversy in Orthodox churches on the matter if they should be or not a part of the World Council of Churches , and what should be their position to ecumenism like
Another group of opinions about religious organisations comes from
non-denominational circles - and many of representatives of this group have
formulated their ideas at the occasion of their departure from the churches, or
other structures . Certainly by the notion : „non-denominational" a wide
spectrum of opinions is being understood, either in the historical relation , or in
contemporary époque. Important position is taken in this aspect by humanist
attitudes in general , and regarding religious organisations, in particular. We are
concerned especially with the issue of involvement of Catholic church in matters of
While considering the relations of Catholic church to political matters, it is necessary to take into account the methods of its self-reflection . It is a specific view on its origin, core and nature as well as its mission.
The church seeks in supernatural sphere not only the origin of religion, but also of itself as the „organised Christianity". The contemporary Catholic theologian, Michael Schmaus says : „One has to view the church as originating from Christ, but not from some general notion of society. .." Simultaneously he gives instructions , how should be the origin of church understood: „The church is the work of the divine Trinity, which made its foundations .It means by God the Father,, through his Son in the Holy Spirit. It reflects the threefold life of God and takes part in it. In the unity of God has the church its own image of unity , and from the divine Trinity the church derives its plurality . Because the church is not only the „mystical body", but a concrete organism, acting through people among people" he continues as follows: „ The legal structure of church , which has its origin in Christ does not exclude that the forms of its materialising are conditioned by the relevant historical situation, which is reflected in it. If the components originating from Christ are to be marked as „divine element", the specific historical manifestation presents the „human element". Interesting is the contemplation about the relation of these two „elements". For the sake of conciseness suffice to say, that its contents is the thesis about symbiosis of the divine intentions on the one hand , and the „free human decision making" on the other hand. Just to comment , that it is again something complicated and for a critical-minded man an unacceptable construction.
On a dualistic basis are backed also the theological explanations of the nature and characteristics of church, The prime ideas in them are mystical elements. For instance in the „Small Encyclopaedia of Theology" is a statement, that the church is the enigmatic body of Christ (Corpus Christi mysticum) , head of which is Christ, and which is revived by Holy Spirit as its soul. We ( the believers ) are its limbs and that is what we are united all together . It prompts an incomparable value to church , on the head of which Christ himself stands...."As follows, the origin of church is derived from supernatural sources, but it is constituted by humans.. In this connection the views of already mentioned M. Schmauscan be referred to: „We can consider church a community of believers in Christ (community of salvation ) and a socially shaped institution for mediating salvation (institution of salvation) The church is both in one. But sometimes major stress is put on the one aspect, sometimes on the other. "If we return to the „Small Encyclopaedia of Theology" one can read there the following: „The church is a divine-human institution. While in the human aspects there can be errors and deficiencies, even sins and offences, its divine face is clean and unstained" But what is the „divine face" of church remains non-comprehensive to reason.. Instead of reason at that junction only the faith works. .Michael Schmaus writes: „Because the church is an enigma , it is the object of faith. Many things about church can be understood by means serving to acquire knowledge in science, such as phenomenological observations, historical research, philological explanation, psychological analysis, scientific investigation of religions, etc. But what the church really is can be grasped only by humans who believe . And we have thus beside the enigmatic and rationally non- perceptible god also at least partially enigmatic church . And according to theologians - people should consider it the only institution authorised to control their lives.
The Second Vatican Council held in the sixties, issued among others a document „Lumen gentium" (About the church) It deals with many aspects regarding church , including its mission in the society. In one of its parts there is a statement :"The church enters the human history , although it outlasts the duration of nations and their boundaries." So the church makes claims to a mission which extends beyond the time and history, till the „light is reached , which does not know any nightfall" It should guide the whole humankind into that „eternal" light. For this chimerical promise ,the church wants that people submit in everything, that they think and act according to churches injunctions. And because the life, which is according to claims of theologians - only preparation to the „eternal" afterlife - this life consists of „spiritual" and the „profane" material side , the church is involved in both of them. Therefore they claim that the church fulfils religious and simultaneously non- religious aims. These , of course often overlap, and sometimes it is not possible to find the dividing line.. For instance when the priest during his service or at the communion gives advice to believers for some actions in political life.
The weekly „ Catholic News" published in 1992 an article by Š Vargaš under an interesting heading: „ Christian-the citizen of two worlds" It asserts the following idea: A Christian does not belong to this world, but despite he /she lives here and fulfils herea definite task. A Christian is thus citizen of two worlds .He lives an earthly life , which is subject to supernatural world -of Divine Kingdom.The belonging to two worlds gives a meaning to his existence, thinking and acting. A Christian has got on this earth a mission., he bears the responsibility for this world." Such an encouraging advise inevitably refers to political sphere , without any doubt. It is never just by chance if the church - according to circumstances more or less intensely and more or less systematically , either recommend, or resolutely demand the believers to participate in political happenings .An exemplary instance is the proclamation of the Bishops Conference to elections in 1998.
