The Moral and Intellectual Bankruptcy of Antisecularists

The movement against Legault and the CAQ has zero credibility.


A recent demonstration in Montreal by so-called “anti-racist” activists illustrates yet again that the enemies of secularism are sadly lacking in moral and intellectual integrity. In particular, they deliberately conflate race and religion, thus aiding and abetting religious fanaticism.

Sommaire en français Une récente manifestation à Montréal par des militants soi-disant “anti-racistes” montre encore une fois que les ennemis de la laïcité manquent tristement d’intégrité morale et intellectuelle. En particulier, ils confondent délibérément la race et la religion, favorisant ainsi le fanatisme religieux.

Shortly after being elected on October 1st 2018, the new premier, François Legault, and his CAQ party announced their intention to start implementing various secularism measures, in particular, banning religious symbols worn by public servants in positions of authority, i.e. police, judges, prosecutors, prison guards and teachers. This is incomplete, but nevertheless an excellent start to implementing secularism in Quebec and supported by the majority of the population and basically all secularists in Quebec.

Poster for 2018-10-07 demo, slightly modified Click to enlarge
Demo poster, slightly modified
to make it more honest.

But there are forces who oppose secularism and do so in an extremely dishonest manner. Yesterday (2018-10-07) a demonstration was held in Montréal to protest the new measures. The demo was announced as being against racism, but a major focus was on denouncing Legault and the CAQ as racist.

The fallacy of conflating race and religion is a common tactic used by anti-secularists. It has been refuted countless times, but because of the extreme dishonesty of anti-secularists who falsely claim to be “anti-racist,” it is necessary to do so once again. So I summarize:

  • Race involves innate and immutable characteristics of the individual, whereas a religion is an ideology—a collection of ideas and beliefs—which can change overnight.
  • Religion and race are thus completely different phenomena.
  • Religion may be freely chosen if and only if there is freedom of conscience. Unfortunately, most religious believers have a religion forced on them as children, via indoctrination.
  • One of the key pillars of secularism is freedom of conscience, i.e. to make sure that individuals have the freedom and the autonomy to choose or reject an ideology which others may try to force on them. Thus, public institutions must not show preference for any religion.
  • The secular measures announced by Legault and CAQ are obviously not racist. Their purpose is to keep religious bias out of the affairs of state and government. They apply to all religions.
  • The secular measures announced by Legault and CAQ are clearly necessary because public servants in positions of authority must not display any religious partisanship.

Furthermore, the anti-secularists masquerading as “anti-racists” are dishonest in several ways:

  • The conflation of race with religion is clearly a fallacy, a strategy used in order to defame secularists as “racist.”
  • The conflation of race with religion constitutes a denial of freedom of conscience, condemning individuals to the religion into which they were born, a product of pure chance. It is a denial of a basic human right, the right to think for oneself.
  • They use the crucifix in the Quebec National Assembly as an excuse to allow public servants in authority to wear blatant religious symbols. Of course that crucifix must be removed, and Legault’s decision to keep it there is unacceptable, but that is no excuse. Two wrongs do not make a right. The government needs to remove the crucifix:
    1. because it is the right thing to do; and
    2. in order to deprive anti-secularists of one of their favourite propaganda ploys.

Furthermore, the opposition to any form of dress code is nonsensical and dishonest, because:

  • In the Quebec public service, politically partisan symbols may not be worn by employees on duty. It is thus hypocritical to allow religious symbols to be worn. Religious symbols are generally very political.
  • Dress codes are a widespread phenomenon throughout society. For example, the Canadian parliament imposes certain restrictions on Members of Parliament. The Rules of Order and Decorum stipulate that “to be recognized to speak in debate, on points of order or during Question Period, tradition and practice require all Members, male or female, to dress in contemporary business attire.” Why should any MP be allowed the privilege of being exempted from this rule simply because of his or her religion?
  • It is a major goal of Islamism to impose the wearing of the Islamic veil anywhere and everywhere. By opposing all dress codes, anti-secularists are objectively allied with extreme right-wing political Islam. Anti-secularists are not anti-fascist, they are objectively pro-fascist.

Given the above considerations, we see that those who denounce the new Quebec government as “racist,” because of its secular measures, are both intellectually bankrupt, for their arguments are fundamentally irrational, and morally bankrupt, because they oppose freedom of conscience and support the agenda of a far-right religious movement.

