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Christianophobia and secularism in Europe

29 January 2008
Back in the secular sixties an American theologian, Harvey Cox, wrote a book called The secular city, in which he made an important distinction between secularisation and secularism. Secularisation is the process by which certain tasks and functions are taken over by secular agencies.
For example, in England it was the State that made it compulsory for the Church of England to keep registers of baptisms, marriages and burials. Perhaps in the 16th century the state did not have a bureaucracy that could cope with that task, so they made the church do it. Secular registration of births, marriages and deaths was introduced in 1837. That is secularisation.
Likewise, in England the church registered wills until 1858, when that function was secularised. The Church of England continued to record baptisms, marriages and burials after 1837, though for a different reason — it was convenient for the church to know who its members were.
Secular or civil registration functions were introduced in many parts of Europe as a result of the conquests of Napoleon. In many instances, there is little reason to object to secularisation. Few people would want the church to be lumbered with the registration of wills again.

Other examples of secularisation are more controversial. In the 1950s, for example, there was a massive secularisation of South African church schools, as part of the apartheid policy of the government. Many churches opposed the ideology of apartheid, and so the government wanted to control the schools itself. In the 1970s many church hospitals were secularised for the same reason, and there was a huge decline in the quality of health services, especially in the rural areas.

So secularisation can be good, bad or neutral, depending on circumstances.

Secularism, on the other hand, is an ideology. Secularists are in favour of secularisation in principle, in all circumstances. But it goes further than that. Secularism seeks to impose itself on everyone. And so secularism can give rise to the phenomenon of Christianophobia.

clipped from
On 24 January 2008 the President of the European Commission Jos� Manuel Barroso met with the representatives of the Orthodox Churches to the European Union.
Addressing Mr Barroso, Bishop Hilarion raised the issue of growing Christianophobia in Europe: ‘We often hear about anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and very little is said about Christianophobia, which gains strength in many European countries.
Bishop Hilarion also informed the European Commission President about recent initiatives of the Russian Orthodox Church with regard to the discussion of the notion of human rights. ‘This notion’, commented the Bishop, ‘is often used to promote dubious moral standards and to undermine traditional institutions, such as marriage, family, childbirth. In the name of the human rights, abortion and euthanasia are propagated, and the “right to death” is considered more important than the right to life.’
A new website, Christianophobia in Europe, has been launched
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