The church derives its active interference into political issues from varied attributes, ascribed to the church by itself , and on the ground of which it feels to be above everything and everyone including the State . It was pronounced clearly by university professor Dr.R. Weiler on the symposium in Hamburg, when he affirmed that the church neither in the sphere of politics accepts solely the right of the State, because „ the church has its own rights and thus the right to participate in politics as an independent factor." The Editor in chief of Polish Catholic newspaper „Tygodnik Powszechny" - Jerzy Turowicz asserts, that the church has not only right, but it is its duty to take positions in political issues.
Sure, the proclamations of various apologetics in that direction are supported by the highest circles of church, including pope and documents issued by him . Let us have a look on the Instruction about the Christian freedom and liberation, which was published by the Congregation of Vatican for the Doctrine of Faith . It says: „God liberates his people , He gives them progeny, land, laws, according provisions of His Contract and in expectation of further Contract. Thus it is not possible to isolate the political aspect, it is necessary to consider it in the light of religious aspects to which it belongs." The same , but with far more flourish was pronounced by pope Paul John II. In the framework of his reminiscences on the 900 -th anniversary of the death of pope Gregory VII., renown among others by his limitless greed for secular powers - who declared: „The church reclaims the right to preach the faith, always ,everywhere and to pronounce its moral judgment also in issues which concern political establishment.
It is worth noting the pope's comment about the moral judgment, because it has from both theoretical and practical aspects a great importance. Moral principles are considered legitimate by all people, thus they have to be observed on the part of the State .In Slovakia the church exerts also a great initiative. It has been expounded also by „Catholic News." while claiming: in the article „Church and the world" : „Catholics should take care with great responsibility that the principles and recommendations of Church to a moral life of individuals and the society in accordance with elements of Gospel be materialised in all spheres of human life, including in economic, social, cultural , political, and religious ones.
It is known that since the last turnover the problem of relation between morals and politics was at several occasions discussed .The efforts exerted in this direction did not bring about much success. It is understandable since the protagonists of moralising in the field of politics stood on ecclesiastic attitudes. In the theological perceptions the roots of morals lead also to god and to the injunctions given by him to humans , thus these cannot be altered by anybody.. The moral behaviour of people is to be judged as acts originated by human will and divine will( according to Slovak theologian,- Š Hatala.)- In the concept of church the supernatural force,- god not only predestines , but also makes sanctions to moral behaviour of humans. But it is not a direct relation god - human being . Irreplaceable part is allegedly played at it by church . Š Hatala puts it in this way: „The guidance of people in human life moves on the level of morality and is subject to the teaching authority of church ,which issues and explains the norms, valid for the conscience of human being. Again this does not concern the sphere of religion, but the secular activities, including economic, and political ones.
Humanism on the grounds of reality and scientific achievements rejects this- by mysticism inspired theological concept of morality, which is cut off from the real „earthly" life and events.. It considers the morality a historical phenomenon. Morals change in relation to economic and other social relations - as a constituent to progress in the material and spiritual spheres. In this framework the mutual influence of morals and politics is materialised , the basic of which is economy, regardless if people realise this fact or not . There is a mutual overlap of politics and morals. Sometimes these two elements are identified. That is the reality, which is taken by humanism as a matter of fact., but at the same time they make efforts to improve the relations between politics and morals. In this way a framework is building up which should enable people to be not only objects of politics , but make them capable ever more to contribute to the political dealings - and play a role of active and purposefully interfering subjects. Only in this way can a political emancipation be reached , which represents one of the constituents of efforts to the secular humanists, so that humans in the framework of natural and historical development can decide for themselves about the meaning of their existence and actions.
