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I thought that secularism meant the separation of church and state. Thus, the state is (theoretically) blind to a person's religious convictions and an individual is therefore able to exercise freedom of conscience/observance.

In this the US still mostly adheres to this. Not perfectly nor without prejudice, but mostly you can recognise the intention.

Although the UK does favour certain religions, even granting some of them representation in the House of Lords (for goddess alone knows what reason), by and large, our laws are indifferent to religion even if it is as not as much as we like. I was very pleased to discover last year that I had not previously known that Michael Howard (Tory leader 2003-5) was jewish, as it had been something of such little consideration to his position that it had never been mentioned.

Only Blair made a point of letting us know he was religious, just so he could then let us know he "didn't do god".

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 07:54:31 AM EST
Living in the US for 4 years convinced me that no, the US is not a secular society because religiosity permeates public life. However, European countries by and large don't have separation of Church and State, with most countries having a state-sanctioned church.

The problem of wars of religion was resolved differently on either side of the atlantic centuries ago. On this side, religiosity becomes a private matter which is allowed to coexist with an official church. On the other side, people wear their religion on their sleeve, which is incompatible with the state favouring one religion over the others.

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

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 08:29:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Echoing Helen, how do you define "secularism"? I always thought it's about separation of church and state, too, and that view seems to have dominated among editors of the linked Wikipedia article, too. Do you mean the private choice of living a non-religious life, like not going to Sunday mass and not marrying?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 08:41:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I interpret secularism as keeping religion to the private sphere and largely out of the public sphere.

In any case, making such a distinction between secularism and separation of church and state is my way to articulate the difference between the US and Europe.

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

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 08:44:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In what way do our churches which aren't separated from states keep out of the public sphere? Religious education at public schools, for example, are very much in the public sphere IMO. Or do you only mean the attitude of idividuals?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 09:04:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Religious education is a case of lack of separation of church and state. But religion is kept out of the non-religious subjects in schools, by and large. Public schools are secular - that is why there is a market for religious private schools.

I also meen the attitude of both politicians and religious leaders. In Europe politicians are supposed to keep their religion private and Bishops are supposed to be nonpolitical. The opposite of the US where politicians sound like preachers and preachers are political.

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

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 09:08:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Public schools are secular - that is why there is a market for religious private schools.

There are levels of indoctrination (and private schools, religious or not, also can have the exclusivity and eliteness factor). In a country without religious education in public schools, indoctrination is a wider motivator, in countries with religious education in public schools, it's a motivation for fundamentalists only.

I also meen the attitude of both politicians and religious leaders.

That's part of the separation of church and state, isn't it?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 09:31:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess separation of church and state is an institutional/legal feature. The way the people with the institutional jobs carry themselves isn't necessarily, but that doesn't make it illegal. It does make it frowned upon by the public be it when it mixes politics and religion (in Europe) or when it doesn't (in the US).

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 09:36:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I also meen the attitude of both politicians and religious leaders.

That's part of the separation of church and state, isn't it?

No. You can have very strong separation of church and state and at the same time have very explicitly religious - even theocratic - political leaders. It just requires that you have a strong tradition of independent judicial review, so the theocratic politicians can't make overtly theocratic laws without getting them slapped down in court.

Then you get entertaining legal proceedings like the Dover Panda Trial and eccentric pseudolegal/pseudoscientific positions like Intelligent Design Creationism.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 02:56:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Secularism presumably means informal separation between church and state, where the formal version means the distinction is constitutional and explicit.

I'd suggest it's a grey area in practice, because of the influence religions have over voting patterns - very obviously in the US, perhaps less overtly in parts of Europe.

The only technically secular cultures were the communist ones. But I think there's a good case to be made for the suggestion that replacing religion with messianic secular ideology isn't necessarily an improvement.

Which in turn suggests that West isn't secular at all, because most countries follow a subtly messianic creed called Liberal Capitalism.

This creates the useful illusion of Freedom of Conscience while disguising a reality that enforces strict conformity.

Aside from a brief heretical digression into Social Democracy, Liberal Capitalism has defined public, private and state values for more than a century in the UK. And the links between politics and policy aren't just strong, they're incestuous.

The danger is that many atheists believing they're fighting the good fight (sic) by taking a pop at Christianity and Islam, but calling out Liberal Capitalism as a fairy story at least as silly as any other remains taboo and off the media radar.

It's acceptable to criticise individual policy decisions and institutions. But criticising the entire edifice is a fringe activity by cranks and heretics - even though practically, LC is currently far more destructive to Western social morality and well-being than any of the mainstream religions.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 10:19:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a big religious and a big secular population. The secular population does not punish politicians at the ballot box for talking god, the religious population does punish politicians at the ballot box for talking god, so politicians by and large talk god unless they are in a position where the hit at the ballot box doesn't hurt.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 01:50:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
typo: ... the religious population does punish politicians at the ballot box for not talking god ...


