Is the US a secular country?

America divided

Mostly left-wing liberal, secular intellectuals discussed the burning questions about state and religion - and a surprising gentleness reigned. Apparently, for example, fundamentalist evangelicals are not seen as a threat in the USA as much as in Europe. After all, they do not strive for a theocracy, they should only want to enforce their positions on abortion or marriage. And the fundamental separation between church and state would not experience the evangelicals as an affront, Michael McConnell, a judge at the court of appeals in Denver, emphasized.

"The separation of church and state was never an anti-religious move in the US. The biggest advocates were the Evangelicals and Baptists.

Free academic levitation was thus guaranteed at the conference. The thinkers consistently did what they do best: They tore apart the basic terms "religious" and "secular", relativized and historicized them. In a rudimentary fashion, one then asked to what extent orthodox, religious arguments could even apply in a pluralistic social discussion. There is still a lack of clarity here. The USA is also a secular-religious mixture: It is not clear who has the authority to make decisions on sensitive legal and political questions. The government? The highest judgment? The people in referendums? Constitutional lawyer Noah Feldman brought up the example of California, where there is a dispute over same-sex marriage.

"There was actually a law in California. The federal constitution overturned that. There was a referendum on that, and the highest court now decides on it. So we don't solve the problem, we fight it out among ourselves. The moral doctrine has no answer, whether a few wise men or the people should decide here. There are good arguments for both. "

Many descriptions and few possible solutions could be heard. It was agreed that the religious, secular balance of power in the USA was constantly changing, that the balance was extremely "shaky", as the Canadian Charles Taylor, known for his studies of secular society, emphasized.

"The problem lies with the people who do not want to accept all opinions. That makes democracy impossible. You don't have a democratic society if you have enough people who are totally fanatical about abortion, for example. The problem is to accept everyone convince that democracy is important. But philosophy cannot solve the problem. "

Conferences like these then lose sight of the pressing problem: that there are ultra-religious people in the USA for whom religion is more important than democracy. That they engage in bitter lobbying and hijack the public discussion. Liberal counter-strategies apart from the deconstruction of the opposing terms were hardly heard at the conference. With one exception: the naturalist and atheist Daniel Dennett pragmatically demanded that political correctness, tolerance of every religious statement without exception, must come to an end.

"If someone tells you, for example, that morality is not possible without religion, you should politely take offense and say: This is nonsense. You don't make religion bad, but wrong thinking. You have to treat it like racist comments. Sometimes it is the truth just a little hurtful. "

At the conference one did sense some frustration about President Obama: He swore his oath of office on the Bible and shook hands with homophobic preachers like Rick Warren. As much as that may be symbolic politics in the end, Obama relies on the charitable function of the churches in the country. One would be surprised if he acted dogmatically secularly and withheld any government money from religious aid organizations. For strict secularists, the gradual de-secularization of the USA is likely to continue for four or eight years ...