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The basic treaty (= BT) of Slovak republic and Vatican makes foundations for re-catholicisingt he Slovak republic. (by P.Prusák )
It is known in our public, that a BasicTreaty (BT) is being prepared which is to set up foundations to the philosophy how to legalise the relations between State and churches in Slovak republic. As a matter of fact the officials responsible for the project of treaty are eminently concerned to reach for it a maximal acknowledgement of the community. Contrary to this effort is the fact , that the treaty is being prepared in a way concealed from public,- in closed cabinets („behind closed doors"). They refuse to put it for a public discussion with the argument, that it is not a usual diplomatic policy to prepare deals with the Holy Sea with participation of public. According to vice-president of National Council of SR Mr.A.M. Húska , simply because „they have no intention to take in consideration opinions expressed in a public discussion and tofollow them , since they lead to a spiritual emptiness" ( published indaily „ Slovenská Republika" August 21, 1997 )
Argumentation that such is the policy of preparing international treaties is incorrect and even less acceptable is the argument of Mr.A:M. Húska, because this is not a common treaty advantageous for both parties, but an „asymmetrical" treaty with advantages solely for one of the parties- the Vatican.. Namely the BT formally entitles Vaticanvia its sub -structures, the Catholic church, to interfere in internal affairs of Slovak republic, to decide upon ,or to outline some parts ofthe mind and life of its population , to secure for Catholic church advantages and privileges via restitution of churches real estates alongside with substantial State subsidies and taxes, which is infringement upon sovereignty of Slovak republic. If the government of SR decided to exclude the publicfrom all stages of preparing BT , to eliminate any consultations with it then such a document will be necessarily illegible and uncontrollable, leading thus to violations of principles of democracy, of a democratic law abiding State.
The treaty should be enacted by passing it as a law in the National Council of SR after it had been signed by representatives of both contracting States. Shall the MPs have a chance to express their opinion and suggestions ? Such a treaty must be passed by the parliament, because its practical implementation calls for changes in our legislation as well as new expenses from the State budget.
While preparing this BT , our legal system has not been observed. According to director of Institute for State and Church Relations - Mr. P.Mulík , the adopted procedure does not contradict logistics of the legal system by accepting first a treaty with Vatican( on the status of Catholic church in society and on securing funds for its activities ), and only thereafter preparing a particular system of laws securing equality of all churches and religious organisations in legal aspects. Do these points constitute the specific features of the model how to solve State - church relations in Slovak republic ? All the laws and regulations which should govern relations between the State and only some of the especially selected churches or groups of disparate philosophical life stance - contradict the principle of equality as regards the law, they lead to discrimination against minority churches and secular communities, prolonging thus the distance in our way to a law abiding State.. Not to speak about the fact that such a process is at variance with the Constitution of Slovak republic , the article 1. of which reads: „ Slovak republic is a sovereign, democratic and law abiding State .It is not linked to any ideology, nor religion" The fact itself of concluding a special treaty with that State , namely with the headquarters of only one of the churches (regardless of its constituting the majority )- violates the principle of the neutral position of the State as concerns the life stance of citizens, and the equality of citizens in relation to the legal system in force. The only non-discriminating means how to solve the State -church relations and relations between citizens themselves is passing a general legal instrument enabling all of associations and communities to be freely established and freely act. Therefore all philosophies and their manifestations which contradict the Constitution of Slovak republic should not appear in this BT. Otherwisecitizens without religious denomination and atheists cannot feel in their homeland as free citizens and they would not consider this country their own .Besides, Slovak republic had signed multilateral covenants and accepted commitment concerning human rights and freedoms. The BT is not consistent with some principles of these documents, e.g. with the principle of neutral position in issues of life stance, equal status of all citizens in legislation, all of these representing the essential conditions for democracy.
The BT should be according to representative of State Secretary of Vatican Jean Luis Taurran , a philosophy of legal solution to relations between State and churches, on the basis of which additional particular contracts should be prepared.. Let us see on what kind of philosophy are the principles of BT formulated , how they observe the Constitution of Slovakia , the neutrality of life stance, the principle of law abiding State, and the principle of a civil society. ? ( According to the preliminary draft , as published in daily „Pravda" on October 30.1997)
Many features are in this respect prompted by the following starting positions, and resources to be applied in the treaty
1Christian traditions ( especially those of Cyril and Methodus = ancient proselytisers of Great-Moravian Empire) and the historical merits of churches.
2 Majority approach , i.e. the fact that Catholics constitute up to 63 % of the total population of Slovakia.
3 Spiritual and moral criteria presuming that the church is the only guarantee of the morality in the community
4 Canonical law and social teaching of church .
All these basic points of BT suggest that it does not take in consideration basic aim consistent with a workable democratic legal system and of a civil society.
Nobody wants to deny some of historical merits of churches in preserving and developing the Slovak nation. However our history cannot be confined only to Christian traditions .Slovakia was influenced by several other ideas, social, philosophical currents, and movements, starting from antique cultures, through renaissance, Enlightenment, up to the contemporary humanism. The Treaty turns a blind eye on their splendid ideals and values, it accepts only Christian traditions, in order to substantiate the privileged status of Catholic Church in the community.Such a position was confirmed times and again by cardinal Korec, when he in his Christmas speech expressed repugnance to ideas of Enlightenment, which allegedly cannot offer any hopes for humans and the world. Such one-sided views on the history of this nation deprives it of an important humanist space and pulls the church and alongside with it the whole society back in the Middle Ages. This is confirmed by the fact that at preparing the Treaty the civil principle is being totally ignored. The principle of civil society should be one of the basic pillars of the deal to be prepared with the Catholic church.
