In the current sphere of digital media, hardly a day goes by without mention of a seeming collision between traditional values and today’s secular values as is popularly perceived. Secularisation Theory is the theory which informs that as society advances in modernity, religion retreats and becomes increasingly hollow. The theory holds that intellectual and scientific developments have undermined the spiritual, supernatural, superstitious ideas on which religion relies for its legitimacy, and, the differentiation of modern life into different compartments (i.e. work, politics, society, education and knowledge, home-time, entertainment) have relegated religion to merely one part of life, rather than an all-pervading narrative(Crabtree,2008). There are many contestations about this simplified narrative, including questions of historicity, as well as immense variations, contingencies and reversals in societies outside Europe as well as within Europe itself.
Secularism as a strict separation of church and religion is and was not plausible in societies where there was no hierarchical, structured church that had inherited an empire’s state apparatus as the Roman Catholic Church had in Europe. Moreover, secularisation is not just the increase or decrease in visible markers of religiosity or in church attendance, but also a fundamental shift in religious belief towards rationalisation and objectification. In the context of this research writing, it is being argued that Secularization is no longer simply the decline of religion but is the process whereby religion organizes itself to meet the challenges left by modernity (Iqtidar,2011).
Europe today stands on the heels of several crises which have struck it almost concurrently. Decades and decades of relative peace, prosperity and progress coupled with the success story of modernity or modernization in the west had almost made one to unflinchingly believe that the status quo shall remain almost permanently. Then came 9/11, the economic crisis, waves of immigrants and refugees and the rise of terror attacks and hate crimes from Paris to London, from Cologne to Nice. Questions are being raised increasingly regarding safety of citizens and the public and political space is increasingly witnessing passionate debates regarding issues like terrorism, immigration, religion and economy. As researchers, one feels interested in studying as well as think beyond the immediate spatial and epistemological concerns and inculcate a sense of reflexivity to understand things, especially when one is dealing with issues of religion, beliefs, communal interlacing etc. Recent history already shows that the attempt to assimilate minorities by stamping out religious expression can backfire.
In the spirit of laicite, France passed a law in 2004 banning religious symbols and clothing, like crosses and headscarves, in public schools. It had the effect of increasing the demand for private Muslim schools, keeping certain minorities out of the mainstream instead of integrating them (Winkler,2016). A similar law banning the burqa in public spaces was passed in 2010. Such measures usually lead to debates and confrontations which ultimately manifests into issues like freedom of religious expression, civil and secular laws etc. taking centre stage in public affairs of the state.
The present state of current ideological scenario and with the situation of the contemporary France with regards to their socio-religious and political climate demands a coherent description at large. It attempts to give an answer to some of the questions which can make one inquisitive. Brubaker(2016) opines that once understood as antithetical to liberalism, secularism, and modernity, Christianity is increasingly seen as a civilization matrix, and as the matrix of a whole series of more specific ideas, attitudes, and practices, including human rights, tolerance, gender equality, and support for gay rights.
But in spite of such observations and other facts like the fall of Communism and phenomena of the current revival of religion in many parts of the world, many stereotypical views of religion dating back to the period before the present changes are proving hard to overcome. Modernity as an off spring of the enlightenment and renaissance needs to be relooked at and the role of religion in the sub-conscious realm of the people and it’s interrelationship with modernity and vice-versa demands renewed contemplation (Halik,2011).
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