Civil Religion, Human Rights and International Relations

Civil Religion, Human Rights and International Relations

Connecting People Across Cultures and Traditions

Edited by Helle Porsdam

This ground breaking book discusses whether human rights can be forged into a common set of transcendent principles against which actions of every nation can be judged and whether such a common understanding, or civil religion, could one day become a vehicle for global peace.

Chapter 10: Hard Secularism as Intolerant Civil Religion: Denmark and the Cartoon Case

Tøger Seidenfaden

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, politics and public policy, human rights, international relations


Tøger Seidenfaden On a secularized continent, Denmark stands out as perhaps the most secularized country of them all. About half the population claims to believe in nothing at all, and many of the Danes making up the other half have religious beliefs which in other communities would hardly qualify as such (‘there is perhaps something rather than nothing between heaven and earth’), and which are certainly far from theologically correct within established religions. On the surface, things look different since more than 80 per cent of the population is still baptized into a state-supported religion, the Lutheran People’s Church. Its priests are civil servants and the highest power in Church affairs is the Minister for the Church, an ordinary politician who is a member of the cabinet. But surveys of public opinion and statistics about church attendance reveal that only a small minority of Danish Lutherans are actively religious. One might perhaps expect that a thoroughly secularized society, in which secularization is not the result of a political struggle – as in France or Turkey – but a result of a gradual process of modernization with no formal political consequences, would lead to a highly tolerant society, with reasonable space for those minorities – Lutheran, Muslim or Catholic – with a more active relationship to their faiths and churches. Taking the national and international crisis known as the ‘cartoon affair’ as my case, I will suggest that this is far from being the case. Sources of intolerance for religious minorities do not come...

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