In the light of human rights and freedoms, the principle of preferring majority, consisting in advantages and privileges to Catholic church , does not have any substantiation. In this context one has to stress that human rights are not deniable , not alienable and not subject to statute limitations .These rights are thus independent on the said preferences. Among such rights are the freedom of thought and conscience, freedom of belief. (COMMENT OF TRANSLATOR : In French wording : liberté de CONVICTION -as per international documents in French language.-This comment is necessary because the English notion„ belief" is usually misinterpreted in Slovak texts as „religious creed ") The application of the majority principle in Draft Treaty leads to discrimination against other churches and religious organisations as well as citizens without religious denomination.. No wonder , that such principles and other features of BT are criticised by objections on the part of Lutherans .
The treaty is to anchor a kind of monopoly for the Catholic church in the spiritual and moral spheres of the society and individuals, it wants the church to be dubbed as the only warrantor of morality , and of the spiritual and moral revival, ignoring the factt hat promoting one single group of society as a representative of global values, preferred over any legislature and laws in force is a violation of democracy and freedom. These days, the sphere of spirituality and morals in the society and of the individual is one of so complicated issues that it cannot be solved by church , especially not by teaching religious dogmas and by moralising.
In its preamble as well as in many articles the BT refers to canonical law. The (former ) prime minister V. Mečiar also told , (in daily „Slovenská Republika" on July 21,1997. ) that the basis for the BT shall be the canonical law and the social -economic teaching of church. Such a requirement and its materialising give the BT predominantly religious features in its nature, with the aim of influencing the legal solution of relations between State and churches in favor of individual religious denominations. .It puts foundations for pressures of churches to influence the State authority and its legislation in the spirit of the Catholic doctrine , which is supposed to have a generally binding character As it seems, the promotion and preference of canonical law, as well as of the Christian social teachings in the Treaty, invokes changes in legislative, it degrades and weakens the State legislature bodies, it does not lead to a civil society, to human freedoms, but to a predominance of a religious ideology.
What are the structure and the trends of BT like ? One could suppose that we are a law abiding State and the churches and religious organisations exert their activities in the framework of the Constitutional establishment of Slovak republic. The recent policy of some political parties and of the government of SR indicate that the treaty to be prepared could turn out a cartoon - like image of a law abiding State and of a civil society, democracy and liberty. Because the treaty is to shift the solution of State-church relations and to fix it in such a position that its philosophy, its principles and provisions make it contradictory to the Constitution of SR. (especially its article 1.), as well as to some laws , to the State legislative, and thus to the basic rights of citizens. No doubt that its acceptance will be enforced by amendments to some laws currently in force , and by passing new ones. It means that one cannot accept the assertion of a. M. Húska , that the positions taken by this treaty are not contradictory to our Constitution, nor the proclamation of former prime minister Mečiar , saying that everything advantageous to church is advantageous to the State as well. ( The history of Vatican and of the Catholic church on the one hand , and that of the secular powers / the States on the other hand are a story of a continuous struggle for power, wealth and dominance over the society, including the contemporary era.). The above mentioned ideological starting points of the BT contradict to basic features of a secular State .. To be precise , some of the following principles and articles of treaty are at variance with it.:
New notions are introduced into the treaty- such as :freedom of religion, freedom of Catholic church according to canonical law , and principles of religious creed and morals, which are unknown to our legal system and are not consistent with article 24 of the Constitution. Similarly controversial is the principle sub 7. and 14 which concern prevention of collisions in conscience and the right to stipulations in conscience The principle sub 8. about the independence of Catholic church in matters of territorial administration, in its article7. maintains that SR shall be respectful of the exclusive right of the Holy Sea and its subjects to establish, to change, and to resolve all structural issues in such a way as indicated by canonical law. In this respect a question can arise , why the treaty refers to the canonical law, when the boundaries of administrative church districts are co-ordinated with the State border and the issue concerns internal State territorial administration.
Discrepant with the interest of Slovak republic are also principles sub 10 and sub 11 which concern economic provisions for Catholic church and their historical real estate.. In this respect the church demands exclusion of any State authorisation in affairs of acquiring financial means and of disposing with them. From this claim a commitment for the Sate follows to implement necessary legislative and taxation provisions, to change the laws dealing with tax regulations. .
