Pluralism Working Paper No. 2/2009: the Hidden Dimension of the Secular

This paper is written by Henk Manschot & Caroline Suransky. They indicate that, “There is a special relationship between modernity and humanism, particularly since the Enlightenment.” They share many basic values such as autonomy, civil equality before the law and democracy. They both defend the separation of church and state and advocate the existence of a secular public sphere and of public morality as solid foundations of society. However, in the past decennia, the project of modernity has increasingly come under siege internationally and its key values are challenged from many perspectives. There are philosophical and theological critiques, as well as challenges from the field of political theory. Throughout the globe, fundamental questions have been raised about the meaning and impact of modernity from within diverging political and religious movements, particularly from non-western locations. With modernity heavily in dispute, modern humanism too seems challenged to rethink its own relationship with modernity. The authors argue that this is particularly so in terms of the separation of church and state and with regard to the incongruity of the secular and the religious, something that modern mainstream humanism so far has considered to be fundamental for modern societies.

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