Dr. Jonathan Elukin, Associate Professor of History, Trinity College (CT), explains the origins of secular values in Medieval Europe.
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by Barry A. Kosmin, Research Professor in the Public Policy & Law Program at Trinity College and Founding Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture
The idea of separating the institutions of the state, government and public life from the direct involvement and influence of organized religion arose during the Enlightenment. It became a feasible proposition as a result of the two great revolutions of the 18th century. In fact the American and French revolutions produced two intellectual and constitutional traditions of secularism and the secular state – a “soft secularism” and a “hard secularism”. Canadians, of course, rejected both these revolutions and so historically they are heirs to the Lockean tradition of religious toleration rather than of secularism per se.
by Sofia Rodriguez Lopez, Research Fellow, History, Geography and Art History Department, Universidad de Almería (Spain)
In order to measure the presence of secularism in Spain we must, ﬁrst of all, consider the inﬂuence and impact of religion, in this case the established Roman Catholic Church, on civil society and public institutions, particularly as they aﬀect the status of women. Then we shall analyze this problem by looking at the historical development of public services such as education and public health, which are traditionally considered to be the domain of the Church, and how they have undergone a process of secularization. Finally, we will determine the current relationship between women and the Catholic faith in Spain at the individual and collective levels.
by Camille Froidevaux-Metterie, Maître de conférences en science politique (Associate Professor of Political Science) at Universite Paris II Pantheon-Assas
The “veils quarrel”—also known as the “scarf aﬀair”—is a useful point of entry into the problem of laïcité in France today, not only because of its topicality, but also because the issue epitomizes the challenge to which the French State, in its secular form, is confronted. When approaching the problem of some young veiled girls in the public schools, our country must consider the ﬁve million Muslims who live in France, half of whom have obtained French citizenship. Despite the fact that the right to family reuniﬁcation—given to immigrants in 1976—has recently been repealed, and also that President Nicolas Sarkozy wants the process to be restricted, we must keep in mind that its implementation has entailed the permanent settling of hundreds of thousands of families, whose children, whether born in France or not, do not want to go back to the country of origin of their parents. Contrary to what was expected—i.e., that the immigrants, who arrived in the 1950s to participate in the industrial boom would go back home once their work was ﬁnished—there is a strong trend towards permanent settlement.
by Silvia Sansonetti, Researcher at the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’; Scientiﬁc Director of the ‘Observatory on Secularization’ project sponsored by the Critica Liberale Foundation and CGIL
Secularization is a multidimensional and complex social process. The Critica Liberale Foundation and the CGIL (the largest Italian trade union) Sezione Nuovi Diritti have jointly sponsored research on the secularization process in Italy since 2005. The results, which are presented in this paper, have been published yearly in a special volume called Quaderno Laico of the Critica Liberale, the Foundation’s review, together with the complete data-base.
by Barry A. Kosmin, Research Professor in Public Policy and Law and founding Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College
Secularism and its variants are terms much discussed today, paradoxically as a consequence of religion seeming to have become more pervasive and inﬂuential in public life and society worldwide. This situation poses a number of questions. First, a deﬁnitional one: What are the spheres of secularity and secularism? According to our understanding secularity refers to individuals and their social and psychological characteristics and behavior while secularism refers to the realm of social institutions.
by Giulio Ercolessi, Prominent journalist and commentator and co-founder of the website italialaica.it; former Secretary-General of the Italian Radical Party
Religion matters in Italian public life today. Yet some of the problems arising from Italy’s new religious diversity—a result of a) recent immigration waves and b) secularization—are signiﬁcant. To understand their scope, a short excursion into the historical roots of the present situation is probably necessary. e issue of state-church relations played a crucial role in the formation of the Italian state in the 19th century. It was important, for instance, in the formation of Italy’s national liberal heritage. After the destruction of the French-established Napoleonic regional republics,the divide between the Catholic Church and liberal-minded milieus widened. The heritage of the Enlightenment combined with the Romantic movement’s mainstream assessment of Italy’s religious history. As a result, that history was recast in a negative light: the increasingly liberal public saw the Counter-Reformation as one of the main causes of the civic and political backwardness of Italian society after the end of the Renaissance in the 16th century.
by Barry A. Kosmin, Research Professor in Public Policy and Law and founding Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College & Ariela Keysar, Associate Research Professor in Public Policy and Law and the Associate Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College
This volume grew out of a salon or conversazione on the theme of “The Prospects for the Secular State in the Mediterranean World in the 21st Century” hosted by ISSSC—the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture. The event took place during June 2007 at Trinity College’s campus located on the historic and beautiful Aventine Hill in Rome, Italy. The purpose of this gathering was to assemble a diverse group of people from diﬀerent Mediterranean nations, academic disciplines and professions for a relaxed, multi-cultural exchange of information and opinion on one of the key political and intellectual questions of the moment, one which is on the agenda today in one way or another in every country in the Mediterranean region. How should the state and government respond to diversity of beliefs and worldviews in today’s society?
by Adrienne Fulco, Associate Professor and Director of the Public Policy and Law Program at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut
Scholars who compare European and American political parties have custom-arily characterized the two major American political parties as distinctly non-ideological coalitions of voters who come together every four years to nominate and elect a president. Nicol C. Rae recently observed that “[i]n the comparative study of political parties in twentieth century advanced democracies, the United States has always been something of a problematic outlier owing to the absence of organized, disciplined, and ideological mass political parties.” Moreover, according to Rae, when compared with other advanced industrial democracies, “American national parties have traditionally been decentralized, loosely organized, and undisciplined, with party cleavages based on cultural or regional factors rather than social class divisions.” But today, according to researchers who have explored the problem of polarization in American politics since the 1980s, there is now “widespread agreement that the Democratic and Republican parties in the electorate have become more sharply divided on ideology and policy issues in recent decades.” Commentators agree that among the factors most responsible for the sharpening of distinctions between the two parties has been the infusion of white, Protestant, conservative, religiously motivated voters into the Republican Party. Thus, not only have American political parties become more ideologically oriented, but they have also come to resemble more closely the European model, in which parties represent distinct religious and secular constituencies.
by Lars Dencik, Professor of social psychology at Roskilde University, Denmark, and director of the Social and Cultural Psychology Program at the Danish Graduate School of Psychology
Denmark, like Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries, is today a highly developed society, fully committed to progress and modernization. Individuals, as in the other Scandinavian countries, are granted extensive social rights. Denmark is also characterized by being a stable democracy organized as a comprehensive and well-functioning welfare state.