Democracy and secularism The import of secularism
The interim constitution has declared Nepal a secular state rejecting
the previous provision of a Hindu state. The constitution of the kingdom of Nepal 1962 introduced it
for the first time, and the same was followed by the constitution of 1990.
This issue requires some critical deliberations as
our society is very traditional and our leaders too, though they claim to be revolutionaries. First, it must be clearly understood that secularism does not stand for neglecting religion
but for respecting all religions equally. Secondly, if a nation adopts any religion and gives preferential treatment to its adherent, it entails injustice to the believers of other religions.
Dr. S Radhakrishnan, the great philosopher and
second president of India, had opined in the context of India that “When India is said to be a secular state,
it does not mean that we
reject the reality of an Unseen Spirit or the relevance of religion to life or we exalt irreligion. It does not mean that secularism itself becomes a positive religion or that the State assumes divine prerogatives…We hold that no one religion should be given preferential status, or unique distinction, that
no one religion should
be accorded special privileges in national life or
international relations for that would be a violation of
the basic principle of democracy and country to the best interests of religion and government… No group of citizens shall
arrogate to itself rights
and privileges, which it denies to others. No person should suffer any form of disability or discrimination because of his religion but all alike should be free to share to the fullest degree
in the common life... The
religious impartiality of
the Indian state is not to
be confused with secularism or atheism. ..It tries to build up a fellowship of all believers, not by subordinating individual qualities to the group mind but by bringing them into harmony with each other.”
Sigmund Freud, the propounder of psychoanalysis, holds religion as the universal obsessional neurosis of humanity. To him, religious belief is,… “illusion, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest, and most insistent wishes of mankind” as religion is a mental defence against the more threatening aspects of nature-earthquake, flood, storm, disease, and inevitable death. He developed his theory on the basis of the dependence of individual on others from cradle to grave. First, the parents look after a child, then family, society and the state. He gradually finds that his parents or even family or society are not fully effective in mitigating his hardships, as they are themselves helpless. And then he imagines the existence of god a super being who can take care of his limitations. On the basis of dependence, man creates god and thinks god has created him.
Sociologists like Durkhim took society as a substitute for god. Man is social to the roots of his being, is deeply dependent upon his group, and is unhappy when isolated from it. It is the chief source of his psychic vitality, and he draws strength and reinforcement from it when as a worshiper he celebrates with his fellows the religion that binds them together. To Marxists, the mentality of man is the superstructure built on the foundation of the economic relations by which the necessities of life are supplied.
Classes change in accordance with changes in
the means of production. With the two classes of workers and capitalists today, the state is a means
of class domination by which one class keeps the other in a condition of subordination. Religion is the opium through which the members of the subordinate class are duped and kept in a condition of contented dependence.
Philosophically, G.Galloway takes religion as a man’s faith in a power beyond himself whereby
he seeks to satisfy emotional needs and gains stability
of life, and which he
expresses in acts of worship and service.
To WT Blackstone, religious beliefs provide an
all-pervasive frame of reference or a focal attitude
of orientation to life and
induce a total commitment to an object of devotion. James Martineau treats religion as a belief in an Ever-living God that is a Divine Mind and will ruling the universe and holding Moral relations with mankind.
The inadequacy of religion is evident from the
disparity between outward allegiance and inward
betrayal. Regretfully, religion is confused with the mechanical participation
in the rites or passive acquiescence in the dogmas. Many of those who observe the forms of religion, the gestures of faith, the conventions of piety do not model their lives on the precepts they profess.
Not only nations are fighting on the basis of religion but also the groups within the same religion. To sum up, in religious response
the whole man is involved in relation to the whole reality as a whole.
Religion is the conservation of values. Though our age has largely ceased to understand the meaning of religion, it is still in desperate need of that which religion alone can give.
Prof. Mishra is currently associated with Civil Campaign for Democracy