The Concept of Secularism: Walzer vs. Wæver

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For more than a century, the concept of secularism and its boundaries has been widely disputed by secularists and non-secularists alike. English dictionaries define secularism as simply the separation of church and state, or, the separation of religion and politics. Michael Walzer, a true secularist, believes that this separation is an essential democratic value and ultimately fosters toleration of a plurality of religions (Walzer, p. 620). Wæver, an opponent of secularism, defines secularism as “a doctrine for how society ought to be designed”– that religion and politics ought to be divided in order to ensure religious liberty, as well as religious-free politics. However, he does not deem that such a principle exists (Wæver, p. 210). Based on these different viewpoints, I have established a unique concept of secularism: the principle that religion and politics be kept apart, that the state remains neutral in regard to religion, and that liberty, equality, and fraternity be upheld in an attempt to successfully promote religious toleration and pluralism.

Although I do not consider myself a radical secularist, I identify more strongly with Walzer’s viewpoints. He stresses the importance of the structural, ritual, and political/cultural aspects of society necessary to successfully separate religion from politics. I strongly agree that a sharp institutional divide between church and state needs to exist, in which the church does not interfere in matters of the state and vice versa. I believe it even vital that countries, such as the United States, possess constitutions that state there will be no official state religion. In this way, religious toleration and equality will be undeniable. In terms of this institutional divi...

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...ion, as Walzer notes, provides a regime of toleration. What is crucial to note, however, is that Walzer comes to the realization that secularism is not necessarily the separation between religion and politics, but rather, religion separated from state power and politics separated from state power. The primary difference between the two writers is that Wæver focuses on peace and security, while Walzer’s aim is tolerance and personal freedom. Overall, secularism has everyone’s best interest in mind; however, this separation is an open-ended conflict between people of different faiths who realize that they have to coexist.

Works Cited

Walzer, Michael. "Drawing the Line: Religion and Politics." Utah Law Review 3 (1999): 619-38. Print.

Wæver, Ole. "World Conflict over Religion: Secularism as a Flawed Solution." Constituting

Communities (2008): 208-35. Print.
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