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In (2005). "Will secularism survive?" (Symposium). Free Inquiry, 25: 43-44. (October/November).



Thomas S. Szasz, M.D.

Webster's defines secularism as "A view of life or of any particular matter based on the premise that religion and religious considerations should be ignored or purposely excluded." It is easy to use the term "secularism" as a slogan of approbation, to praise a person because he rejects belief in religious fables. However, it is not enough to know what a person disbelieves; we must know also what he believes.

Modern secularism came into being not simply as an intellectual rejection of the mythology of revealed religion, but rather as a political opposition to absolutist theocratic government. Opposing religion is not the same as supporting liberty. The Soviet Union was a secular polity and the source of a vastly unfree society. Contrast this with the Mission Statement of the Secular Coalition for America, "to protect and strengthen secular government as the best guarantee of freedom for all."

"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man," declared Jefferson. Hostility against tyranny entails opposing it regardless of who is doing the tyrannizing. History has taught us that secularism affords no protection against tyranny over the mind, and alas also the body, of man. If we value individual liberty more highly than secularism, then the only kind of secularism that deserves support is one that respects and protects liberty of belief and liberty of disbelief equally.

Today, the leading Western secular belief system is psychiatry: faith in the mythology of mental illness imparts medical and moral legitimacy to its coercive-oppressive practices. This is the "religion" favored by humanists, secularists, and skeptics.

The great Enlightenment secularists opposed theocratic tyranny. We must oppose therapeutic tyranny.

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