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EAI, same-sex marriage and Irish secularism?

27/03/2013

Another timely related post to the EAI statement on same-sex marriage is by Roger Olson who has a gift for clarity and not being dull.

In this post he’s discussing the difference between ‘secularism’ and ‘secularity’ (after theologian Harvey Cox).

On the one hand, there is a version of secularism as being anti-religious.

The EAI statement has a negative view of this type of aggressive and exclusive secularism and sees it as increasingly influential in Ireland. A Government operating on the basis of secularism is seeking to exclude religious voices from public discourse through laws and a culture of ‘opprobrium’. In this model, religious views are not to be welcomed, tolerated or given space since they ‘threaten’ equality, tolerance and diversity.There is an active resistance to hearing religious voices or giving them space to be heard.

This sort of secularism, is manifestly blind to its own prejudices, agendas and ethical value judgements. The conceit is that the secularist society alone is somehow neutral and objective and free from such primitive judgementalism.

As Olson asks, why should secularist beliefs be privileged in the forming of laws? Aren’t many liberal views based on and rooted in religious beliefs? (equality, civil rights and so on). Hasn’t postmodernity taught us that there is no such thing as a purely ‘neutral’ and ‘objective’ source of human reason?

What do you think? Are we in Ireland at the level of secularism suggested in the EAI statement on same-sex marriage?  Do you see evidence for an  “entirely secularist” agenda “currently being proposed by those who affirm the social philosophy which seeks, illiberally, to eradicate the religious voice from the public square.”? 

On the other hand, there is a version of ‘secularity’ that refers to the separation between church and state.

A Government operating on the basis of secularity allows space for diverse views without privileging the church. At its best, this produces a civil public square, where all can be heard and all enter on an equal basis. And of course many (right-thinking ;) ) Christians endorse this anabaptist model as being good for the church and for society in general.

Comments, as ever, welcome

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