Of course, religions can be secular too. The Western capitalist orthodoxy is almost as entrenched as the Catholic church of the middle ages, despite its extremely shaky foundations. Most commentators, let alone the man in the street, could not defend it because they do not actually know what its basis is. It is perceived to be true without any analysis.
Is this a bad thing? Can we question everything? Must we not accept some things?
I'd suggest that there is a clear difference between contingent and absolute acceptance.
For instance, I accept that certain norms of courtesy and social behaviour are good things, although I've never particularly questioned them. I was surprised to find when I went to other places that I was rather upset that behaviour that I had taken to be basic was not universally thought to be so (imagine, if you will, the naive Dr Zen, boiling with anger at the sight of an old lady knocked into a puddle in Chennai by more able passengers keen to grab seats on a bus). Well, you live and learn but still I accepted that the norms I adhere to are in some sense right.
But this acceptance is contingent. I know that I have not reasoned it, that I have not analysed society and my place in it and worked out whether in fact those norms do aid its working or hinder it.
Another clear example is my belief that the pursuit of money is not noble. I've never really thought it through. I just sort of feel that way. I accept that greedheads are shitheads without thinking through the whole thing (which is not to say that I have never considered some elements of the question, such as whether corporations create jobs or suck wealth out of poorer nations, which is readily open for analysis; I am talking about a much more personal, elemental notion of greedheadedness -- the belief that would prevent me from pursuing monetary gain by playing the game in a career is what I'm talking about here). But perhaps given the short span of life, and how much more you can enjoy it when you have money, I am wrong to feel that way (but would I enjoy it, blah blah blah, long hours, soullessness, blah blah blah, you see how quickly you can embroil yourself in a discussion about it). Perhaps I should have pursued the dollar more fiercely, so that now I would not fret so much over the bills, the kids' futures, all that shit (but I'd fret over over things, wouldn't I, such as what it had taken to not have to fret and... gawd).
For my own sanity, I have accepted some of the melange of half-digested bullshit I have been fed, read and seen in my life. However, I do believe that I am capable of questioning it all (although whether I would have the strength to reject what I needed to reject is a whole different matter).
It is the unquestionable belief that I have always found hard to swallow. The belief that is its own reasoning. The belief in gods that defines all answers to questions about it in terms of itself; the belief in an ideology that cannot step outside itself to answer questions about itself (the sort of ideology that has my friend Hip Liz so firmly in its grasp, I'm sad to say, and more so as he spends more time in the company of those who do not share it, retreating into his shell of indefensible positions); the belief in institutions such as land ownership and marriage as unquestionable foundations of our society rather than constructs of questionable value (who ever asks themselves by what right they own their house? Yes, you worked to pay for it, but why does that make it yours? I promise you your head will hurt if you try to find an absolutely unquestionable answer to that question, and yet we take that right to be unquestionable); the belief that there are rights and not relations (the former is a legal fiction that describes the latter; but try to tell most Americans that -- so many believe that they are something mystical, which either God endowed them with or that somehow floated in from the ether); these beliefs are of course the ones people kill for, because they cannot be compromised. They cannot ever back down from them because they are not changeable (or if they are changed, it is done with such force that psychic damage results).
Perhaps I am lucky not to be ensnared by such beliefs. Perhaps I simply fool myself that the beliefs I think are contingent are less mutable than I hope. Perhaps it is cowardice not to choose.
The latter I doubt, because contingent beliefs can be broad enough and firm enough to form a worldview. I accept that the scientific method is a successful means of inquiry and that its core is, if not true, workable as a contingent truth. (Antiscientists often make the mistake of thinking that because the core theories of science are falsifiable they are readily challengeable. They are not. They are extremely difficult to falsify, and even if they were falsified, they would most likely be damaged rather than destroyed. What is beyond question is that it takes more to make them false than simply to claim they are false in one small specific and think that that does any more than make that specific false. For instance, Newton's planetary theory was falsified in its detail by Einstein, but it is not, for all that, in the dustbin.)
Well, I do not know. Strangely, I find that comforting. Not knowing. I will never have to hurt another person for my beliefs if I do not have any.