The principle sub 11. contains a formulation that the SR acknowledges the right to all the property which has been till now acquired by church ( „historical property" ). This claim is substantiated by argumentation , that the restitution of church real estates ( including those of religious orders ) was accomplished only to a limited extent, despite the fact that the Slovak republic was unparalleled in extent and speed of returning property to churches as compared with other post- socialistcountries.. It is thus not quite clear whose rights are represented by Slovak republic at preparing this treaty. But it remains clear that the State representatives dealing in this issue make the Catholic church the biggest owner of land, and they restore within the church its feudal relations.
The principle sub 17. concerns marriage and contains a host of issues concerning family and labour legal system. The church is much concerned with family and strengthening its own position in it. Therefore the whole batch of these problems should be consulted with experts in family law.
The principles sub17. and 18 formulate the basis for educating children, and of educational and up-bringing activities of Catholic church. There is a great anomaly: The State is supposed to finance teaching of religion at State schools and the educational and up-bringing system of Catholic church in general, but the church is to decide who will teach and what will be taught, all that is the competence of church and canonical right. Such anomalies are abundant in the BT. It is not just by chance that the issues of education, school system , upbringing and education, the principles of economic provisions and real estate for church are the essence of the treaty. It is more than clear that if the Catholic church is to fulfil the role of warrantor and ideological supervisor of the society's morals- what the church as a matter of fact strives for -then it must take full control of adequate resorts such as schooling system, culture, state legislature and at last, but not at least the mass media.. And that is the way how to transform the young democracy in a religious State .
The fact itself of concluding a bilateral international treaty by a pluralist State which concerns only a single religion, violates the neutral position in matters of life stance , and at the same time the legal equality of all churches and citizens regardless of their persuasion. No doubt that the treaty should secure to the Catholic church a status of special position, which the other churches , religious organisations , and secular humanism do not enjoy. Does the Catholic church want to underline by its claims to such a privileged position the truthfulness of its teachings as compared with errors and immorality of those people who profess a different creed or philosophy? The treaty is a manifestation of distrust against the truths of people who adopted some other life stance., i e, distrust against democracy and freedom- all values the church cannot put up with? As though that church were the single flagship of truth and morals. She is not able to endure the idea, that only in a pluralist society with a diversity of concerns and values can be the human being free.
As mentioned above, the BT is asymmetrical and on-sided in its nature. As an international treaty it contains a host of commitments of Slovak republic in favour of Vatican, but it does not feature any commitments of Vatican in favour of Slovak republic , except the pledge of the Holy Sea to apply all means for shaping the conscience of Slovaks professing Catholic faith (see principle sub 4, art.3 ) It does not contain any guarantees of respecting matters of concern to Slovak State.The asymmetrical nature of treaty consist in a misbalance between the autonomy and sovereignty of the State and the autonomy of Catholic church. The church is granted more extensive independence from the State than the State from church, e. g. principle sub 4 stating that the Slovak republic should not interfere into ways of acquiring financial means by church and its disposing with them.. The only duty of State is to support the church financially. This and all treaties to come between SR and Vatican should be respectful of a neutral position in matters of life stance as an essential feature of a democratic State.
A definite negation of the citizens rights and that of Slovak republic's sovereignty consists also in the fact, that the mind of citizens, their acceptance of values, the whole style of living should be regulated, and moulded according to provisions of a certain kind of international treaty, which is not binding vice versa. The Vatican does not take by the treaty any commitments. The treaty gives preference to advantages of the Vatican which stand above the advantages to this nation and State. From this point of view , the treaty puts the Slovak republic in a position of one-sided vassalage. Because like any bilateral treaty concluded between two equal and sovereign States, this treaty between SR and Vatican should regulate the mutual relations as between two equal and sovereign parties, but it cannot solve such issues which belong exclusively to Slovak republic e.g. property matters, financial issues etc. It is a kind of degradation to Slovak legislation, which is manifested also by attempts to regulate the mutual relations by laws ,which should be agreed upon and co-ordinated in advance with the demands of church. It is an attempt to induce the canonical law in the Slovak legislation, or at least to approximate to it, which would mean that the State administration, including the parliament would renounce at least a part of their rights and sovereignty as well as of freedom to a democratic establishment of the State.
The basis for a working democratic system is pluralism in matters of interest, values, dialogue and consensus in the society , all of which is to be considered quite normal in a working civil society. If the BT grants privileges to a single life stance, a single creed, a single religious denomination, than it violates the social consensus, which is inconsistent with democracy and freedom.
The BT deserves more attention because it will have a long- lasting impact, on the grounds of its philosophy and principles agreed upon, since additional partial deals will be proposed. Thus according that philosophy and principles, the basic ideas of Slovak republic are going to be distorted i.e. the rights and freedoms of citizens are going to be replaced by Catholic doctrine, religious creed and morals, which leads to substantially impaired manifestation of State's neutral position, its securing equality and its defending democracy versus the advancing hegemony of Catholic church.
