[The First Section]
I will not dwell upon the history of the separation between “secular (political)” and “religious”, between the Church and the state, this being well-known. In Dante’sDe Monarchia (1311) we find the beginning of the idea of this separation: “the church and the empire have different «fondamenti»” and are the terms of a relation, the first “nell’ambito della paternità”, the second “in quello del dominio”. It is, however, rightfully said that the Peace of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years’ War, after a series of conflicts of a confessional nature, and it opened the historical cycle of the separation between the Pope’s auctoritas and the king’s potestas. “The Church is losing its role as major supporter of the political power, the latter feeling released from the responsibilities directly related to the religious ambit”[^6] .
I will not insist either on the paradoxical interaction between the state and the Church, which determined royal power to try to legitimise itself through the Church’s control over what is holy, and the two, the Church and the state, to organise themselves through “mutual mirroring (gegenseitigen Bespiegelung)”[^7] . One may say that “seit dem Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts hat die Säkularisierung die Grenzen von Kirchen - und Staatsrecht überschritten und ist zu einer allgemeinen Kategorie geworden, die unauflöslich mit der neuen einheitlichen Vorstellung einer geschichtlichen Zeit verflochten ist. Aus dieser Verflechtung (bei der die Säkularisierung mit anderen Symbol-Koordinaten der modernen Befindlichkeit zusammenhängt: mit Emanzipation und Fortschritt, Befreiung und Revolution) ergeben sich radikale Neudefinitionen und Sinnverschiebungen des Begriffspaares geistlich/weltlich”[^8] . Today, however, possessing a wider historical knowledge, we must question the history of secularisation.
In order to acknowledge the complexity of the issue we are faced with today, I would like to discuss the matter of emancipation. Few have approached it as convincingly as Moses Mendelssohn. InJerusalem (1783), the renowned Rabbi of Berlin considered the “state” and “religion” to be “piliers de la vie sociale”, which must reach a “balance”. His intention was to clarify their “areas” and the “limits” separating them by starting from “the liberty of conscience”: „Le droit à nos propres convictions est inaliénable, il ne peut transiter d’une personne à une autre, car il ne donne et ne prend aucun droit à la richesse, au bien et à la liberté”[^9] Mendelssohn’s predominating argument was that no institution is entitled to compel people’s “convictions”. “Car un contrat sur des choses qui, selon leur nature, sont inaliénables, n’est pas valable en soi et s’annule de lui-même”[^10] . “The state and religion” refer to areas that are different from the outset. “Les principes coduisant les hommes à des actions et à des convictions raisonnables reposent en partie sur les rapports des hommes entre eux, en partie, sur les rapports des hommes aves leur Créateur et celui qui les fait exister. Ceux-là appartiennement à l’État , ceux-ci à lareligion Dans la mesure où les actions et convictions des hommes peuvent être rendues d’intérêt commun par raisons découlant de leurs rapports entre eux, ils sont l’objet de la constitution civile; mais dans la mesure où les rapports des hommes envers Dieu sont pris comme source de ceux-ci, ils appratiennent à
l’Église, à la Synagogue ou à la Mosquée”[^11] . Mendelssohn was, however, rather astute in observing that on the very basis of the separation, religion motivates people’s behaviours.
Meanwhile, within European culture, there has been a long debate on the issue of emancipation, with precise distinctions between “political emancipation”, “civil emancipation”, “social emancipation”, “religious emancipation”, distinctions that have marked the approaches to the relation between religion and the state to our days[^12] One cannot, however, help wondering how things stand today. We may notice that, on the one hand, we are presented with apologies for the established separation and with reconstructions of the separation thesis, while on the other hand, we are taking part in the “religious resurgence” in modern society.
