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Secularism in Europe May 16, 2007

Posted by Rambling Man in World Affairs.

My interest in world religions and the effects of said religions on the states in which they are practised has been stoked recently by events in Turkey. Turkey is a secular state, meaning it is officially neutral on matters of religion and neither supports or opposes any one religious belief or another. It also has no state religion although de facto, 97% of people in Turkey are Muslim. A similar situation exists in Ireland where we are officially a secular state but on the ground, one religion is bigger than the rest of them.

Turkey has recently had the beginnings of a presidential election, which now, due to protests and lack of a quorum from the parliamentary members in its vote, has been put on hold. To cut a long story short, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul was the sole candidate but twice failed to achieve the two-thirds majority of votes needed to become president. Turks have been protesting in their millions about this election because they fear the ruling Justice and Development Party will attempt to change Turkey’s strongly secular background in favour of a more extreme Islamist outlook.

So there is currently no presidential candidate and therefore a new parliament, with a general election to be held in July, will later choose one. Polls indicate that the ruling party is losing a lot of ground to its opposition …

Anyhoo, my interest was caught by an interesting map in WikiPedia which showed secular states all over the world. One notable exception was the UK with another being Norway. It never struck me that, for example, Church of England was the state church of the UK with the monarch at its head. The incoming regent must swear to uphold that state faith (C of E) and that coupled with places reserved in the House of Lords for clergymen means the UK is not a secular state. An interesting point and one that I didn’t know.

The contrast of the UK then, with other non-secular states like Iran and Pakistan is interesting as one tends to associate non-secular states with extremism … something the Vicar of Dibley wouldn’t be too into, I’d wager !

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1. laurie - May 16, 2007


i got a pretty good overview of the importance of the church of england (and, before that, catholicism) in the UK when i read edward rutherfurd’s novel “london.” it’s fiction, but historical fiction, and i learned a lot about the clashes between the two and the never-ending fight for power.

was the US a secular state? hahaha i know we should be but the way things are going here it feels less and less so…

2. Rambling Man - May 17, 2007

hey laurie
yeah it was marked as one on the map. and i see your point – gbw tends to talk to god a lot !

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