One small glimmer of reason from an individual who is normally a staunch ally of the anti-secularists: Manon Massé of Québec solidaire has publically stated that Legault and the CAQ are not racist. Very good. But she nevertheless opposes Legault’s plans because QS would not include teachers in the religious symbol ban. Furthermore, she did not, as far as I know, distance herself from the so-called “anti-racist” demonstration.

Anyone who cares sincerely about child welfare, especially the well-being of believers’ children, will support Legault’s proposed ban on religious symbols worn by teachers, thus helping to make public schools a refuge from religious indoctrination.

One final observation about the modern anti-racist movement, and this should come as no surprise to anyone: that movement is often racist itself. In particular, here in Quebec, so-called “anti-racist” activists often accuse Quebeckers in general of being racist. This itself is a racist attitude, an expression of anti-Québécois ethnic bigotry. In reality, the vast majority of Québécois, including those who voted for the centre-right CAQ, are more progressive that many of those activists.

Relevant Links:

Next blog: The Dishonesty of the Globe and Mail

Fairweather Secularists


In this blog I present the concept of a fairweather secularist, a person who supports only the easiest, non-controversial secular measures, but weasels out on more challenging issues.

Sommaire en français Dans ce blogue je présente le concept d’un prétendu partisan du sécularisme qui abandonne ses principes dès que l’opposition devient un peu plus corsée ou que la question exige un peu d’analyse ou de réflexion. Comme un ami des beaux jours, il disparaît dès que les difficultés se pointent.

We are all familiar with the concept of a fairweather friend: a person who is a friend in good times, but disappears in bad times, a person “who supports others only when it is easy and convenient to do so.” (

I define a fairweather secularist as a person who claims to support secularism, but does so only when it is easy to do so, when the issue involved in uncontroversial. But when that issue is more challenging and requires some analysis in order to understand it fully, or when there is strong opposition and the opponents of secularism start slinging mud, the fairweather secularist goes silent and disappears. Or worse: sometimes he or she joins the mud-slingers!

Two examples to illustrate:

  1. Everybody knows that article 296 (“Blasphemous Libel”) of the Criminal Code of Canada has got to go. It is a ridiculous, antiquated law which criminalizes so-called “blasphemy” without even defining the term. Its continued existence in Canadian law can be used by various theocracies as an excuse to justify their repressive legislation against blasphemy or offending religious sensibilities. And yet, many self-styled secularists who denounce article 296 fall silent—or worse, applaud!—when Parliament adopts motion M-103, condemning so-called “Islamophobia.” It is obvious that this motion is a threat to freedom of expression and a first step towards the recriminalization of blasphemy, except that in this case emphasis is placed on one particular religion. The motion is not only incompatible with secularism, it does not even respect religious neutrality which is a weaker concept than secularism. But we who oppose M-103 have a serious uphill battle, because Islamofascists (few in number but very vocal) and their anti-secular allies and dupes (very numerous and very vocal!) throw out a barrage of specious but severe accusations in order to vilify us. The weather in this case is very bad.
  2. All secularists recognize that the crucifix which hangs in Salon bleu of the National Assembly in Quebec City has got to go. It commemorates an old alliance, established in the 1930s, between the right-wing provincial government of the time and the Catholic Church. It is an enormous symbolic privilege given to one particular religion: Christianity. And yet, many self-styled secularists who denounce that crucifix’s presence in the Quebec legislature fall silent—or worse, applaud the decision!—when a federal court rules that a fundamentalist Muslim woman may wear a niqab at her citizenship ceremony. Once again, we have an enormous symbolic privilege given to one particular religion: this time Islam, and not just any Islam, but the most extreme, aggressive and politicized version of that religion. Once again, the weather is very bad, so fairweather secularists are cowed into silence, terrified of being accused of “Islamophobia” or “racism” or whatever.

Cowardice, hypocrisy and intellectual sloth are the essential characteristics of the fairweather secularist.

Fairweather secularism is the first dismal level in a spectrum of ways in which people capitulate to religious privilege and obscurantism. From there, it is only a matter of degree separating these false friends of secularism from deeper levels of capitulation, leading eventually to some form of alliance with religion. And in the current political context, the religion which they mostly enable is usually Islam because it is currently the most fashionable and its fundamentalist variant is the most aggressive.

Next blog: Screw the Monarchy! Vivent les patriotes !

Secularism: Lockean and Republican


In this blog I explain briefly two major, competing approaches to secularism: the Lockean which is merely a dilute form of religious neutrality and closely resembles “open” secularism and multiculturalism; and the republican, which is far superior because it involves true separation between religions and state.

