torsdag, maj 08, 2014

Secular and Sacred? The Scandinavian Case of Religion


Sitter och gör anteckning inför en recension av Secular and Sacred? The Scandinavian Case of Religion in Human Rights, Law and Public Sphere, en nyutkommen forskningsantologi redigerad av Rosemarie van den Breemer, José Casanova och Trygve Wyller. Här följer ett par utdrag denna ännu skissartade text, som dock berör flera av de återkommande ämnena också här på bloggen:

 "Secularization has often been thought of as a universal development through which religion is removed from the public sphere, thus as both a condition and a development that all societies go through as a part of a more general process of modernization. Indeed, the very word 'saeculum' and the corresponding words in Romance languages such as French and Spanish have both, a spatial and a temporal meaning. In Roman times, the word 'saeculum' referred to a non-defined period of time; an age, era or aeon. For the early Church, the 'saecula', in this sense, was the pre-Christian age, the present age between the birth of Christ and his second coming, and the third age, the age of God’s Kingdom on earth. The common temporal use of the French word 'siècle', as referring to a century has a much shorter history, starting with the Catholic centennial jubilee celebrated for the first time in 1300. According to Casanova, the first widely acknowledged 'fine-de-siècle' was in fact the end of the 17th century.

It was St. Augustine who established the spatial meaning of the 'saeculum', which forms the basis for the present concept of secularism. According to him, the second era was one in which Christians had to coexist with others and organize their civic concerns together. This era, was thus characterized by a separation of the religious from the temporal - or secular. In medieval Europe, this developed into a distinction within the Church, between the purely religious sphere of the monastic life and the temporal functions of what was described as the secular clergy. From this distinction comes the one between the secular public life and a religious sphere which has been increasingly relegated to specific organizations and spaces, as well as to civil society and to private life. It is also on this background that Casanova understands later conceptions of a secular age, which from the Enlightenment and onwards has often been perceived as inherently better than, and at  almost naturally following, the previous religious age.

Casanova (1994), Tylor (2007) and others have argued that  far from being universal, this process is one that has occurred in the specific context of societies once dominated by Western Christianity (Roman Catholicism and Protestantism). Casanova, furthermore, argues that the U.S. is an example of a country that significantly deviates from this trajectory; a trajectory that may in fact be typical of Catholic Latin countries, and specifically of France. In this volume, he analyses the development of three such trajectories; the American, the Latin and the Nordic, the last mentioned being the focus of most of the chapters. While the Catholic trajectory has been characterized by an antagonism between a once dominant Church and a secular state, the American concept of secularism centers on the religious neutrality of the state, originally seen as a neutrality between the plurality of denominations that existed in the US from the start, but increasingly seen as a neutrality between religion and non-believers, or secularists. This is also the background to the civil religion that often claimed to characterize American public life; a neutral respect for all faiths. The Nordic trajectory would be marked by a high degree of integration between Church and state than in either Catholic countries or the U.S., as well as by a comparatively low presence of explicitly religious ideas in public discourse; i.e. both features associated with a far-reaching secularization and features associated with limited secularization. The Nordic countries is thus an excellent illustration of how secularization can be understood differently in different national contexts.
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What the book does contribute with is a better understanding of how secularization in Scandinavia - especially in Denmark and Norway - differs from that in the U.S. and in historically Catholic nation states. This, in turn, contributes to our understanding of the implicit cultural policy that has legitimized and framed the development of welfare states in these countries, and thus of the specific characteristics of the Nordic welfare state model. According to both Casanova and several of the other researchers represented in this volume, the Nordic welfare states can be understood as a kind of secularized Lutheranism, developed in countries where the state was already considered to be the primary protector of ethical values and of the good life of its subjects, and the Christian church merely the part of the state specifically responsible for parts of this task. This view would, of course, also give rise to a very different relation between civil society and the state then that which has developed in the multi-denominational society of the U.S."