The Politics of Secularism in International Relations

By Elizabeth Shakman Hurd | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
Conclusion

IF THE TRADITIONS of secularism discussed in this book are not fixed but socially constructed, then they are also subject to modification. One way in which modification could occur is through the cultivation of a practice of agonistic or agonal secular democracy. Agonistic secular democracy elicits and seeks out public expression of contending views on religion and its relationship to the political: “a democracy infused with a spirit of agonism is one in which divergent orientations to the mysteries of existence find overt expression in public life.”1 At the same time, such a practice of democracy also continually interrupts attempts to impose a final and static solution to the relationship between religion and politics.2 Agonistic democracy encourages contestation and shuns final settlements. It departs from the political minimalism of democratic individualism; and is not confined to the institutions of the territorial state.3 This approach to religion and politics, this rewriting or refashioning of contemporary traditions of secularism, is uniquely suited to the challenge of incorporating both theistic and nontheistic perspectives on and into politics both domestically and internationally: As Connolly suggests, “The need today …is to rewrite secularism to pursue an ethos of engagement among a plurality of controversial metaphysical perspectives, including, for starters, Christian and other monotheistic perspectives, secular thought, and asecular, nontheistic perspectives.”4

The prospects for agonal democracy seem reasonably good. Debate in the United States, for example, occasionally moves beyond the standoff between “religious conservatives” and “liberal secularists” toward an acknowledgment that “what is problematic is not vibrant religious activism in the public sphere, but the consistent association of religious devotion with a particular set of dogmatic political opinions.”5 Intolerance of a final settlement between a single religious perspective and the state was confirmed in the 2002 case of the 5,300-pound monument to the Ten Commandments that stood in the Alabama Supreme Court. Chief Justice Roy Moore, who placed the monument in the courthouse, stated that his intention was to remind citizens of the “sovereignty of God over the affairs of men.” When pushed further, Moore admitted that he was referring to Jesus Christ and that other deities would deny our freedoms and specifically would “not allow for freedom of conscience.”6 A federal court ordered the removal of the monument and noted that Moore's views came “uncomfortably …close to …a theocracy.”7

-147-

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The Politics of Secularism in International Relations
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Chapter One - Introduction 1
  • Chapter Two - Varieties of Secularism 23
  • Chapter Three - Secularism and Islam 46
  • Chapter Four - Contested Secularisms in Turkey and Iran 65
  • Chapter Five - The European Union and Turkey 84
  • Chapter Six - The United States and Iran 102
  • Chapter Seven - Political Islam 116
  • Chapter Eight - Religious Resurgence 134
  • Chapter Nine - Conclusion 147
  • Notes 155
  • Select Bibliography 213
  • Index 237
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