Friday, May 11, 2007
In What Does A Non-Believer Believe
My trip to Turkey, which I described in my previous post, was rewarding both sensually and intellectually. I bought many book in Turkish. Even though I am able to read in German, I am not as fast as I am in Turkish. One of the books I bought was Umberto Eco's 5 Moral Pieces. One of the pieces is an excerpt from a correspondence between Eco and the old Milanese Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, which was published as a series on a major Italian newspaper (which was published later as a book titled Belief or Non Belief).
This piece has helped me clarify my thoughts on secularism and it's constituent role in democracy. In one of his letters the Cardinal asks Eco the question "how can one be sure that the principles on which he bases his actions are absolute, if he they are not based on a eternal and absolute force such as God...". Eco replies by stating that a set of moral principles based on the basic paradigm of not treating others in a way that would make upset us, had we been in their place, builds itself as a viable ethics system. Furthermore, when the ethics is based on rules given by God, the sinner believes it is only the God himself who can forgive. - In my opinion this is very dangerous, as when the clerics distort the message, so that what can be forgiven, and what not lies in their intentions, they can easily use religion for their purposes, which is what is happening in Middle East-. Where as in a system based on secular ethics, the person who can forgive a bad action are the other people hurt by this action. That is why someone adhering to secular ethics must be more respectful to others. And as he know he must be forgiven by other people, he himself tends to be more forgiving.
But most importantly I came to the following conclusion. Ethics are the principles that rule the relationship between individuals. Laws are mechanisms to enforce these ethical principles. When a society bases its laws on a certain religion, it means it is trying to enforce the ethical principles described in this religion. This does not allow people who base their ethics on another religion, or no religion at all to practice their principles. Furthermore as it is only God who can forgive wrong-doings, and the things that can be forgiven by God, which ultimately manifest itself in the question of what is right and what is wrong in a society, are highly manipulative by clerics, it leads to oligarchism or a totalitarian state (Islamic Totalitarianism Iran). Whereas if a state bases its laws on secular ethics, it allows people to base their actions on whatever ethics they prefer, as long as this ethics do not necessitate people of other convictions to suffer. In this sense for example Hindu Ethics, which separates people into classes has no place in a society. My thoughts about this are quite young, thats why I ordered Belief or Non-Belief...