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But I dispute that we live in secularised societies!

You told Jake recently Take your barbarian free speech back to the US where it belongs.

I feel compelled to ask you to take your religious society to the US where it belongs.

Now seriously, this is the time to point out that secularism, separation of church and state, and freedom of conscience are three separate concepts.

I was of the opinion that, by and large, the US had freedom of conscience and separation of church and state, but it wasn't a secular society; on the other hand, Europe tends to have freedom of conscience and a secular society but no separation of church and state.

Is this one of those cases where you can pick two out of three?

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 4th, 2012 at 11:32:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have the impression (I am open to correction) that France enjoys all three. I believe this to be a relatively enviable state of affairs, and well worth defending.

I deplore any regression in this respect, beit in France, Russia, or the Maghreb, for example.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Sep 4th, 2012 at 11:40:24 AM EST
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I believe if you scratch the illusion of secularity a bit, you'll see how thin it is. In Germany Catholics and Lutherans are about one third of the population each. Small fry and no religion is the last third. Especially in the rural parts the Churches are everywhere (in the west). I don't know what is secular in that. We are more concerned with balancing the two Churches against each other (yes, the two Churches. A church is founded by Peter or by Martin Luther, everything else is a sect) than with secularity.

So it's not even a case of picking two out of three.

by Katrin on Tue Sep 4th, 2012 at 12:07:42 PM EST
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I don't know what is secular in that.

What temporal power do the churches have? If the answer is none, then the society is secular. It's not about how many people profess or practice religion. It's about whether the churches get to dictate behaviour, education, dress codes, sexual morals, etc... or not.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Sep 4th, 2012 at 12:13:36 PM EST
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The government collects a tithe on their behalf: that's pretty non-separational of Church and State.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 4th, 2012 at 12:24:01 PM EST
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It does that in Denmark as well. In Denmark, what that means is that substantially the church's entire revenue stream goes through the central government bureaucracy.

That's a good system, which has worked perfectly well since the 16th century. My only complaint is that it isn't open to all the other religions who might wish to enjoy similar state support place their budgetary decisions in the hands of treasury officials...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Sep 4th, 2012 at 12:38:05 PM EST
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And in Italy you have no choice but to pay it, though a few years ago they started letting you specify alternatives to the Church to give the money to.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Sep 4th, 2012 at 02:14:56 PM EST
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The Churches have influence on politics, on public broadcasters where they have seats, and they teach the regular religion classes in schools (except in the three city states, where they fight to get that right). And that's only the influence where they have formal legal rights, not even the informal influence.

Then there is the funding: if you owe your church money every month, because you are a member, the state will collect it for them with the income tax. There are hidden funds too.

by Katrin on Tue Sep 4th, 2012 at 12:41:18 PM EST
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And the state tax authorities keep track of people's religious affiliation.

Big yikes!

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 4th, 2012 at 12:42:15 PM EST
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Right. State tax authorities mark marital status, number of children, membership of church on a card which you then hand to your employer (!) who transfers the taxes on your wage directly to the state.
by Katrin on Tue Sep 4th, 2012 at 12:51:45 PM EST
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Formal legal rights = seats on public broadcasters + teaching religion in schools + administration of voluntary religious tax. OK, that gives them an undue influence on the formation of public opinion, so I guess that, according to Migeru's definition, Germany fails the "separation of church and state" test.

What are the "hidden funds"? Sounds exciting.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Sep 4th, 2012 at 12:56:37 PM EST
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It is exciting. The churches run social services, hospitals, kindergarten and are refunded for the costs. The are paid for teaching religion in schools. Their priests study in public universities subjects that are decided by the Church, not the state, but the Churches can't be bothered to pay for that. Then there are some historical hangovers which we are told we can't change. In Bavaria bishops are paid by the state and the like.
by Katrin on Tue Sep 4th, 2012 at 03:32:38 PM EST
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So Germany is much like Minnessotta :)

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 4th, 2012 at 12:14:54 PM EST
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I don't know what is secular in that.

I interpret 'secularity' mostly in the sense that religiosity is a private matter. In stark contrast with the situation in the US where public shows of piety are almost required of politicians and public figures, in most of Europe they are frowned upon, discouraged, or they are simply not done. Even Christian Democrats keep a low profile, by and large. I may be mistaken, but even in the case of German President Gauck, the fact that he's a pastor is secondary to his reputation as a dissident against the DDR regime. Merkel doesn't make a big production out of being the daughter of a pastor either.

Maybe the fact of appointing Gauck President is a turning point, just like Sarkozy appears to have tried to inject just a bit too much of Catholicism in his political rhetoric.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 4th, 2012 at 02:28:30 PM EST
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