Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How Religion Dies and Secularism Takes Hold

5/11/2009--The following news story was recently sent to me:

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The secular party of Indonesia’s president tripled its share of the vote in parliamentary elections as support for religious parties nose-dived in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.
After years of unpopular laws pushed through by religious hard-liners, regulating women’s dress and banning everything from smoking to yoga, even devout Muslims in Indonesia say they have had enough with religion in politics.

What we learn from this story is how support for the separation of church and state arises, as well as how a people falls away from its religious roots. When religion tries to control political life, and when religion instigates conflict, eventually it is religion that falls into disrespect. This is what happened in Europe sometime after the Wars of Religion in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Religion itself was delegitimized.

Something similar may be happening today in Indonesia. Perhaps if America and Israel had not been so hasty in refusing to recognize the democratic success of Hamas, something similar might today be happening among the Palestinians.

People today see a resurgence in religion and they assume that this means that secularism is not growing. On the contrary, nothing promotes secularism like religious rule and religious conflict.

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