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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 ]

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