ATHEODOC

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Introduction II

Differentiation between religion and church

(1) Naturally, our modern world of today is completely different from the world of Diderot and his friends 260 years ago.

It seems that today much of what the authors of the DIDEROT ENCYLOPEDIA and their readers hoped for for themselves and for the future has been realised. At least basic conditions such as democracy, the rule of law and human rights are generally recognized and widely enforced in our western world. The fact that the implementation of even the smallest secular changes almost always required radical struggles shows how difficult enlightenment is. Often, intellectual and social change only became reality with terrible bloodshed. Religion and church were almost always the main objectors to the changes. They opposed everything that redeveloped the secular/non-Christian Western world: Against democracy. Against the individual’s freedom of thought. Against human rights.

(2) Religion and church still play the anti-role intellectually and socially in our world today.

Islam's symbol of power

A very big problem in our world today is still the battle of the cultures as the battle of the religions. This does not just mean the battle of the cultures against one another: the Islamic world against Christianity, the Christian world against Islam. In particular, this also means the religious battle of the cultures within themselves. The Arabic Islam around the Mediterranean is again fighting against itself in the old religious confrontation between fundamentalist and modern Islam, as has been the case for centuries between the Shiites and the Sunnis. Christian fundamentalism has re-emerged in the Western world.  In America, the creationists have appealed to the absoluteness of the Bible and called out for battle against the modern, in particular against Darwin’s theory of evolution, and thus against all natural sciences. They are also tearing open old fronts in Europe, and are shifting the Western world back into the darkest Middle Ages.

Christianity's symbol of power

Thus, it is not just Islam who is today the anti-force against the enlightenment of humanity. It is also the Christian churches of the Western world.  With its monarchist notion of God, the Christian religion is absolutely contrary to democracy, with its anthropomorphic otherworldly belief in creation it is absolutely contrary to all natural science knowledge, with its claim to the absoluteness of divine commandments it is contrary to a responsible, autonomous life for mankind. It is similarly contrary in its assertion of mankind’s original sin, its idea of the divine last judgment, of Hell and eternal life. The enlightenment did not cause them to truly dismantle or abrogate any of these ancient dogmas. Quite the opposite.

They lead people to believe that the problems of the future can best be solved with their outdated faith models and generally coerce people with their heavenly authority. A concrete example for everyone: The human population just reached seven billion people, with an increase that continues to be explosive. A dramatic basic problem for mankind’s future. Almost doggedly the pope nevertheless claims that the ban on birth control is God’s will, and even forbids condoms. As in this example, the pope again and again proves himself to be the enemy of modern society, a false teacher to the young generations, a fossil relic of a monarchistic and paternalistic system that has otherwise been overcome in Europe. Such a church and institutional religion is the problem in and of itself for our enlightened society. It is the anti-force to world reason.

(3) Potestatem religionis et ecclesiae esse delendam – Power over the modern world must be taken from institutionalised religion and church.

Not their right to care for their members in their own communities. This right is guaranteed without limits to the church by the secular state. Rather, the right to open worldwide resistance to decisions taken by states with democratic constitutions. In Diderot’s time, the great Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778) appealed to his contemporaries to act against the Church’s claim to power with his famous Écrasez l’infame – Crush the impudent (church). And Voltaire wasn’t even atheist. He also wasn’t a democrat. He simply felt he was only obligated to his rational thoughts and to his claim to his individual autonomy. His Écrasez l’infame from back then continues to challenge people today to resist the power of the church over mankind: the Church inveigles humanity. It deceives people. It weakens people in their necessary will to change.

(4) To not be misunderstood: The basic right of religious freedom is guaranteed to every individual citizen of a secularly constituted state in accordance with the rule of law.

The citizen has the freedom to live his own beliefs how he wants. This basic right to personal religion and to practice religion were not created by religions or churches, but by democracies as secularly constituted states. This basic human right is in no way respected everywhere by religions today, for example Islam. It is only respected by the churches in Europe because the secular state took the sword out of their hands 200 years ago and constrained them with the chain of a humane constitution. Every atheist will fight as a democrat for the basic right of free religion, especially if said right is called into question by religion itself.

(5) Furthermore, the European states made the following basic declaration on religion in the CHARTER OF THE EUROPEAN UNION of 2007: The Western culture of today is an autonomous culture without a binding obligation vis-à-vis Christian tradition and the concept of God.

This EU declaration did not reach the highest position of a European constitutional text, in particular because staunchly Catholic Eastern European countries – especially Poland – prevented it from happening. However, after more than ten years of debate on principles, this text was passed as a clear expression of the will of the Central European states – France, Italy and Germany. Generally, this text at least has the status of a compulsory recommendation at a state level.

In the spirit of and in reference to this EU preamble, ATHEODOC fights for the implementation and defence of a secular image of mankind, for a secular society, for a secular state, for a secular Western world, for a secular world order. Particularly in view of an increasingly backward movement within the European Union, it is even more urgent that atheists bring charges against the current systematic displacement of secularization and demand quick implementation of the EU declaration against a religious bond at a governmental level in the future – in particular with regard to politicians in Central European states.