Saturday, October 20, 2007

Secularism and Religion

10/20/2007--Cardozo Law School and NYU Law School are teaming up for an academic conference entitled “Rethinking Constitutionalism in an Era of Globalization and Privatization”. Presenters are coming from all over the world. [The dates are November 4-5,2007].

One of the sessions is particularly relevant to Hallowed Secularism: “Constitutionalism and Secularism in an Age of Religious Revival”.

But, revealingly, in the pamphlet describing the Conference, the session is described in different terms: “How should we understand constitutionalism in an age of religious fundamentalism?”

This switch tells us two things about the essentially secular mindset of Cardozo and NYU law schools. First, the issue these legal academics are thinking about is how to protect liberty from religion. And this is by no means an insignificant question in a world in which religious thugs beat up women for driving cars. But it is not the only question. The original formulation of religious revival would have also addressed the issue of how to ensure the right to practice religion where it is threatened: for example, in China, in France, in Turkey and in the United States under the potentially oppressive regime of Employment Division v. Smith (1990). Conversely, one is not likely to worry about the constitutional right to practice fundamentalism.

The second implication of the unthinking switch from the term religious revival to religious fundamentalism is that the secularist has a very hard time thinking of religious practice in positive terms. Religious liberty is a human right and many secularists have fought to protect it. But as this small instance demonstrates, secularists just cannot see that religious practice might enhance human life.

Hallowed Secularism both seeks to teach secularism about religion and requires a change in secular orientation if it is to be possible. The Hallowed Secularist, if there is ever going to be one, will not fear religion.

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