What is the secularity of the Jews


Vanessa Rau

To person

M.A., born 1986; PhD student social sciences / ethnology at the Humboldt University of Berlin. [email protected]

Religion polarizes, especially when it comes to its role and presence in the public space of liberal democracies. In view of the secularization thesis that arose with the fathers of sociology and predicted a decline in religions with increasing technical progress and industrialization in modern times, this may initially come as a surprise. [1] In fact, it seems that discussions about the secularity of western liberal democracies, also as a response to the growing presence of Islam in western European countries, have increased inflationary and that the topic of religion is constantly provoking emotional debates. This discussion is also international and calls for secular states - for example in the context of the Arab Spring - are conspicuously present. [2] Here it is assumed that functioning democracies must act free of the impulsive dimension of religion, which is often dichotomous as that Other[3] des Secular, [4] of the rational. This opinion is also held by representatives of the so-called new atheism, who, following in the footsteps of Anglo-American models such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, are trying to gain a foothold in Germany, relying on enlightened and humanistic values ​​such as reason and rationality and religion as well face great suspicion. [5]

The vehement demand for secular principles or for secularismto be understood as a political project of secularity - appears in various social debates, such as the controversy over ritual circumcision, which followed a ruling by the Cologne regional court in 2012. This decided that the circumcision of boys who are incapable of consenting for religious reasons constitutes a criminal offense. A representative of a humanist initiative in Germany and opponent of religious ritual assessed the situation as follows: "It is the rights of children that we defend against religious attacks. The holy scriptures (which make this requirement) cannot meet the standards of our time They were written 2000 years ago and were part of other civilizational processes. One could at least try to make religious values ​​compatible with secular ones, because secular principles should apply to all citizens! "

This statement comes from a qualitative study on the debate about the circumcision judgment, in which I asked religious and non-religious representatives about their beliefs and positions in the debate and their understanding of social secularity. [6] This particular controversy affected not only a physically sensitive area, but also the children's right to physical integrity and the religious upbringing of children by their parents. The results of the analysis not only suggested an existing social discomfort with religion per se[7] and - and this does not seem surprising - a constant unease in dealing with Semitic religions and their traditions. Above all, however, it showed a divergent approach to the concept of the secular and the demand for secular principles. The empirical study also highlighted a possible convergence between secularist positions that are suspicious of religion and anti-Jewish (as well as anti-Muslim) resentments. Therefore, in the following, this connection will be critically questioned using the narrative of secularism and the emergence of anti-Semitism. It will be discussed to what extent the vehement demand for social neutrality and secularity can act as a screen for anti-Jewish resentments and, in terms of origin, narrative and use, draws on basic patterns of modernity that can correlate with anti-Semitic traditions in certain contexts. Assuming that "the devaluation of others", in this case the Religious, Corresponds to patterns of group-related devaluation and therefore always represents a potential for other forms of discrimination, [8] this type of devaluation requires special attention.

In the public debate, the secular demand was adopted in particular by doctors, lawyers and, last but not least, by humanist associations who, citing human rights, the best interests of the child and the right to physical integrity, advocate a legal prohibition of the ritual pleaded. These demands, which were initially to be approved, met with a great response from society: A survey showed that a majority of Germans agreed with the judgment. [9] There is no doubt that the human right to physical integrity and self-determination is of central importance, that per se[10] seems to be fully justified. But the demand for human rights always presupposes a common understanding of what is "humane": whoAs the philosopher Hannah Arendt asks, defines the dimensions of the human being, which human rights presuppose so relevant? [11] In addition, it is important to consider when these demands for human rights become loud. Can the struggle for a neutral state and society and the protection of people from irrational attacks on religion, the humanistic pro-humanumif it attacks a central characteristic of the identity of a religious minority, even in a anti-humanum or in this special case in a anti-semiticum turn over? Can devalue the religious Others, which expresses itself in the form of vehement demands for secularity and influences religious controversies, also enables an ethnic-cultural and especially anti-Semitic devaluation, which however often remains socially unquestioned by the reference to human rights?

A narrative of secularism

In order to make this possible overlap comprehensible, one must first devote oneself to their origin and history, in particular to the so-called narrative of the secular in social discourse. Although secularity has established itself as a political project in modern times, it originally emerged as a theological category that saeculum as profane, worldly time in opposition to sacred, divine time. The original meaning of the term was "to do something worldly". [12] Secularism first manifested itself in the political separation of state and church, with a more symbolic than legislative function. This achievement is also a product of the French Revolution and the Jacobean freedom fighters, who were influenced by the philosophical foundations of humanist enlighteners such as Immanuel Kant and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The fighters of the revolution intended to contain the ecclesiastical influence on the newly emerging (French) nation-state and its public political space, but not necessarily to question transcendence or the divine itself. A central component of this project was the Declaration of Human Rights, which made human dignity (with the exception of slaves and women) a general maxim. For the religious philosopher Charles Taylor, the history of secularism is also the history of secularism, because the category of religion and the religious, which at the time of their formation mainly refers to the authority of the Catholic Church, is banned from public space and with a clear boundaries assigned to their own area. The fact that religion and its secular, neutral counterpart are both in a Christian-Catholic context is often neglected in the neutrality discourse. [13]

Although the emergence of a vehement "secularism", which is aversive to religion, cannot be reduced to the events of the French Revolution, the negotiation processes that originate from it are decisive for the establishment of the "grand narratives of modernity" [14] based on autonomy , individual emancipation, maturity and freedom. These foundations are inextricably linked with secular order. In the academic discourse, too, liberalism [15] and the later emerging capitalism are seen as parts of a unique "Western value system". [16] In addition, social theory and social science are themselves significantly involved in the normative formation of this concept, since the sociological analysis category of secularization has always been inevitably linked to the premise of social progress. [17]

Based on this narrative, a secular state order and a secular public space form milestones on the way to modernity. Inadequate implementation is associated with backwardness on the part of the state, society or the individual. This enables a hierarchical assessment which the political scientist William Connolly describes as "conceits of secularism". [18] Accordingly, the enlightened would be diametrically opposed to those who are still underage and obey the backwardness. What sounds very abstract at first, often resonates in public discourses. An example of this attitude is the statement published shortly before the beginning of the circumcision debate by the then human rights commissioner of the federal government, Markus Löning, on his Facebook page: "too stupid to understand science - try religion". [19]