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 02:39:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The US makes the president swear on the bible. That's not hugely secular.
Also, it's mostly fine with whatever religion you have, provided you have one. It makes children pray to the flag.

No, I don't call that a secular country.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 08:36:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not just that. Political speech is full of religious language. It's expected to be. The President is the High Priest. That's simply not the case in Europe, where explicitly religious political language is frowned upon.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 08:39:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is kind of a regression, since the motto "In God We Trust" on the dollar and the relevant line in the Pledge of Allegiance was added during the Cold War.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 08:42:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"In God We Trust" was on US coins long before the "cold war".

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Sat Sep 8th, 2012 at 12:43:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, so coins excepted:

In God we trust - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"In God we trust" was adopted as the official motto of the United States in 1956 as an alternative or replacement to the unofficial motto of E pluribus unum, adopted when the Great Seal of the United States was created and adopted in 1782.[1][2]

In God we trust has appeared on U.S. coins since 1864[3] and on paper currency since 1957.[4]

Following the link on coins, I find the history behind it was an earlier degression:

History of 'In God We Trust'

The motto IN GOD WE TRUST was placed on United States coins largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received many appeals from devout persons throughout the country, urging that the United States recognize the Deity on United States coins...

It was found that the Act of Congress dated January 18, 1837, prescribed the mottoes and devices that should be placed upon the coins of the United States. This meant that the mint could make no changes without the enactment of additional legislation by the Congress. In December 1863, the Director of the Mint submitted designs for new one-cent coin, two-cent coin, and three-cent coin to Secretary Chase for approval. He proposed that upon the designs either OUR COUNTRY; OUR GOD or GOD, OUR TRUST should appear as a motto on the coins...

The Congress passed the Act of April 22, 1864. This legislation changed the composition of the one-cent coin and authorized the minting of the two-cent coin. The Mint Director was directed to develop the designs for these coins for final approval of the Secretary. IN GOD WE TRUST first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin.

...The use of IN GOD WE TRUST has not been uninterrupted. The motto disappeared from the five-cent coin in 1883, and did not reappear until production of the Jefferson nickel began in 1938. Since 1938, all United States coins bear the inscription. Later, the motto was found missing from the new design of the double-eagle gold coin and the eagle gold coin shortly after they appeared in 1907. In response to a general demand, Congress ordered it restored, and the Act of May 18, 1908, made it mandatory on all coins upon which it had previously appeared. IN GOD WE TRUST was not mandatory on the one-cent coin and five-cent coin. It could be placed on them by the Secretary or the Mint Director with the Secretary's approval.

The motto has been in continuous use on the one-cent coin since 1909, and on the ten-cent coin since 1916. It also has appeared on all gold coins and silver dollar coins, half-dollar coins, and quarter-dollar coins struck since July 1, 1908.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Sep 8th, 2012 at 04:00:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought it was originally a typo and that the Republicans now want to restore the original spelling: In Gold We Trust

:P

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

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Sep 8th, 2012 at 04:13:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not required. Adams swore on a book of law. But he probably wouldn't get away with it today.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 08:57:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite: the oath of office is not an oath that has to be taken on a bible, but if someone who was or pretended to be religious elected to take the oath and not use their highest scripture to swear on, people would wonder in what way they wanted to break it without going to hell.

And to be elected President, one has to be religious or pretend to be, though many politicians are, of course, the "Easter and Christmas Day" kind of Christians.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 02:43:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What did Romney swear on?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 03:15:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He hasn't actually been elected yet.

Oh, you mean in the gubernatorial swearing in? The same bible his dad used to be sworn in as Governor of Michigan. Mormons don't have to be sworn in on a Book of the Mormon, its taken as an addition to the canon and not a complete canon on its own.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 03:19:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This
I was very pleased to discover last year that I had not previously known that Michael Howard (Tory leader 2003-5) was jewish, as it had been something of such little consideration to his position that it had never been mentioned.
is what I call secularity. In the US you always know what religion a politician is.

On the other hand, the UK has a state church, as do all the Lutheran countries in Northern Europe (Church of England, Church of Denmark...) all the Orthodox countries in Eastern Europe with their autocephalous churches, and all Catholic countries with their single (i.e., "catholic") supranational church tied to the states through Concordates. Germany, of course, resolved the 30 years' war by having two state churches. But nobody gives a fig what religion you are, unlike in the US, and even the bishops of the state church get in trouble with public opinion if they get too political, whereas in the US every politician is supposed to get religious.

There has to be a name for that difference. I choose to call it "secular" vs. "separation fo church and state". The naming convention is debatable, of course.