There are tenacious defences of the established separation between religion and the state, with the conviction that a better solution would not be possible. The most eloquent example was given recently by Herbert Schnädelbach, in his volumeReligion in der modernen Welt (2009). The author keeps repeating the obsolete argument that a person’s rights and liberties, established after 1789, represent not so much a Christian inspiration, as “the enactment of a world of civil, enlightened life (die Verrechtlichung einer bürgerlichen, aufgeklärten Lebenswelt )”[^13] , and sees in the “return of religion (Wiederkehr der Religion )”, which we are witnessing, only “the return of a need for religion (Wiederkehr eines religiösen Bedürfnisses ”)[^14] This being said, the Berlin philosopher continues to build the thesis according to which “only devised sovereignty, through the exclusion of all religious reminiscences, makes it possible for a constitution of liberty to exist”[^15] , and he defends the equivalence of the possibilities of liberties with the cultivation of “critical reason”. He attributes only to the Enlightenment the reflexivity which, in time, has put cultures in motion. “As such, it is convenient to understand the Enlightenment (Aufklärung ) and its engine, criticism, both from a historical perspective and a structural one, as an intellectual side of cultural modernisation in the sense of a reflexive progressive becoming of the cultures”[^16] Herbert Schnädelbach claims that “the idea of critical reason”, which is of Kantian origin, was not taken over by “the reason of faith” (Vernunft des Glaubens )”[^17] and he holds, obviously incorrectly, that “obedience (Gehorsam )” is nothing more than “giving up the examining criticism of what is heard”[^18] .
The contemporary offensive philosopher from Berlin wishes to re-establish, in its entirety, the Kantian criticism of cognitive reason and keeps proposing the examination of expressions and concepts before their being used. Only that his analysis of the religious state in modern world sticks to this kind of conceptual examination without it being capable, for methodological reasons, of capturing the importance of religion in democracy and the role of religion representatives in the defence and renewal of democracy. Most importantly, there is the wise observation made by Peter L. Berger that “there is a great risk of neglecting religion in today’s analysis”[^19] , even though the impacts of religion and of politics are complex, the philosopher from Berlin has left them aside.
Most conclusive in reconstructing the separation thesis was John Rawls. The American philosopher sets out by explaining “public reason”, which conditions a “well-ordered constitutional democratic society”. InPolitical Liberalism (1996), he shows that, in democracy, the citizen has the duty to appeal to “public reason”. “The ideal of citizenship imposes a moral, not a legal, duty - the duty of civility - to be able to explain to one another on those fundamental questions how the principles and policies they advocate and vote for can be supported by the political values of public reason. The duty also involves a willingness to listen to others and a fairmindedness in deciding when accommodations to their view should reasonably be made”[^20] The citizen has the duty of reporting to what, together, the citizens of that state decide for the common good. It involves a content of rules and neutral decisions in relation to the various individual convictions, including religious ones. Each citizen can publicly promote his or her points of view and arguments which may be shared by the other citizens as well, leaving rooted in their private life liberties of the person which no one can take away. The citizens act according to this order, because they know that „they cannot reach agreement or even approach mutual understanding on the basis of their irreconcilable comprehensive doctrines. In view of this, they need to consider what kinds of reasons they may reasonably give one another when fundamental poltical questions are at stake”[^21] .
Thus being connected, the private views of the citizens - be they religious, philosophical or of other nature - and “public reason”, several questions arise. In John Rawls’ aprioristic approach one such question is considered: how does the one who shares his religious views make his vision compatible with the demands of that “public reason”? InThe Idea of Public Reason Revisited (1997), the answer determines the questioning of the way in which “public reason” comes to legitimise democratic society. Two solutions are possible: the first one, historically, too, was the acceptance of “tolerance” as a modus vivendi (such as at the end of confessional confrontations in the 17 th century), and the second one consisted of the acceptance of democracy because it allows for a better promotion of one’s own views.
