TRANSLATION: KING DRAGOS VASILITSIS
EDITED BY: NIKOLAOS ASPROULIS
In recent years there has been a great academic debate around the concept of "fundamentalism". There are some researchers who try to define the criteria for defining fundamentalisms, while others deny the usefulness of the term1. There are some who argue that it is a modern phenomenon, while others argue for the eternal existence of fundamentalisms. In today's context I will argue that if there is such a phenomenon called "fundamentalism", it can only be understood in relation to the debates about secularization. Therefore, I would like to devote most of my text to the analysis of the above debates on secularization, then contributing my own definition of fundamentalism, from the perspective of the denial of radical political pluralism. I will conclude this text by formulating the opinion that for Orthodoxy, to live and think as Tradition2 means to embrace a radical political pluralism.
What does "Secular" mean?
"Secular" is a word that alienates Christians. It is usually mainly associated with a society that tries to eliminate religion or eradicate it from public life, which includes politics, governance and culture, privatizing it in the sphere of the individual3. Furthermore, the concept of the secular is particularly related to Western liberal thought, which is seen as preeminently atheistic. Especially in the Orthodox world, it is a common phenomenon that Orthodox theologians succeed against the atheistic secularization of the West. In fact, there are both Christian theologians and non-Christian, atheistic academics in the West who are critical of secularization, some even going so far as to declare that we live in a post-secular world, although such declarations ultimately depend on how we define the concept of "worldly"4.
If we take a look at the history of the term's evolution, we notice that it was used for the first time to define our modern presence on earth until the Second Coming and the eschatological completion of the world5. Then, mainly in the Latin West, it meant the contrast between the clergy and the monastic orders, meaning that the clergy examines and deals with tangible issues of everyday life, while the monks focus exclusively on spiritual issues that refer to the Kingdom of God. After the Reformation, the secular began to be associated with issues that did not concern the Church, such as the issues of state governance. The new Protestant societies were not obviously opposed to religion, but they wanted to distinguish between the Church, which consists of Christians, that is, those who are saved on the basis of faith, and the aspects of daily life, that is, the state itself, which it consists of those who are either saved or not, and which was the field where Christians perform good deeds that do not deserve salvation. What is important here is, simply put, that the secular began to associate with this section of society, where both Christians who had been saved by their faith and those who had not been saved - a section which included those who were Christians but also non-Christians - they had to live together, and in which the saved Christians played an important role. Religion, obviously, was very important in the Protestant societies of that time, but we already see in the Reformation some of the distinctions that were to play a central role in later Western political thought, such as the separation of the Church from the State, even if the Luther and Calvin would reject the situation that has developed today in many Western European societies.
After the Enlightenment, the word "secular" increasingly came to mean a society in which religion did not influence politics and governance. Freedom of religious belief and practice was provided for, but religion was now to be practiced privately, without any influence on politics, government or culture. Ultimately, in that new social situation it was thought that with the advancement of science, industrial modernization and technology, religion would no longer be needed, that people would eventually stop believing and religion would be eliminated, except for a few zealous believers.
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