The Secular Answer

It’s safe to say that in the last 10 years the world has rapidly become a much, much smaller place. People will accept that. Technology, travel and migration have brought most of this about. But what the last 10 years have also done is set everything prior to the technological revolution of the 2000’s in stone. There is little, to no evidence left of any existing Western thinking preceding 1999. Interestingly, people are less willing to accept that. Many respecters of Europe’s traditional ‘Judeo-Christian’ values insist they have not expired but are a perpetuum. This is even in the midst of a multi-religious society which loudly declares the values of ‘variety’ to be the dominant thinking of this age. In an age where the atheist, the agnostic and the skeptic are unwilling spectators to various explosive declarations of faith and religion, where is the ‘normal’ ground in Europe anymore?

Acknowledging the past is one thing. Declaring that your past as present is quite another. In this case, you’ve got to hand it to the French. As they bounded forward into the 21st century as a fully secular society, many Christians have protested that France’s zero-tolerance on all religion is an outrageous betrayal of it’s Christian roots. This is not necessarily so. The French have done what few Western countries can boast: create a society where the law makes favour and exception to no other belief system, in the interests of enforcing blanket equality and a standard of normalcy for all. In turn what this has done is to largely drive all religious belief systems underground; Buddhist, Islamic, Hindu, Christian and all. Sociologists have observed in many societies that once a thought system is driven out of public view and underground, rather than disperse, the participating community take on a covert existence. As a result, the religion that is found in France is increasingly less inactive and non-participant. This is one possible commonality which covert French Muslims, Christians and Jews share over their other European counterparts.

By strange paradox, this has kept France’s reverence for the Christian thinking of the previous age, intact and personal. In a nation which does not enforce religious thought (as did the Edwardians and Victorians), people are more inclined to choose their beliefs based on personal conviction. A belief system becomes more tangible when it costs something; those who practice a religion or faith in France now, do so as more of a sacrifice and at their own risk.  As a result the French Christian church of today, are possibly far more passionate about their faith than those of the pre-secular age. Considering that Biblical teaching discourages against apathy and indifference, France have actually done their religious history a favour by offering it a second wind, a second chance to be everything it could never be. One could even argue that this kind of church would identify far closer with the ‘true’ church of Jesus’ day. Rather than declare their historical Judeo-Christian values a perpetuum, by driving the church underground the French have kept it alive. Equally so, all other faiths and religions have benefitted from this rule also. In a surprising counter-balance, it would seem that France have covered all the angles in a way that Britain and America have struggled to.

For the rest who choose not to participate in any such religion or faith, the peace is theirs to know that French law prohibits displays of extremism in the best interests of neutrality. And therein lies the formula; to have the freedom to believe anything one wishes to, anything within the law; for the law is the final word for every man, woman and child. If it’s democracy people are looking for, isn’t this an even pathway to some kind of normalcy in Europe?

    • Carolyn Fernandez said:

      Yes and did you read it?

  1. Did you make this shorter just for me? :p

    I think you might have a point there Caro. I thinking more and more these days that the State should be be run/overly influenced by the Church or any other religious group – people should have complete freedom to choose what they believe and also not to believe if they wish.

  2. by bad – typo – I meant ‘Shouldn’t’

    and yes I did read it!

  3. Carolyn Fernandez said:

    Why David, how did you guess? 🙂

    I couldn’t agree with you more. America has it’s own version of the French ‘Laïcité’ which ensures that the law remains just that, the law, no ifs, ands or buts. It keeps the law clean from being adulterated by disclaimers and exceptions to the rule, etc., which end up becoming impactful on others who don’t require those exceptions. This is why I don’t necessarily agree with the politics of The Christian Alliance Party in Britain.

  4. David Adeola said:

    I’m not sure I agree totally as my first instinct is that this leaves a vacuum which unfortunately in France is being filled by Islam who have in a way recognized this even though there is still some level of curtailment as per the law, but this is not water-tight! As a matter of fact Moslems are giving hectares of land for 2 Euros to build mosques and this is not done for Christians and I know this a fact through friends of ours who have been to court many times and in some cases have had a moslem Judge at the hearing. They have been struggling to have a place of worship for about 5-6 years as they were snookered out of the building they had, renovated and using many years by Islamic push in high places! How come they don’t have a problem in Saudi or any other Islamic state for that matter! Reason been that it is as a matter of fact an Islamic nation and nobody questions that and no other religion is allowed to exist? But we seem to have a problem declaring that in the west while at the same time allowing the freedom for the other religion to co-exist. We cannot reject our Judeo-Christian heritage!

  5. David Adeola said:

    Sorry about my typos/grammar!

  6. Carolyn Fernandez said:

    @David, I agree that some of these laws founded on laïcité are not being fully enforced to an equal standard amongst all religions. That’s more to do with the individuals in the French legal system than it is to do with laïcité on the whole. The vaccum you speak of is not viewed as such by the non-religious proportion of the French population; more that the space created by laïcité is room for secular liberation from religion. That’s any man’s choice. Islam by definition is, indeed, more politically aggressive than Christianity, but this aggression can easily be curtailed with proper law enforcement. I’m not saying that Laïcité is by any means perfect; the concept is brilliant, carrying it out requires more courage than some would muster.

    Again I don’t see Laïcité as a rejection of France’s Judeo-Christian values. The concept of Laïcité is probably closer to true democracy than some other nations would give credit for. On the contrary, I think it gives Judeo-Christian values their proper place the Western world.

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