Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
Secularism in International Politics
The quote this week is from Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, The Politics of Secularism in International Relations, a book which makes me reminisce upon The Myth of Religious Violence by William Cavinaugh. The book is about how secularism comes into play with international relations, and how secularism is often turned into the wielding of power of the secularist over the religious other. Here’s a juicy quote explaining one of the products of secularism:
“[T]he objective of laicism is to create a neutral public space in which religious belief, practices, and institutions have lost their political significance… The mixing of religion and politics is regarded as irrational and dangerous. For modernization to take hold, religion must be separated from politics… Laicism adopts and expresses a pretense of neutrality… This makes it difficult for those who have been shaped by and draw upon this tradition [laicism] to see the limitations of their own conceptions of religion and politics.” -Elizabeth Hurd, “The Politics of Secularism in International Relations,” 5.
What do you think of the concept of laicism based upon this quote? Have you heard of it before? What are your thoughts on the possibility of the presumption of secularism in politics?
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Book Review: “The Myth of Religious Violence” by William T. Cavanaugh– I review the book which has led me to discuss the ways the category of religion is used to stigmatize the other and also forced me to rethink a number of issues. I highly recommend this book.
It’s no longer surprising to me that when religion is not allowed special sanction or assumed privilege or unearned deference in human affairs, the believers in that religion do not see this as anything but an attack, a power grab, a victimizing endeavor. This is what a level playing field looks like to the believer and another reason that supports Hitchen’s claim that religion poisons everything.
It’s not a level playing field when people say that one’s religious beliefs cannot inform their opinion on a topic.
Good reasons, compelling opinions based on knowledge, justified positions supported by evidence, all play the pertinent role in forming policy in the political sphere. But to include one’s religious beliefs in this strata because they are religious beliefs and therefore sacrosanct and exempt from exactly the same criticisms that can be brought to bear on the first three, is pure, unadulterated folly because it doesn’t inform any position with anything of equal value; it replaces the need for similar justifications with empty assertions, empty assumptions, and causal claims empty of similar knowledge value. This is not reasonable and it’s not compatible with Enlightenment principles upon which western liberal democracies use as the foundation for civil and criminal law.
Because the political sphere affects all, no individual religious set of beliefs can be brought to bear into the public domain – law, defence, education, research, governance, public policies, and so on – without dividing people into sectarian camps and privileging some over others on this basis, which is a guaranteed way of undermining peace, equality of opportunity for prosperity, and good governance all achievable solely by secular principles of equality and reciprocity. To allow special dispensation because of demanding respect for religious beliefs is neither wise nor sustainable. And to claim victimhood from implementing secular principles of equality and reciprocity reveals the depth and scope of expectation by believers for special religious privilege.
I think certainly that religious beliefs can inform a persons opinion on a topic, in the same vein I think that the religious persons opinions can still be just as wrong but no more than the Atheist who has their opinion informed from a particular source which results in incorrect conclusions being drawn. Regards
It’s unrealistic to expect religious people or anyone else to forget their deepest beliefs when engaging in political activity, but everyone needs to come together in pursuit of common goals. It’s the goals that should be secular. The goal should not be some moral idea in a particular religious scripture, but it should be basic prosperity, which is something everyone wants.
How about building the economy? Making sure people can find well-paying jobs. Let’s have safe and healthy cities and a beautiful countryside. These are goals that everyone can agree on regardless of their attitudes about religion.