The secular outlook
The secular outlook: In defense of moral and political secularism
Only within the framework of democracy, the rule of law, the secular state, and human rights, as expounded in European constitutions and Human Rights declarations, is it possible to develop a framework for religious and cultural pluralism. Therefore revindicating the secular outlook is essential to European civilization’s chances of surviving and flourishing, and those of wider Western civilization as well.
Is this a needlessly provocative thesis with regard to religion? I believe it is not. It would be a serious mistake to consider the values espoused in the secular outlook as in any way inimical to religion or the rights of religious believers. On the contrary, secularism is the only perspective under which people of different religious persuasions can live together. It is an essential precondition for the free development of religion, although, mirabile dictu, many serious believers do not seem to be interested in its free development.
(…) Western civilization is to a considerable degree defined by what I call “the secular outlook” or that specific combination of values that make it possible for people of different religious persuasion to live together in a peaceful and respectful way. T.S. Eliot (1888–1965) famously quipped that if Christianity goes, Western civilization goes (I will comment on his work more elaborately later in this book). I think this is untrue. With all due respect for Christianity, I do not think that Western civilization is doomed if cultural and religious pluralism becomes more common than it is now, not even if Christianity develops into a minority position. Europe and the Western world certainly can survive religious pluralism, but if we destroy the principles and values that make pluralism possible, Western civilization is moribund indeed.
The resurgence of political religion
“Military fervor on behalf of faith” has not disappeared, as Draper thought at the end of the nineteenth century. It is back on the agenda. And the experience of the past two decades has taught us that liberal democracies cannot come to a resolution of this matter by ignoring the issue or giving evasive answers. The question of how to deal with this problem, the most pervasive of our time, remains on the agenda.
Gradually it dawns upon us that the Arab Spring seems to have changed. It may be the case that the Arab Spring does not bring us democracy but its traditional antithesis: theocracy. Everywhere in the Middle East the constitutions that are being drafted contain references to holy law, especially sharia law. The new religious resurgence seems to mark a crisis of secularism as well. Then there is the growing loyalty that people feel to their religion and not to the nation state where they are living. So the new religious resurgence is also a renewed challenge of the nation state and national sovereignty.
On the Rushdie affair and Charles Taylor
(Taylor and Dummett on the Rushdie Affair https://dspace.creighton.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10504/74592/20161.pdf?sequence=1)
Taylor seems to develop his views under the guidance of a certain ideology or philosophy, viz. multiculturalism. The mistake of multiculturalism (or Taylor’s interpretation of it)5 seems to be this: both in 1989 and in 2011, Taylor seems to think that his position expresses “respect for Muslims.” But that interpretation of events may be challenged. If you uphold freedom of speech to criticize religion or religious icons, or even to make satirical comments about holy figures (see Dworkin), that is certainly not identical with disrespect for Muslims.