Tuesday, February 03, 2004

The International Herald Tribune includes a piece by the perhaps titilatingly named Guy Coq in defense of French secularism and the ban on Muslim headscarves and other religious symbols.

Coq's main thrust is that "laicity," as he puts it, is a necessary sanitary defense against fundamentalist religion. He cites the danger of Islam, then points to France's history with the Catholic Church. In between, he takes a shot at America, criticizing the individualism that he blames for the need for the possible ban on religious symbols.

It is amusing that Coq finds fundamentalism to be a danger because of individualism. He feels that it threatens the commonality that he finds necessary to hold together the republic.

Social commentators since time immemorial have been anticipating the withering away of religion, even though sociologists since Durkheim have continually pointed out that religion is unlikely to ever go away. Coq falls into this tradition of hoping that religion will become irrelevant, ascribing religious expression to superstitious irrationality that remains ignorant of obviously universal ethical values.

I remain opposed to this idealistic belief that one can easily create the perfect state. I oppose the woefully wrong Bushie belief that such a creation is possible in Iraq and I oppose anyone who thinks that a hyper-rational secular humanist republic is possible.

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