The pope John Paul II. wrote a book: „To pass the threshold of hope." (Bratislava 1995 ) in which he appealed to Christians and above all to Catholics not to be afraid of truth about themselves. I as a man not professing religion, atheist- am not afraid of Catholic creed, but I am afraid of recatholicising , clericalism and religious fundamentalism. In the circumstances of Slovak republic, the hegemonic aspirations of Catholic churches hierarchy, enjoying the support of pro- Christian political parties, and State officials flourish so much, that there is a danger of regression to democracy and replacing it with a confessional State.
In general the idea prevails that the first priority belong to matters of concern to the whole society, and to well-being of citizens, that is why one has to eliminate privileges and advantages granted to certain groups , either confessional ones, or non-confessional ones. The rights and freedoms of citizen call for eliminating the influence of churches on the proceed of State and its direction so that its neutral legal nature be preserved. The Constitution of SR, its legislation and legislature, as well as the State and public institutions should keep their independence , a neutral position, they cannot allow that any one of religious denominations acquire a dominant position in this society and consequently that it would rule and direct the whole public and civil life.
If we are concerned by Slovak republic's future, its contributing in the treasury of spiritual and cultural values, we have to be respectful of all philosophical, religious, and cultural differences , and the free competition between them having its roots in that diversity as the way to mutual enrichment and to a civil society on the basis of humanism, ethics and mutual tolerance. Such a harmonious workable society calls for separation of State .and churches
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The issue of secularisation, humanism and religion in the contemporary world.
Secularisation as an objective historical and social process conditioned by dialectic controversies .
Features of secularisation process in Slovakia
Secular humanism and the contemporary human society
This contribution is to present a material for thought and discussion, and it does not suppose to have solved the problems linked with this theme. From theoretical and methodological points of view , it is a kind of sociological contemplation or even a kind of sociologic supposition. Namely it cannot be sufficiently backed by up-dated and concrete empirical research. Why is it so , no need to explain , suffice to point out the real possibilities of research concerning secularisation in its relation to religion currently in Slovakia --i.e. since the overturn at the end of the eighties. That is why I attempted to compensate the lack of concrete empirical and research materials by preceding experience based on the study of the phenomena of religion and secularisation in general, and in Slovak society in particular. As a result of this follows, that the material is presented just as theses which the contribution is about to point out . Perhaps this form could also contribute to complete the framework of the main themes of our current proceedings.
Secularisation as an objective historical and social process conditioned by dialectic controversies.
With great development of science , technology, knowledge , as well as purposeful and successful social activities,- the process of secularisation became a characteristic feature of the modern society, at which the thinking and behaviour of people is marked by riddance of influences exerted by religious conceptions, ideas, norms, ceremonies , and institutions. Sociological investigations prove , that for the progress of secularisation especially propitious are periods of economic boom, stability and prosperity, as well as a rising cultural standard of wide strata of population.. Opposite social features and tendencieshelp reviving religion. Nursing ground for religion is produced also by such phenomena as material consumerism, moral bivalence , spiritual emptiness and lack of any prospects , even in economically prosperous countries.One can thus witness certain contradictions at the progress of secularisation in modern society.
Neither the economically advanced States are capable to deal with the reasons and consequences of material and spiritual misery, especially in developing countries, but many a time directly in their own metropolitan areas of Western countries, or if you want:- those of the „Rich North". Extensive material and spiritual poverty evokes necessarily social tension. These tensions lead on the one hand to social and political radicalisation of labour force, but above all of people deprived of working opportunities, those on the margin of society, underprivileged ones, even of whole social groups. Their radical social and political activities promote their indifference to religion, thus acting in favour of secularisation. On the other hand the material and spiritual poverty can deepen the feelings of hopelessness in people, weaken their trust in themselves, and makes them turning their backs to „this world", which is hostile and alien , all of which works in favour of religion. . One can see thus another important contradiction in development of secularisation in modern society.
We have by far not completely exhausted the problem of current development of secularisation. As an example we mention at least activation of the fundamentalist wing of Islam , in its confrontation with the „material - consumerism" and „impiety" of the western civilisation . No need to stress what is the role of overlapping religion and nationalism at reviving and instigating religious aggressive feelings. (as example :situation in Balkan )
One can summarise: In the framework of the development of society is the extent, intensity and depth of secularisation a result of contradicting factors , it takes a contradictory course , one should count not only with its stagnation, but also with its regression.
Features of secularisation process in Slovakia.
In 1989 several conditions for a substantial influence of religion in this society were created,- :such as : extending the room to their activities by legislation, new facilities in the massmedia , especially in the television, work with the youth . increased moral and financial support on the part of the State ; chance to engage in profitable enterprising activities to churches , etc. In some problems of everyday life, like lacking existential safety and need , people can turn to religion, seeking spiritual re-assurance and hope, but also for church charity. Also less religious people and a part of youth consider the religion an important , or even inevitable factor of combating amorality , crimes , drug addiction, etc.