Sommaire en français Dans ce blogue je présente deux principales variantes concurrentes de la laïcité : celle de Locke qui n’est qu’une forme diluée de la neutralité religieuse et ressemble bien à la laïcité dite « ouverte » et au multiculturalisme ; et la républicaine, grandement supérieure, car elle implique une totale séparation entre religions et État.

Different cultures have varying strengths and weaknesses. The tradition of secularism is the English-speaking world is notoriously weak. This may be partly a consequence of the great success which the British monarchy—that ridiculous anachronism ultimately based on “divine right”—has had in surviving by evolving towards constitutional monarchy while maintaining the royal family’s star status. But more important, although less fashionable, is the heritage of the philosophy of John Locke.

In his famous A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689), Locke proposed a society and a government which tolerated all religions, including “Presbyterians, Independents, Anabaptists, Arminians, Quakers” and indeed “neither Pagan nor Mahometan, nor Jew, ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion.” Nevertheless, he excluded those religions which failed to tolerate others, which effectively excluded Catholics as they could be expected to hold allegiance to a foreign prince. Locke was also resolutely atheophobic:

Lastly, those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all; besides also, those that by their atheism undermine and destroy all religion, can have no pretence of religion whereupon to challenge the privilege of a toleration.

A Letter Concerning Toleration, full text.

Locke is probably the reference for secularism in the English speaking world, but I would call his vision pseudo-secularism because of its assumption that everyone with any concept of ethics, any right to live in society with others, has a religion, and indeed a theistic religion. Indeed, Locke’s approach is no more than limited religious neutrality, including neither neutrality between belief and non-belief nor separation between religion and state. His atheophobia is a deal-breaker. His vision sounds a lot like the USA—indeed, the first amendment of the US constitution, beginning with “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” is Lockean in its inspiration—but with greater persecution of atheists.

Lockean pseudo-secularism also bears a strong resemblance to both “open secularism” (the adjective “open” effectively negating the word it modifies) and multiculturalism, both of which attach greater importance to religious affiliation than to citizenship. As a result, religious privilege is implicit and inevitable in all three, because they all give priority to religious belief over non-belief.

The Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) programme in the public schools of Quebec is another example of Lockean pseudo-secularism, because it teaches that everyone has a religion, or at least should have one, and largely ignores non-believers. Worse, ERC tends to describe religious communities as monolithic and static and identifies them more with fundamentalist tendencies—rather than modernist tendencies—within each religion.

However, in other cultures, other variants of secularism are proposed. In particular, the French tradition of “laïcité” is probably the most advanced and enlightened form of secularism so far developed. One of the most important contemporary proponents of this form, which I will call republican secularism, is the philosopher Henri Peña-Ruiz. He advocates a total separation between religion on one hand, and the state and schools on the other. He classifies religions as “spiritual options” and gives the same status to agnosticism and atheism.

Although I do not agree 100% with the approach to secularism put forward by Peña-Ruiz, because I do not see atheism as on a par with religious belief, nevertheless I recognize that his laïcité is far superior to the dilute religious neutrality of Locke which does not even allow for atheism. My own approach to secularism is described in the talk The Relationship Between Atheism and Secularism which I gave at a colloquium in Beirut in April of 2012. See also Does Secularism Imply Religious Neutrality?

If the term multiculturalism had any positive, constructive meaning in Canada, then English-Canadians who consider themselves to be secularists would be motivated to study secular traditions in other countries—France, Turkey (where Erdogan is currently undermining the secular heritage of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk), Mexico and others—and consider the possibility that perhaps the English tradition is not quite as wonderful and superior as they initially assumed. Unfortunately, most have not done this and thus remain mired in that initial false assumption.

Of course this does not mean that one must follow slavishly what has been implemented in France or any other country whose version of secularism provides examples to guide us. Every country is unique and differences are inevitable. In France for example, face-coverings are forbidden everywhere in public. Such a measure may not be necessary in Canada, at least not yet, although it remains an option to be considered. Certainly it is insane to allow face-coverings in official functions such a citizenship ceremonies.

The Charter of Secularism proposed by the Quebec government in 2013-2014 was inspired by the republican tradition. Some adversaries of that Charter were apparently advocating a model of secularism in the Lockean tradition, although many did not present it as such. Rather, often in a de facto alliance with fundamentalist Muslims and Islamofascists, many indulged in specious and dishonest accusations of “intolerance”, “Islamophobia” or “racism” against the Charter and its supporters rather than engage in an honest debate about different types of secularism.

Next blog: “Hate Quebec, Hate Secularism