I am of Jewish origin, proud of my heritage but non religious. I am a secular person. Religion plays no significant role in my life. Judaism to me is interesting as a historical phenomenon, as a culture, but not as a religion. I don´t pray, I don´t listen to religious speeches, I believe that God, as portrayed by religion, most likely does not exist, and even if there is some all powerful being above us, that it is unlikely to be say protestant, or Jewish, or any other religion in particular.

Now for people like me, who see the world through secular eyes, there are basically two kinds of religious people. One who are easy to deal with and others who are not. On the easy side there are the people who are religious and keep it to themselves. They believe in God, go to church and pray at night, but they don´t proselytize nor see society and politics through their religious convictions. With them (including friends and family members) I have a positive relationship. I understand that faith makes them feel better. I see the positive effects of religion in their lives, but they believe, I don´t, and we get along very well.

Now there is another kind of religious people who I do have a problem with: the ones who are trying to make the rest of society behave as they do. Of course, I believe in their right to practice in any way they want, including (as opposed to the French regulations) wearing any types of clothes. But when they want me to behave differently because of their views… When they want me, say, not to shop on a Sunday because that´s when people should be in Church, I have a problem with that. And that is a very small problem compared to bigger ones, such as people who are willing to kill me because I am an infidel, or protestants and Catholics killing each other for reasons that are practically impossible to understand to me (I never really understood how Protestants were so different from Catholics).

I wish religious people somehow made the effort needed to understand how bizarre the world of religion in politics looks to a secular person. There are so many issues that they stand for that are just awkward to people like me: creationism, a theory that no university would dare to teach, is just voodoo; anti abortion terrorism inspired by religion seems pure madness; campaigns against contraceptives by the Catholic church in Latin America appear as foolish policy in a world of expanding poverty; or, as a Jew, I can´t understand people who don´t want me to eat certain foods, nor turn lights on on a Saturday and who believe I am somehow a traitor to their cause for not insisting that my son has a bar mitzvah.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

No Comments

ken on November 28, 2006  · 

Always interesting…


3.0 rating

Prem on November 28, 2006  · 

However, what if the people who are imposing you actions are your own parents and family? They expect you not to eat meat on certains days or you are supposed to not to travel on a given day, etc.
You don’t believe, they do. You don’t really want to upset them, but…. you want to get along with them! So how can you be free?

Nevertheless, I’d say that’s where one religion or another makes a difference. Being non-religious hinduist has been easy enough for me as it is probably a quite tolerant religion – as far as I know, no hindu will want to kill somebody because he/she eats beef.

3.0 rating

Martin Varsavsky on November 28, 2006  · 


I do have religious people inside my family and what I try to do is to celebrate everything, Christmas, Hanuka, but all in a light, festive non religious mood

3.0 rating

Prem on November 28, 2006  · 


Yeah, I understand what you are saying. There are both catholic and hindus in my family so we celebrate also Christmas, Diwali.. in a festive mood.

But what I mean is that, at least in hinduism, there are everyday religious commitments (can’t eat meat on certain days of the week, have a fast some others, etc). In other words, the family can impose you a behaviour which you don’t believe.

Again this is not my case and I haven’t known any Indian parents forcing their children in religious views. However, I do know some non-religious muslim young people who do feel very stressed due to religious issues: they don’t believe but they are forced to behave and wear in certain ways.

These secular people can’t and probably won’t be free.

3.0 rating

Killy-the-Frog on November 29, 2006  · 

To Prem:
You said: “non-religious muslim young people who do feel very stressed due to religious issues: they don’t believe but they are forced to behave and wear in certain ways.”
France forbid ALL the religious sign in school (but not in university, not in job), So that at least in one place people are not forced, or feel excluded by the rest of the class. It improve integration, and self development.
By the way, Turkey has the same kind of law.
This way of thinking (la Laicite) is something hard to understand for Anglo-American people.


3.0 rating

GILLES on November 29, 2006  · 

Interesting comments
I am Jew I am not saying “Jewish origin”, I became a Jew against my will. I was a Jew who so just wanted to assimilate. Like many assimilated Jews of my generation when I “finished” with the post 68 “revolution”
Then I discovered the works of the French Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, one of the leading ethical philosophers of post-Holocaust Judaism. Inspired by his commentaries on Talmudic texts, I started to become Jewish and learned that Judaism do not answer, Talmud is only questioning and questioning again and again.
Since in today’s world easy answers are given to difficult questions.