On the other hand the religious organisations in Slovakia are also confronted with several problems of society, which is oriented on market and profit. . With such problems the churches in classical countries of market economy try to cope with little avail. It pertains especially to the „practical" , „economic materialism", drug trafficking, spread of pornography, varied forms of commercially exploited sex etc. A special problem remains for churches how to appease the religious believers with the sharp social contrasts , which are already characteristic for the Slovak community, as well. In a democratic and pluralist State, the religious organisations cannot take in consideration, that the public opinion gets to be aware of manifestations of religious superiority , efforts to reach hegemony of a certain church and authoritarian pressures to accept only the religious concepts of morality, family , marriage and sexual life. For several of the churches it will be not easy to find consent with influences coming from advanced western countries- with more modern religious views, and with more secular ways of thinking and living even of Christians, as well as with non-traditional and sometimes not- Christian movements, streams , and sects.
It follows , that substantial changes in Slovakia in the last ten years have some influence also on the process of secularisation . With great deal of problems, contradictions, negative and positive factors , are the religions confronted too. The process of secularisation is currently more under the influence of strong factors of stagnation, or even of regressive factors. Simultaneously one cannot exclude some new factors favourable for progress of secularisation.
In general the process of secularisation remains a necessary component of development to the contemporary , namely also to the Slovak society. One has to see on the one hand the reality of Slovakia taking one of the prime positions in Europe - as concerns religiosity,. On the other hand according to data of census in 1991 (at that time in former Czechoslovakia ), 9,7 % of citizens declared to be without religious denomination. No religious adherence was declared by additional 17,5 %. Altogether 27,2% of citizens declared their non- adherence to any religion. Personally I consider a very realistic assessment , that the process of secularisation has reached completely at least one forth of inhabitants. In the population groups of up to 30 -35 ys is the percentage of secularisation certainly higher. As far as concerns the further development of secularisation in this nation, one can possibly presume in relation to shifts in generations its further progress. Secularisation will be more evident in younger age groups , or at least in a part of them.
Secular humanism and the contemporary human society
What can secular humanism offer to contemporary men ? I want to deal with this question - as with the core off this contribution just in theses ,-and in its general outlines.
Let me make a short historical detour, a kind of historical parallel .Namely I think that we live including the major part of this globe in conditions of a forthcoming great turnover of civilisation , similarly like people went through in the époque of declining slavery system of Roman Empire, at the break-down of the medieval society, and in the era of the social and national revolutions of this Age. All of these turning points are very interesting from the point of view of religion, secularisation and humanism.
On the one hand the old religions ,or movement but also extremist religious sects disappeared and new ones came up. Superstitions , magicians, fortune tellers , astrology, horoscopes and quackery of different kind flourished. As concrete comparisons I refer to the era of imperial Rome , the seventeenth and eighteenth century in Europe, and finally the contemporary western, but also at least partially our own society. Instead of many instances at least one of them : The Slovak daily „SME" repeatedly published an advertisement reading as follows: "Do you know, that Slovaks are a chosen nation , in which the son of god Imanuel will be born this year? Shortly thereafter a great purge will be accomplished . Slovakia will have its political defender , who will lead us in this period of crisis.. Only the true spiritual knowledge will enable you to survive. Read the book by Natalie de Lemeny- Makedone : „The eternal laws"
In all of historical overturns the prevailing moral values and criteria were shaken with manifestations of amorality, especially on the part of those who were overfed with luxury, those morally declassified in ruling strata. See phenomena such as pedophilia , and child prostitution. In contrast to the present times the Roman patritii , or the ancient noblemen did not know yet pornographic video-tapes - not only as something „for their own pleasure", but as a chance to make profitable business . It is , of course, nothing extraordinary, especially in a society, where the principle of economic success and material profit decides about the whole system of social and human values, making them relative, deformed , even denying them . For instance the high level of organisation and commercialised drug trafficking, enterprising with pornography and prostitution does not restrain even from innocent children-not only somewhere in Asia, or Belgium. It is evident, that implementing positive spiritual and ethical ideals means to defend them against trampling them down by pressures of market and profit as well as against competition which does not refrain from anything. But at the same time not to have these ideals become just an embellishment on the façade of contemporary society.