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

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 09:05:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Remember that while separation of church and state in the US founding was similar to the Bismarkian secularism ~ denominations dominating different states thinking they were safer from being on the losing end if no establishment religion was allowed ~ there was also a strand in the separation of church and state which supported it as much to protect churches from the corrupting influence of being the state church as to protect the state from being dominated by religion.

There's a twin movement in weakening the religious hold on society under an establishment church, in that the establishment church works to undermine the strength of rival churches, and being the establishment church tends to weaken the appeal of the establishment church over the long term.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 01:56:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is also the point that a state church's ability to maintain ideological coherence suffers from the interpenetration of church and government bureaucracies. If it does single-issue advocacy the way it would if it were a fully independent organization, it risks being defeated and captured in internal bureaucratic battles in the government. And if it does not do single-issue advocacy, it loses internal cohesion and risks being captured piecemeal.

Unless, of course, the church takes marching orders from a hostile transnational corporation, as the Church of Happyology and parts of the Catholic Church do.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 03:18:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That not an "also", its part of one of the points originally arguing for the establishment clause of the Bill of Rights: that's part of the process of corruption in "protect churches from the corrupting influence of being the state church".

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 03:21:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is a third prong to the twin movement in weakening the religious hold on society under an establishment church.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 03:36:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, yes, if you count from one to three skipping two ... its a big chunk of the second prong.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 06:13:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Church of Sweden has by and large been seperated from the government over the last half century. I think Palme was the last minister of church and education, the tax authority took over the census register in the 80ies, in the 90ies the church elections was decoupled from the government elections. Finally, in the 00ies the church has had the last formal ties removed as well as been put on own economic footing with the government subsidies being open for all registered religions (naturally there are conditions that to this day keeps the Kopimists from gaining state funding while the Church of Sweden as well as smaller christian, moslem and jewish denominations receive them). Also, school ceremonies has moved out of the church tough there are still some fighting going on there.

So by your criteria Sweden largely fill them all right now.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 02:33:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But the indications I've picked up are that the final step of formally separating the church was a bad idea.

When the priests get paid for being inoffensive rather than for getting bums in the pews, they tend to have less incentive to rile up the easily excitable and create social fault lines to use in mobilization.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 03:41:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Counterexample: Israel
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 03:51:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But those are not comparable. In the Swedish case we're talking about a largely or totally defanged church: One which had been gradually but systematically stripped of its privileges and authority.

I'd suggest that forcing such a church into a Darwinian struggle for survival on the free market is likely to see it achieve a net gain in influence. Partly because the easiest marketing strategy for a newly privatized church is to polarize society along some formerly dormant fault line. And partly because having to secure cash flow from the customers will trim away employees who are, from a cash flow perspective, dead wood. This creates an incentive structure which encourages a smaller but more ideologically coherent - and more extremist - organizational structure.

The Israeli case is different, because religion was never properly defanged in the first place.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 04:14:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the other hand, polarizing positions on issues is likely to cause disaffection among passive parishioners. I understand there is a large plurality of "cultural christians" who remain affiliated with the Church in Sweden and pay their church tax, but could be motivated to de-register if offended.

So then the church would have to raise the tax rate for the faithful in order to break even.

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

by eurogreen on Thu Sep 6th, 2012 at 04:53:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is what a schism brand segmentation does for you. A major part of the advantage of a state church is that it prevents hardliners and milquetoasts from going their separate ways, thus incentivizing the milquetoasts to speak up against hardliners who offend their main customer demographic.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Sep 6th, 2012 at 05:09:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We do have the experience of the established church of England and the since a long time disestablished churches of Ireland and Wales.

The church of wales flourished more after disestablishment then before.

But as far as I understand both churches are as centrist as the CoE.

by IM on Thu Sep 6th, 2012 at 06:57:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Anything particular in mind?

The church's main claim to relevance outside or inside of the state is performing the rituals of life - baptism, confirmations, weddings and funerals. And if anything the God bit has been more and more toned down over the years from my limited observations.

On the national level, the (now internal) church policies has afaik been going in the right direction and one woman was a hot candidate for archbishop last time around, though a man won again.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 03:53:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Anything particular in mind?

Nothing big enough that I remember the details. Mostly Danish preacher men who used the Swedish example as a case for the separation of church and state, because it allowed the church to position itself more clearly in issues of relevance to the parishioners (read: Preach politics from the pulpit).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Sep 5th, 2012 at 04:16:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's seen as "tradition", "a job" etc.

Here's a famous quote from a Swedish 1962 revue, considered somewhat scandalous at the time: "He's a good representative for the Church of Sweden - he has no strong opinion about anything."

by Number 6 on Fri Sep 7th, 2012 at 11:26:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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