Martin you say “ I believe in their right to practice in any way they want including (as opposed to the French regulations) wearing any types of clothes. … You make the statement that ‘ secular’ are tolerant.
You tolerate ALL religions as far as. Including the sign of separation, of oppression, and of rejection!!!
Such infinite tolerance and aspiration to democratic values, in a world of intolerance and violence is the shortest way to schizophrenia!!!

From a democratic point of view, the ‘ modernism ‘ that I relate to certain form of secularism ’ is not as tolerant as it looks;
It ignore that it is and remain hostage of unavoidable ideas and opinions
Today we necessitate urgently what Benny Levy (a Philosopher) called « étrangéisation de l’intellect ». We need effective freedom of judgment;
We must act politically to reduce discrimination. But meanwhile we MUST not tolerate violation of certain values. Tolerant Muslims need us to reject the veil and other foolish ideologies.
Think about Prem in India he goes silently to temple but he must listen five times a day the call for prayer over a powerfully microphone who say all over the city; “ There is only one God and his name is Allah” When and where shall we say that it is fundamentally violent!!!

About the French law on the Islamic veil, one should ask if Islam is a religion or an empire. If so it should be normal to behave accordingly the ‘modern’ idea of democratic equality is the new religion and a modern form of fascism. It excludes the diversity of opinion. Claude Milner who have analysed the subject in “Les penchants criminals de l’Europe democratique” he said

If modernity is defined by the belief into an unlimited realization of dreams, our future is fully outlined. It leads through the absolute theoretical and practical anti-Judaism. To follow Lacan beyond what he clearly stated, the foundations of a new religion are thus posited: anti-Judaism will be the natural religion of the humanity-to-come

For open-minded “ secular” all ideas and beliefs are equally tolerable we should be careful with this lovely conception. It leads ‘peacefully’ and surely does the same job that Nazism tried to achieve violently in the most advanced and open society of democratic Europe. Eliminating Jews as a symbol of difference and as symbol of refusal.

3.0 rating

Pablo Handler on November 29, 2006  · 

Your position if ‘agnostic’ (not worrying about God), so you are not an ‘atheist’ (negating the God existence).

In my case I am an atheist, and my favorite book is Bertand Russel’s ‘Why I am not a Christian’. His basic argurment is the Inferno which menas an infinite time and suffering…

3.0 rating

Tom Jones on November 29, 2006  · 

The only way to protect secularism in the 21st century will be by organization and non-corrupt leadership – as secularism being the higher ground over its religious subordinates requires the utmost neutrality in holding such a space.

Today we have a system in the ascendancy that is in fact looking secular but has been HIGHLY corrupted by religious elements – this goes for both the right and the psuedo left.

As the religious right and psuedo left have made their structures, a disorganized secular majority now need do the same. It will have to take some form, it cannot win entirely on a distributed structure of power….though that would be ideal and one day may in fact be. The Democrats have an upper hand in this, but their policies too often are corrupt vis a vis other’s religious beliefs that are not the original stand of the party.

The current task rests on finding the right leaders, whomever they maybe, and supporting them. It is a combination of forces resting on business leaders who can fuel the engine that will bring back a secular ethos to West, and especially the United States.

Two organizations you may find of note are The Network of Spiritual Progressives and Americans United for Seperation of Church & State.

Much can be done in the cause of secularism, but like when your fighting for your culture, or your religion, it is formal stern conviction. Talk is cheap, and war – cause have no illusion..you are waging a cultural war….is expensive. Many who start the path, end up finding, they are not quite as secular as they had believed themselves to be.

3.0 rating

Henrik Ahlen on November 29, 2006  · 

Very interesting topic in this age of religious intolerance from many types of “believers”

I recommend reading Wired magazines cover story Nov 2006: “The new atheism”. Finally some veryintellectual people that are taking aparta the arguments for both religious people and agnostics:


3.0 rating

Steve G on December 4, 2006  · 


Put your money where your mouth is … don’t do business where you don’t like their political / religious / financial policies.

All talk (blather) …, no action.

Or better yet, keep two blogs — one for your business (which I am interested in following), and one for your political / religious ramblings, which I could care less about.

3.0 rating

gilles on December 8, 2006  · 

Para ti soy ateo. Para Dios, soy la fiel oposición. (Recuerdos) woody allen

3.0 rating

Leave a Comment

Español / English

Subscribe to e-mail bulletin:
Recent Tweets