A Multicultural Perspective on Secularism
This chapter analyses the related theme of secularism, often seen as the only way to deal equally with believers of different religions and non-believers. The chapter questions this view, arguing that secularism is not neutral between religious and secular people, and that its policies inevitably impact differently on different religions and cannot be neutral between them either. Secularism is not itself a fundamental value but a way to achieve such basic values as freedom of conscience and equality, and the form it takes in a society depends on its history, views on religion, values and political balance between the different religious communities. We should determine the minimum, the core, that a secular state should ensure, leaving different societies free to organise around it their own appropriate political systems. Each society, while sharing some features in common with others, will obviously need to develop its own form of secularism. We should speak of secularism in the plural and hope that their dialogue would benefit them all.