ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Respect, Domination and Principled Distance

Reimagining Secularism

It is widely recognised that political secularism, virtually everywhere in the world, is in crisis. It is also acknowledged that to overcome this crisis, secularism needs to be reimagined and reconceptualised. This article takes the first few steps towards doing so. It argues, first, that we need to move away from the standard church-state models of secularism and begin to focus instead on secularism as a response to deep religious diversity. Second, it claims that diversity must be understood as enmeshed in power relations, and therefore the hidden potential of religion-related domination must be explicitly acknowledged. Third, these two moves enable us to view secularism as a response to two forms of institutionalised religious domination, inter- and intra-religious. This way of conceiving secularism rebukes the charge that secularism is intrinsically anti-religious. Secularism is not against religion; it opposes institutionalised religious domination. Finally, the article argues that this conception entails that a secular state shows critical respect to all religious and philosophical world views, possible only when it adopts a policy of principled distance towards all of them.

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