There are, however, other open questions, which have been tackled head-on by Jürgen Habermas, among our contemporaries. InReligion in der Öffentlichkeit. Kognitive Voraussetzungen für den «öffentlichen Vernunftgebrauch» religiöser und säkularer Bürger (2005), the renowned thinker of Frankfurt shows that “ the liberty of conscience and religious liberty” are, of course, the solution capable of dissolving “ the potential for conflict” which may result from situations of religious pluralism. But “für eine gleichmäßige Gewährleistung der Religionsfreiheit ist nun der säkulare Charakter des Staates zwar eine notwendige, aber keine zureichende Bedingung ”[^22] . The situation when the state declares itself neutral does not, however, eliminate the possibility that religious liberty may be affected. John Rawls acknowledged the circumstance, but emphasized not the state’s neutrality, but “ the normative implications of the role of the citizen”. Therefore „nach liberaler Auffassung gewährleistet der Staat Religionsfreiheit nur unter der Bedingung, dass sich die
Religionsgemeinschaften aus der Perspektive ihrer eigenen Überlieferungen nicht nur auf die weltanschauliche Neutralität der staatlichen Vernunftgebrauchs der Bürger ”[^23] . Nonetheless, when one wants to realistically conceive the relation religion-state, one must consider, as arguments, not only the exhausted historical fact that there have been, throughout history, times of repression caused by religious institutions, and fundamentalisms are dangerous, but also equally significant facts, such as the movements, in favour of democracy and human rights, which have been led by religious personalities; also, in the existing democratic state, churches and religious communities guarantee human liberties and rights and democratic order. Therefore, the rigid separation of religion and the state must be overcome by acknowledging the beneficial role of religion in, at least, inducing a favourable morality regarding human rights and democracy.
Habermas made crucial observations towards a new understanding of the relation religion-state: the “liberal state”, actually, claims a “self-censure (Selbstzensur )” on behalf of the citizens and of the religious communities[^24] ; this state promises its citizens, who are given the freedom of conscience, that it will not claim anything against their own belief[^25] ; the state cannot ask of its citizens to split their conscience by obsessively limiting what is valid according to their belief from that which is valid according to the state’s character; the state cannot expect its citizens to manifest themselves politically, independently of their convictions, be they religious[^26] Habermas shows that the established separation between religion and the state is, actually, a “secularist over-generalization (säkularistische Überverallgemeinerung )”, and the philosopher’s conclusion, in his own words, is that: “the liberal state has, therefore, an interest in delivering religious voices into the public political life, and an interest in the political participation of religious organisations. The state cannot allow itself to discourage religious believers and communities of faith from expressing themselves as such, including politically, because the state can’t know whether the secular society dissociates itself from the important resources of the foundation of meaning. Secular citizens, or of other belief, too, can learn something from religious contributions, in certain circumstances, which is the case when, for instance, in the normative contents on the truth of a religious expression one may recognise one’s own intuitions, sometimes shaken”[^27] .
We can assert that John Rawls rebuilt the relation religion-state within the established terms, by emphasizing individual behaviours as the ground for solving the tensions resulted between the one living his religious convictions and the inevitably formalizing order of the state. Habermas made a step forward by valuing the liberality of the liberal state, which, regardless of what is being said, does not stay liberal unless it allows for people’s free manifestations. The distinguished German philosopher renewed the argumentation by showing that the almost ritual invocation of the repressions made by religious institutions throughout history explains only part of the truth, which is irrelevant. The other part, much more significant today, resides in the strong commitment of believers and
religious institutions, on a large scale, to human rights, to people’s liberties and to democracy.
Meanwhile, the culture of the times we are living has seen a “religious resurgence” and a “religious turn”. We are talking about simultaneous changes in at least three fields. There are changes in the state of religion, in the sense that, as the “values surveys” of the last decades show, “the future of Europe doesn’t seem to reside in the lack of religiosity”[^28] , and the “over-politicization in society”[^29] and, especially, globalisation, “enhances, at least in the relatively short term, religion and religiosity”[^30] There are changes in democratic conscience, in the sense that contemporary societies suffer from a “crisis of motivation”[^31] , which cannot be overcome without questioning secularisation and without re-evaluating cultural resources; actually, without acknowledging religion’s power of motivation in democratic behaviours and without reflecting upon a “post-secular society”[^32] There are changes in the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures which lay the foundation of monotheist religions, so that the path on which Jesus of Nazareth went on to become Jesus Christ is, for us, who were born later, much clearer than for any previous Christian generation[^33] .
It can be said that these changes, made in the three fields, are not transitory, but truly historical, and they compel us to re-think topics with far-reaching implications, such as the cultural foundation of Europe, the functioning of the democratic state, the relation between science and philosophy, on the one hand, and religion on the other; they also help us take up new challenges, such as defending firm values against the wave of relativism and defending human identity against the naturalism connected to biotechnologies.