To achieve success in these attempts will be definitely not easy. But we have some background to back up these efforts . In the revolutionary times and periods of crisis of the past, many scholars, reformers, revolutionaries, scientists and artists emerged, who were engaged in the struggle for great humanist and ethical ideals.One of the tasks of preference for humanists is to hand over the legacy of those great personalities to contemporary people. It concerns especially the rational and scientific concept of the universe and of our world , and with humanism inspired perception of the place and role of humans in this world. This task of transferring the humanist legacy should be approached by concrete ways, respectful of historical circumstances and performed with criticism..
For instance if we have adopted the legacy of European Enlightenment ideas , we should be aware at the same time of their failings and stumbling blocks, their one-sided narrowed approach to man , as well as some overestimated expectations , which gave origin to further ideas , among others to varied social utopias. We would not foster a real humanist aim , if we failed to build on real assessments about man and humanity, about their real possibilities., but if our starting point was just exaggerated theoretical suppositions and claims , or even some illusions. By the way, I presume that such a conflict between imaginations and reality was at the roots of ever growing social contradictions of socialism and finally of its political collapse at the end of the eighties.
As secular humanists we do not have to our disposal just the historical legacy of great personalities. These days- there are among us many people cherishing humanist feelings , accepting ethical values, feeling social and moral responsibility for man , and are ready to be actively engaged in the spirit of that orientation. These people many a time do not share entirely our life stance with all of its philosophical foundations and their impact.. But there are some objective basic social problems , hazards, and dangers in common , and those basic concerns of people with diverse life stance call for seeking possibilities of co-operation at solving important problems of the human life and the society. Thus, I feel the contribution of prime importance for secular humanists would be to become initiators and defendants of such a co-operation with the aim of reaching the best results for the benefit of people , for humanisation of our common life, and our unique - not divisible world.
I hold this opinion also as concerns believing Christians , who are in our circumstances mostly those of a life stance discordant with that of ours. Between secular humanism in our understanding of this notion,- and the Christianity there are basic philosophical differences, even contradictions. But it does not follows, that there is necessarily a bilaterally insuperable „ideological wall" between humanists and Christians as human beings Its not possible to deny the existence of divided opinions , one can discuss them . But we do not compromise in questions where ideological compromise is not possible., especially in those of key starting points and conclusions of our adopted life stance .Finally, the adherents to Christian life-stance behave in a similar way . We have to take both as something quite natural and normal - on our part , in thespirit of the old and still valid principle to subordinate questions of religion to basic problems of society, of man , and life, of the presence and future .
In ideological confrontations we should prove in practice, that a principled position does not exclude tolerance against people with a different orientation, as far as we find a common language in basic human problems . Let us not want to solve at once all problems of philosophical confrontation -after all , it is not possible. Let as attempt to be a pattern of serious thinking and personal patience. Let us show, that we can get rid of idea , that all ideological confrontations have to end with „victory" of ones and „defeat" of the others. If necessary let us be pragmatic : If one can save a young man from infection by AIDS, or drug addiction due to religion - what is really more important? Not every believing Christian is inimical to secular humanism , the less those ones who are really concerned with well-being of man. The real enemy of secular humanism, dangerous for man, is the moral and spiritual indifference, laxity , nihilism, cynicism.
If humanist efforts are to reach a social impact , a real social force is needed , i.e. as many as possible of actively engaged people. At that point again the idea of a dialogue between secular humanists and those of divided opinion comes up, - especially considering their high numbers. those humanist- minded people in the ranks of Christians. As a matter of course, it wants also taking into account problematic sides of such a dialogue as experienced in the past , especially in the sixties . Possibilities of a fruitful dialogue are prompted by the currently proceeding contacts of Marxists and Christians in the neighbouring united Germany . I think that we should take an interest in it, and investigate the issue of possible applying such an approach in our conditions.
As a conclusion I want to point out one more problem . In the Slovak community we are to face serious discrediting of the notion of „atheism" and of persons belonging to its adherents. This phenomenon ,- visible not only with believing Christians, but also with people more indifferent concerning religion - has several reasons , such as lack of true information and distorted image , many prejudices , etc..It is perhaps a consequence of errors and mishandling at propagating atheist ideas in the former era of socialism. In the views of public the notion of secular humanism should not be perceived as a replacement or a pseudonym for the „old, well- known" atheists. Therefore one of first prerequisites of efficiency in the attempts of secular humanism in this country I consider to present a real image and profile of the efforts of the humanists . Neither the best principles nor any slogans are decisive , as far as they remain only on paper. . The concrete manifestation of these ideas in life is decisive. In the cause of secular humanism, above all our personal example of a man who is well educated , civilised , wise , showing constructive attitudes and decency. In this way one could overcome the persisting prejudices , distorted ideas of different- minded people.. It can incite also interest in philosophical and ethical principles of secular humanism, and in the everyday behaviour of its adherents., which is the best propagation of secular humanism and of its life- style in private and family life within our society.
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