Dear Friends of Free Thought in the Arab World and Elsewhere,
Since the European Enlightenment, secularism has been considered one of the main features of modern society. According to this theory, the belief in supernatural powers and religious mights would step by step give way to education and scientific thinking, bringing individual freedom to people independent from their ethnicity, religious belief and sex/gender.
Despite the fact that most societies have endeavoured to adopt the secular model and separated the state from religious institutions to achieve democracy and enforce equality, tolerance and human rights, it is obvious that religious practices continue to exist both in non-Western as well as in Western societies; the best example being the USA, where scientific and technical modernity exist right next to substantial religiosity.
Jürgen Habermas is credited for coining the term ‘post-secularism’ to describe a continued existence of religious communities in an increasingly secular environment. Habermas suggests that religion and the secular have to learn from each other rather than subordinating religion to the authority of secular reason. For Charles Taylor, secularism is a way of managing the diversity of religious, non-religious and anti-religious views without privileging one over another. Talal Asad, however, argues that post-secular thinking still privileges the rational over the religious, particularly when dealing with non-Western and non-Christian cultures.
Is secularism connected to the religion adopted or once adopted by the majority of a society? In other words, is it possible to treat all individuals equally, independent of which religion they adhere to or do not adhere to, irrespective of the majority’s religion? And is it necessary for individuals to choose between secular and religious consciousness in order to be modern liberal individuals? Is it possible to adopt both convictions without suffering an interior conflict?
These are some of the ideas and questions which will be discussed at the Diwan al-Falsafa on Wednesday 3rd of May, 7pm, again at Kater und Goldfisch in Exerzierstraße 1 in Berlin-Wedding, close to U8 Pankstraße, U9 Nauener Platz or S-Bhf Gesundbrunnen. The Diwans language will be Arabic but it is possible to speak in English or German; we will translate to the best of our ability.
As always, no scientific nor final results are to be expected from and during this philosophical salon, but an open and unbiased discussion.