21 februari 2006


Jag skrev häromdagen en liten artikel om sekularism/religion polariseringen till en bok om interreligiös dialog. De ville att jag skulle skiva något eftersom jag arbetar (när jag inte studerar) med religionsfrihetsfrågor. Jag antar att det är copyright på detta (så man kan inte använda materialet utan bokförlagets tillstånd) men jag vill se om det är någon som har nåt att säga om detta. Är jag ute och cyklar?

The real challenge to secularism

Many religious people feel today that modern secularism should be challenged; however, religious fundamentalism is not that challenge. Religious fundamentalism only creates an even sharper secular fundamentalism as a reaction. This is evidenced in the controversy over the Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. Some would say that this controversy denotes a clash of civilisations; but really it is a clash of fundamentalisms (if not extremisms).

A more constructive way forward is not to become more extreme, but to find a way to deal with the root-cause of secularism.

The Catholic theologian Pannenberg tells us[1] that secularisation was never intended to be an emancipation from religion: it was conceived as a pragmatic solution to civil war and unrest. His advice for his own religion is to find unity amongst its various branches, but more importantly, to incorporate the idea and practice of tolerance in its understanding of truth. This is a crucial point for all religions.

In interfaith dialogue the challenge is the dialogue itself. Dialogue necessitates a willingness to hear a person from another faith, and to give respect to someone we may not agree with. However, an even greater challenge is to accommodate another faith in our own understanding of truth, of what is truly important. Without this it will be hard for religion to take back its place in the public arena.

There may be many good reasons for a lack of will to accommodate other religions, but Pannenberg is pointing us to an extremely important factor. If our understanding of what is real and truly good does not include respect and tolerance towards other faiths it will be “quite unreasonable to expect modern culture to reconsider the exclusion of religion from the public square”. Pannenberg is not trying to lead us to a relativistic position, but rather to an authenticity of spirit.

The real challenge to secularism therefore is reasonable, cooperative and genuinely spiritual religion. When religions can find a genuine way of not only tolerating, but also understanding and respecting other faiths, then secularism will not be the only tenable position for society. In fact, it will not even be the most reasonable choice.

[1] Pannenberg, Wolfhart, How to Think about Secularism, 1996, First Things 64 (June/July 1996): 27-32. Accessible at: http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft9606/articles/pannenberg.html