Alain Finkielkraut on French Laicity . . .
In a recent blog entry, Bill Vallicella directed readers' attention to a quote of Alain Finkielkraut that has been translated from the French and posted online by Amy Sterzinger, and I was so taken by the same quote that Bill quotes that I've posted it here:
Laicity is the solution that modern Europe found in order to escape its religious civil wars. But contemporary Europe doesn't take religion seriously enough to know how to stick to this solution. She has exiled faith to the fantastic world of human irreality that the Marxists called "superstructure" thus, precisely through their failure to believe in religion, the representatives of secularism empty laicity of its substance, and swallow, for humanitarian reasons, the demands of its enemies.Bill offers a cogent explication of Finkielkraut's brilliance in this quote, and my reading follows Bill's.
Basically, France adopted "laicity" - a strict version of secularism - when the French still took religion seriously and knew that believers really do believe what they say they believe. French laicity forced religion out of public life and made it a purely private affair. This was a solution so long as believers and atheists both took religion seriously, but as atheism gradually 'forgot' the radical passion of religion and relegated religious fervor to a Marxist "superstructure," analyses of religions and religious motives grew superficial.
Religious beliefs were now always dismissed as epiphenomena, not to be taken seriously, false representations of some more basic, economic reality, and religiously based upheavals thus came to be seen as rebellion against economic conditions, rebellion with a potential for revolutionary uses, such that a hope for martyrdom and the reward of celestial virgins was never about a divinely promised paradise - which even the Muslims couldn't truly believe in, or so said the atheist analysts - but, rather, was about some misperceived earthly utopia to be realized in the future, through material, not spiritual means.