Is Pluralism Compatible with Secularism?

Is Pluralism Compatible with Secularism? April 6, 2017

IMG_1862I’m just thinking out loud. Is Pluralism compatible with Secularism? You might be thinking, well, aren’t they pretty much the same? Isn’t a Pluralist society, where each is able to practice the religion of their choosing, the same as a society where there is no official religion?

Oxford defines Secularism, from the Latin for ‘world,’ as being that which is not connected with religion, or the separation between church and state.

On the other hand, Oxford defines Pluralism as “a condition or system in which two or more states, groups, principles, sources of authority, coexist.”

It seems to me that Secularism is a movement that wants the separation of Church and State to be kind of functional dualism. You can believe anything you want in the privacy of your own home. But when it comes to the public arena, public institutions, public display, religion needs to be kept out, silenced, relativized. Not that the separation of Church and State is a bad thing, or that I wish we lived in an officially Christian, Muslim of Jewish state; but that Secularism seems to then take on its own kind of onto-logic; its own way of being in the world with its own rituals, beliefs about the universe, and practices, i.e., a religion.

Pluralism, on the other hand, is not a kind of kumbaya, we all get along, all religion is just one anyway; but, a serious encounter with difference, and a serious commitment to living along side difference. This means that religious people to not put on a different persona when they speak in the public arena, and they are not afraid to couch their political arguments in religious terms. But it does not for a second assume that all people should therefore agree.

Just as I do not want to live in a market society, but don’t mind having markets in society; I do not want to live in a secular society, but hope to be able to live alongside those who do not share my way of being in the world.

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