Primary author of this article is Prasad Mapatuna of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. This is an open letter. Contents of this article can be freely distributed, reproduced, copied electronically or otherwise or used in any form of non-profit making endeavor as long as the original content is not altered and/or as long as no omissions are made in such a way that the overall message of the article is distorted. You can send your comment to email to firstname.lastname@example.org
On the outset let us declare that we do not have convictions regarding any of these topics that we cannot let go of. We do not have an agenda to impose any set-menus on the society. These are our own thoughts and they are negotiable. Trying not to cling hard on to anything (ideologies in particular) is perhaps a value that we borrowed from Buddhism. We do understand that people who are more educated and knowledgeable than us hold different opinions to that of ours regarding these topics. If those more enlightened people read our rants and if they care, they are bound to respond, convince us, and free us of our wrong opinions. Even during the short period between starting the essay and publishing it, the authors have changed some of their long held opinions. However, as long as we are convinced, we are ready to passionately argue these opinions. The moment we are convinced otherwise, we will gladly change our positions.
Secondly, let us declare that we are utterly unqualified to handle this subject matter. We are no more than a few random Sri Lankans having access to the internet and vast amount of knowledge it presents. We have picked up a term here and a concept there and not doing anything more than repeating them in a coherent manner. Then again, who is qualified anyway? What else does an expert do apart from picking up concepts and repeating them in a coherent manner, perhaps adding little bit of his/her own thoughts?
The main theme in this essay is “separation of religion and governance”. Advocating “Separation” does not mean that we are advocating discarding religion from society altogether. However, in order to convince the readers that morality, law and order aspects of governance needn’t derive its tenets from religion, we need to downplay the notion that religion is the sole authority on morality. When we try to argue that rationality and scientific inquiry is sufficient for that purpose, we inevitably downplay religion. Although our intention in this article is not to CONVERT a religious person to an atheist, it is difficult to avoid appearing so.
As argued in the last paragraph of this essay, we strongly believe that religion will not go away from the society by removing state patronage. Therefore 100% secular society is not something either achievable or even desired. The function of religion in the society is important, and we have no issue with it. We even do not have an issue with organized religions per se. The problem only starts when YOUR organized religion starts dictating terms on OUR lifestyle choices by way of manipulating governance. (Here ‘YOUR” and “OUR” are metaphorical)
The target audience of our essay is the policy makers and the layer of the society that can influence policy making.